Volume 15, Issue 6- November/December 2013

Golden Boys
Danny Kale and Braulio Lopez Carry the Gold in the AGRR Industry

by Jenna Reed

Though many turned out to compete in the NordGlass Auto Glass Technician Olympics and GlasWeld Windshield Repair Olympics in honor of Walt Gorman and fared well, only two walked away with the gold medals and checks for $10,000.

Kale and Top Competitors in the AGTO

The auto glass replacement technician gold medalist was Danny Kale. Kale, 33, is the location manager at Glasspro in Summerville, S.C. He has more than 15 years of experience in the industry and lives in Summerville, S.C., with his two children, Bentley and Michael.

It feels “outstanding” to be the winner, Kale said. “It’s a dream come true.”

He has been talking with a local jeweler about designing his girlfriend an engagement ring with the $10,000 winnings.

“She knows the ring is coming, she’s just not sure when,” he said with a grin.

Kale has come full circle. He began his career with Glasspro at the age of 18. He spent about a year with the company and then moved on to gain more experience. After spending some time with other companies, Kale returned to the South Carolina company.

“I rejoined Glasspro in January 2013 as a technician in the Mouth Pleasant, S.C., area,” he said. “I was there for about six months when they made several personnel moves. I then became a location manager for Summerville, S.C., and the company decided to enter me as a competitor.” Kale says he gained experienced competing at private company competitions and by serving as a regional judge for technician competitions.

“This gave me more experience and confidence in how the competitions worked,” Kale said.

He also read “The Complete Guide to Auto Glass Installation—A Textbook.”

For other replacement technicians contemplating competition, Kale advised them “not to rush their training.”

“A lot of guys get a little too eager,” he said. “Take the time to learn from experienced technicians. And as a far as competitions, don’t dive in too quickly. Stay calm and really focus on what you do on a daily basis. It’s easy to lose your cool and get overwhelmed if there is a complication. It’s hard to recover from a small mistake. So my biggest focus when competing is to remain calm and just do what I do everyday.”

Will Kale be back at Auto Glass Week™ 2014? “Definitely,” he said.

Joe Estrada, 46, won the silver medal in the competition. He is an auto glass technician and trainer at Estrada’s Car Glass in San Antonio, Texas. He has 29 years of experience, and he and his wife, Tally, have three children, Leah, Seth and Evan.

“What I really took away from the competition was the importance of the friendships and experiences you come away with,” Estrada said. “These are profound and will stay with you forever. The advice that people in the industry are so willing to provide is truly amazing. This is what makes the competition worthwhile.”

Estrada was also honored with the Ingenuity Award for a reconfigured razor blade holder he used to scrape the pinchweld during the replacement process.

“I always like to tinker with different things. I made a tool to hold a plain, single-edge razor blade. It’s durable and strong and has less potential to harm the user. It’s pretty inexpensive. I’ve been using this tool a few years and I am grateful for the recognition.” Estrada said.

“It’s nice when techs can share a tool such as this with the whole industry,” added Jeff Olive, an AGTO judge who himself was the first gold medalist.

Zhanchang Huo, 41, took third place. He is first Chinese medalist and a technician at Beijing Zhengmei Fengye Automobile Services Co. Ltd. in Beijing, China. Huo has more than 24 years of experience in the industry. Huo was a second place winner in China’s first auto glass repair skill competition. Huo and his wife, Shuhua Ji, have one child named Kunliang. He enjoys billiards in his spare time.

“As a competitor, besides the toughness of the competition, I’m impressed by the new installing equipments and the professional skills of my foreign counterparts, which make me realize my advantages and disadvantages. I will share all my experience with my Chinese co-workers,” said Huo.

“This is my first time in the United States. Your beautiful country is clean and neat. I enjoyed staying here very much. I hope to be back again. I gained a lot from this trip,” he added.

“He did quite well in the preliminaries and made it into the finals,” said Olive. “I hope this opens up the competition to even more international competitors.”

The judges for the AGTO included Olive, Bob Beranek of Automotive Glass Consultants, Bruce Gates of Gates Brothers Glass Shops and Rick Maciel of Techna Glass.

“We changed things up a bit this year and surprised the competitors with a backlite removal and reinstallation,” Olive said. “These are top technicians and they proved this in the preliminary heats. Not one tech damaged the glass to the point it could not be reinstalled. The backlite can prove to be more complicated than removing the windshield.

“For the finals we had the competitors do a windshield replacement,” he added. “The windshield had a rain-sensor system that needed to be disconnected, reconnected and reinstalled with the windshield. The techs showed their skill level by completing what was expected. The camaraderie of the technicians and their sportsmanship really showed through.”

“The AGTO judging came down to seconds,” said Beranek. “There was a tie in the score and two winners finished within seconds of one another. It is a heartbreaking development, but there are rules for a reason.”

Lopez and Top Competitors in the WRO

The winner of the GlasWeld Windshield Repair Olympics was Braulio Lopez. Lopez, 39, is a technician at Repair and Go – Espana S.L. from Luga-Galicia, Spain. He has more than 15 years of experience in the industry and won the 2011 GlasWeld repair competition in Spain. He and his wife, Araceli, have two children, Laura and Alex.

“I am super excited. It’s my fourth year competing and I ust can’t believe I won,” said Lopez with a big grin when receiving the trophy and check. “I’m going to invest the money so I can come again next year.”

For others in the industry, especially those just starting out, Lopez had some good suggestions.

“My advice to those who are getting started in this sector is to always be honest, get trained fully, dedicate all the time that is needed, as repairing windshields seems easy but it isn’t always,” he added. “It requires a lot of time, hard work and effort. It’s also very important to invest in really good equipment like GlasWeld kits.

“To those who want to compete, I would advise them to study well the Repair of Automotive Glass Standard™ (ROLAGS). Compete the way you would do repair in your every day life with real customers,” he continued. “And, even if you do not manage to be among the finalists, keep trying every year, as the competition really helps to improve your daily work. Also, by competing you can observe all of the great work and techniques used by other contestants and learn from them.”

Chris Smith, 25, won the silver medal for repair. He is the store manager for Techna Glass in Salt Lake City, Utah. Smith has five years in the industry and has an impressive list of credentials. He was named the 2013 Techna Glass Repair Olympics champion, the 2012 Techna Glass Repair Olympics silver medalist and the 2012 Walt Gorman Memorial Windshield Repair Olympics silver medalist and the 2011 WRO bronze medalist. He and his wife, Kate, have one child, Cooper Bradshaw, and in his spare time, he enjoys watching football, fishing and spending time with his family.

Greg Hamilton won the bronze medal. He is an auto glass installer for Hamilton Auto Glass Group in Charleston, S.C. He has more than 15 years of experience in the industry and is an AGSC™ certified technician. He placed fifth in the 2010 Walt Gorman Memorial Windshield Repair Olympics and first in 2009. Hamilton and his wife, Debra, have one child, Alani. He enjoys fishing, flea markets and eBay trading.

The judges for the repair competition include Jay Bickford of Novus Glass, Korey Gobin of Delta Kits, Frank Levesque of Glass Doctor and Cindy Rowe, retired owner of Cindy Rowe Auto Glass.

“The 2013 competition this year was one of the most challenging events due to the high standards and quality of our competitors,” said Levesque. “The judges were all in agreement that the quality of the repairs gets better every year.”

“Some really good repair technicians turned out for the competition,” added Rowe. “I really enjoyed it. Watching the techs made me want to do a repair again.”

Two Long-Time
Industry Veterans Honored
at Auto Glass Week

NWRA Inaugurates Annual Award

The National Windshield Repair Association (NWRA) presented its first ever award to someone who “exemplifies a commitment to repair”—Dave Taylor, a founding member of the NWRA and retired chief operating officer of Cindy Rowe Auto Glass in Pennsylvania, which was sold to Safelite in 2008.

Richard Campfield, NWRA president, presented Taylor with this special honor, saying, “It’s my honor to both present this award and to name this award after our honoree today, Dave Taylor.”

Taylor played a big role in founding the NWRA and in the advancement of repair as a “viable, standalone business model.”

“Together with his wife, Cindy Rowe, who had created a repair company, they branched out into replacement and became the dominate player, bar none, in the Harrisburg, Pa., through the Baltimore corridor,” he explained.

“Dave has always had the gift of foresight,” said Rowe. “He could see down the road as to what challenges might come up and pinpoint solutions.”

Rowe was running a one-location repair-only company when she met Taylor. They married in 1985 and grew the company together.

“Dave was a visionary in terms of repair and what it could do,” said Campfield. “He also understood the tremendous advantages for repair and also the threats to it. He, along with several others, including me, came together to create the National Windshield Repair Association. At that time, windshield repair was under attack on several fronts. Dave worked tirelessly to form an association, educate people and professionalize the repair industry.”

Taylor served as the group’s first president for many years. And when the NWRA needed funding, Campfield said Taylor stepped up to the plate, providing this money along with staffing and other assistance.

“Now the NWRA, with its ROLAGS™ Standard, robust repair technician certification program and more, would not exist without the work of visionaries such as Dave Taylor,” Campfield stressed.

“Taylor is a master at deciphering the real motives and that ultimate end of the story,” said Dave Casey, vice president of the NWRA. “He is always willing to share his insight and wisdom. He has always given his time to any member of the industry who asked for it. From the tiniest windshield repair company to the president of the biggest replacement company, Dave was there with the best advice.”

Taylor gave a big thank you for receiving the award and said much of the credit should go to the other early members of the NWRA as well.

“I am very honored,” Taylor said. “We—Cindy and I—had a really good time seeing people we haven’t seen for quite a while. We enjoyed rubbing elbows with old friends.”

Longtime Counsel for AGSC Honored with Tompkins Award

William Ives, who is an avid fan of Winston Churchill and a longtime attorney for the Auto Glass Safety Council™, was honored with the Carl F. Tompkins Award for Excellence by the AGSC in a special ceremony at Auto Glass Week™.

Carl Tompkins, the global marketing resources manager for Sika Corp., and the gentleman for whom the award is named, made the presentation.

“This award, which I am honored to have named after me, is not presented lightly by the AGSC. It is awarded for excellence and achievement in the field of auto glass safety,” said Tompkins. “It is the highest honor that we can bestow. … In fact, it would not be a stretch to say that without today’s award winner, there would be no AGSC and no continued spotlight on auto glass safety.”

Ives was born and grew up in Southern Illinois and studied political science and history at Knox College.

“As a college newspaper editor, he even spent three weeks in the former Soviet Union at the height of the cold war at a time when it was rare to travel to that country,” Tompkins explained

Ives went on to spend some of his early years in the military in the U.S. Army Counter-Intelligence Corps in Germany.

A graduate of Harvard Law, Ives has had a distinguished career as a partner in a large Chicago law firm before “quasi-retiring” to North Carolina in 2005.

Ives and his wife, Virginia, met when she was a flight attendant on a flight from Guam to Singapore. They married in 1980.

“They enjoy spending time with their children and seven grandchildren,” Tompkins said.

In fact, his wife helped behind the scenes with the award and was hiding in the audience to surprise her husband when he received it.

Ives broke out in a huge smile when his wife surprised him on stage during the ceremony.

“In 2000, Bill signed on to work for a small, fledging start up not-for-profit and did all the work to create the organization and keep it focused on safety,” Tompkins said. “As many of you know, AGSC, then known as the AGRSS Council, had many challenges and many individuals and some groups working against it. Some didn’t understand our purpose; others did understand and deemed it a threat to their own group. Bill navigated us through all this expertly, always with an understated, guiding hand.”

Ives was so supportive that he was not paid for many years and didn’t seem to mind, according to Tompkins.

“He said at the time that he thought we were working for a good cause and had a dedicated group of people and that he felt we would make it,” he said. “In fact, when Bill retired, he actually bought the debt AGSC owed him back from his firm and took the risk on personally. In 2010, we were able to finally pay off that decade-old organization debt.”

Tompkins said Ives is being honored not only for helping the AGSC gain its footing, but also for making “the entire auto glass industry safer and more professional.”

Responding to the award, Ives said, "I was deeply touched since honors like this are rarely bestowed on lawyers and Carl really outdid himself delivering his gracious remarks.

“Congratulations to all those who conspired to keep this a secret. You certainly did. I was totally surprised but so appreciative,” he added.

Education in the Limelight
at Auto Glass Week
By Jenna Reed

A record number of attendees turned out for Auto Glass Week 2013

The optimism was palpable during Auto Glass Week™ 2013 as attendees networked and bulked up on as many educational opportunities as they could during the three-day span. From keynote speakers to the repair and replacement competitions to association meetings, education took the spotlight in a big way.

Attendees, vendors and exhibitors flocked to hear an inspiring tale from Richard Picciotto, the highest ranking firefighter to survive the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center. Jim Abbott, a professional baseball player born without a hand, also drew a big crowd. And above all—safety and service remained top of mind for many of those in attendance with many sessions focusing on just these topics.

From increasing a company’s net promoter score to marketing big on a small budget, there were plenty of courses for attendees to choose from and choose they did—in record numbers.

Education Takes Center Stage at AGSC Board Meeting

The Auto Glass Safety Council™ (AGSC) Board of Directors came together at the start of Auto Glass Week™ 2013 and a key focus on their agenda was adding the option of continuing education for technicians seeking recertification.

Jeff Olive, technical training manager for Glasspro, and Dale Malcolm, technical manager for Dow Automotive Systems’ aftermarket division, who co-chairs the AGSC Education Committee, proposed offering technicians a chance to earn 18 credits in continuing education to qualify for recertification instead of renewing by taking the certification exam. Technicians would have three years to gain these credits and can only earn 12 credits in a year’s time. Continuing education would take the place of retaking the exam. However, taking the test to recertify would remain an option.

“We would rather technicians recertify through training,” said Olive. “They must have originally passed the test to qualify. After three years they must retake or pass test again or, as we propose, they can recertify through continuing credits. … We would like to get the board’s approval on this.

Training offered by adhesive manufacturers would be just one example of what a continuing education course could entail. The AGSC Education Committee is looking to put general recertification guidelines in place and then hopes industry professionals will submit proposals for continuing education courses that could qualify.

Olive and Malcolm suggested that technicians be required to retain certificates for each training course they complete and send these into the AGSC Education Committee as proof of that the continuing education requirements were met for recertification. The committee is still finalizing how the AGSC will keep records.

After some discussion, the proposal was approved by the board.

ROLAGS™ Committee to Focus on Marketing Efforts

A Repair of Laminated Auto Glass Standards (ROLAGS™) Committee meeting was held at Auto Glass Week™ as well. Members of the committee met to discuss both subcommittees and old and new business, focusing on marketing efforts. The committee discussed creating marketing pieces for members, as well as what would be the best way to go about creating and disseminating those materials.

The primary concern was how to effectively showcase the value of the program and how it distinguishes technicians.

Refining the evolving standard’s marketability was another point of concern.

“Whether we like it or not, repair and replacement are joined now,” said Beveridge. “It’s apples and oranges, the difference between the risks for replacement and repair.”

The committee also considered the idea of having a marketing program that touts the reliability of certified technicians who have received a background check and have no felonies.

As a result of the conversation, a motion was passed to try and brand such a program.

Auto Glass Week™ Panel Focuses on Quality and Safety Issues

A bit later in the event, the leaders of several industry groups gathered for a panel to discuss their efforts to advance quality and safety issues in the industry.

There has never been a more challenging time in the auto glass business, according to the officials. Speakers included Beveridge of Novus, Bob Beranek of Auto Glass Consultants, Mika Eronen of Safety Glass Experts International and Olive of Glasspro. David Rohlfing, president of Windshield Centers, served as moderator and Richard Campfield spoke in his role as president of the NWRA.

Campfield touched on some top tips to keep in mind while repairing auto glass.

“Our job is to bond that glass together and make it look good,” he said. “You must overfill to compensate for shrinkage and to produce and keep a mechanical bond to the PVB.”

Resin shrinkage and surface tension can be avoided by curing while the resin is under pressure, he said.

Beveridge took the podium next and said, “We want repair to have good appearance for customer satisfaction. ROLAGS was updated in 2012 and those updates will be accepted by ANSI soon, Beveridge highlighted.

“We’ve added a requirement for temperature cycling,” he pointed out. He gave the example of someone living up North who cranks up their defroster as soon as they get in the car. The resin and the glass will heat differently and so this is something that needs to be kept in mind.

Next up, Beranek, speaking on behalf of the Auto Glass Safety Council’s (AGSC) Standards Committee, which he chairs, touched on the current Auto Glass Replacement Safety Standard (AGRSS®) and the changes being made to it.

The AGSC is giving new auto glass companies that join the organization the opportunity to be compliant from day one even though they do not yet have three years of records, he noted.

Safety Glass Experts International’s Eronen talked about windshield fabrication.

“Windshield manufacturers are facing challenges as the vehicle designers and car makers aim to improve the following properties: Safety, aerodynamics and efficiency, driving comfort and aesthetics,” Eronen said.

He added that OE equivalent is not the same as OE. The audience responded with nodding laughs. Eronen believes OE is the better quality choice and stressed this in his presentation.

He concluded by saying that there will be one global harmonization standard by the end of the decade that is currently in process.

What Are Net Promoter Scores and How Can They Help?

Steve Baxter, senior vice president of worldwide sales for Satmetrix, says net promoter scores can clue in a company to what others think of your business.

“We all know it costs a lot more money to get a new customer than to keep an existing customer,” he said.

“Eight years I’ve been doing this net promoter thing and I love it. It works. It levels the playing field. … It’s designed to give you some perspective from the outside world and what others think about your business,” Baxter explained.

“Easy measurements of loyalty can sometimes be misleading,” he added. “True loyalty is would you make the same decision in the presence of another choice? … Ninety percent of companies think they give superior customer service. Some do not.”

When a company starts working on driving up loyalty, the benefits can be tremendous.

“The people who are good at loyalty grow two and a half times faster than the average,” Baxter said.

Four key loyalty behaviors include repurchase, buying additional lines, making referrals and giving constructive feedback, Baxter pointed out.

“Getting out there and finding out through the lens of the customer what they think about you can drive growth,” he said. “… Customer loyalty starts with employees. Are you paying them right? When they show up are they cheerleaders for your business?”

He touched on what goes into the net promoter score.

“On a scale of zero to 10 how likely are you to refer a friend,” Baxter asks? “It’s questions like these that decide the net promoter score. If you have 50 percent, which are promoters (referring your business to others) but 50 percent are detractors than your score is zero.

“It takes seven positive statements to undo one negative,” he said. “… A good score, equaling best in class is about 70. This is world-class.”

How Can an Auto Glass Company Market Big on a Small Budget?

Even a small auto glass company can find marketing success on a small budget, according to Rodger Pickett, former vice president of customer service for Safelite AutoGlass, and former vice president, general manager and minority owner in Cindy Rowe Auto Glass. (Safelite’s parent company acquired Cindy Rowe Auto Glass.) The key to marketing success is “thinking big,” said Pickett, during his presentation at Auto Glass Week™.

“You can market successfully however big or small you are and in whatever market you’re in,” he said. “You can be little and look big. … Maybe the biggest thing to think about running your advertising is creating a brand. Brands need to be meaningful and they need to be memorable in order to be effective.”

Before branding a business, Pickett said it is vital to build a base of happy customers. Branding is unlikely to work well without this base. A way to build a happy customer base is by taking care of employees. By paying them well and ensuring they are happy, they will go the added mile to help customers, he added.

“We want employees to feel valued, safe, balanced and loved,” he said.

Ultimately, he said there are five keys to successful marketing:

—Offer a value-based business, meaning make sure your customer know what makes your business unique from competitors; —Have content employees, meaning pay them well and even consider giving them health benefits;
—Ensure your customers are wildly satisfied by constantly seeking feedback;
—Promote a meaning and memorable brand by finding unique ways to make your business stand out through marketing such a spokesperson; and
—Mobilize the customers by getting them to think of your company first when they need work done.

Panning for Gold through Diversification

Diversifying your business can mean big results for your bottom line, according to a panel of speakers who discussed this topic during a session called “Brown Bag Lunch: Panning for Gold

The panelists included Matt Bailey, owner of 20/20 Auto Glass; Scott Miller, president of Miller Restoration and True Blue Auto Glass; Rick Rosar, president of Rapid Auto Glass; and Bryan Yarborough, president of Glass Doctor of Tampa Bay.

The speakers encouraged auto glass company owners to consider adding paintless dent repair, headlamp reconditioning, vehicle recondition and more to help bolster a company’s bottom line.

Anti-Steering Strategies Take Center Stage

One of the top industry issues—steering—was also tackled during the event. Matt Bailey of 20/20 Auto Glass; Kristy Barrows, partner at Amorginos & Barrows, PA.; and Charles Isaly, owner of Auto Glass America LLC, offered some key strategies for handling this business challenge. Gary Hart, executive director for the Independent Glass Association, moderated the panel.

“We tell our customer service representatives (CSR) that it’s a theater and they’re on stage [when they talk to the customer and call through to the insurance company or third-party administrator with the customer],” explained Isaly.

“Be intuitive and charming,” he recommended. “Your CSRs need to read the temperature from the get-go. Let the customer know what they are going to hear when you talk to the insurance company. By the time the CSR makes the call [to the insurance company or TPA] the CSR and customer should be friends. Make the whole conversation as pleasant as possible. Provide a script for your CSR, but allow them to go off it as much as possible.”

“The CSR should tell the TPA that the auto glass company is agreeing to charge within the insurance contract parameters,” Barrow pointed out. “… I wouldn’t recommend jumping off of every network [to avoid short pays].”

Customer education is the first part of the process, she stressed.

“You want to educate the customer about your rates and why you charge what you do, as well as the insurance company, too,” she added. “If your staff understands why this is important it will help in the long run. You need to put people on the frontlines who are committed to the process and build relationships with customers.”

Bailey agreed with much of what Barrows and Isaly said.

Hart added that it’s important for auto glass company owners to know the law in their state.

For full coverage of Auto Glass Week, including on-site newscasts, visit glassBYTEs.com.

Jenna Reed is the editor of AGRR™ magazine/glassBYTEs.com™. Follow her on LinkedIn at Jenna Reed, follow her on Twitter @agrrmagazine and like AGRR magazine on Facebook to receive the latest updates. —Casey Neeley contributed to this article.

Are We Still Close that Way?’ Richard Picciotto Shares His Story
In an emotional presentation FDNY Chief Richard Picciotto, the highest-ranking firefighter to survive the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center, shared his harrowing tale of the infamous day during a special keynote at Auto Glass Week™.

He was in the North Tower on the 35th floor when the buildings began to fall.

“Some of the things I knew about the building: I knew the floor area of each building was an acre,” he said. “The two buildings were a total of 200 floor acres. There were 99 elevators in each tower … There were three stairwells … All of the elevators were out of service.”

“When I got down there, it was horrendous what I saw. Not only that, but what I heard.” Picciotto slapped the table to mimic the sounds of the victims of the attack, falling from the building. He told the audience the first firefighter to die in the attacks died from someone falling on him.

After making his way up through the building, Picciotto said he was stopped by a terrifying noise and sensation.

“I get up to the 35th floor and step out in the hallway … all of a sudden, the building starts shaking really loudly, shaking and banging and I don’t know what’s going on … I’m pretty sure everyone did what I did—we froze because no one knows what’s going on. There’s something coming down. I could feel; I could hear it. That bang and that noise was literally going right through my body. Banging and shaking … then it stopped,” he said. “There’s an expression: the silence was deafening. You could hear a pin drop … because everyone in that building did what I did—we froze. Everyone is looking to me because I’m chief, as though I should know what that was.”

Picciotto said it was then he received confirmation and reports this was a terrorist attack. In his mind, he knew he had to work to save lives before any more of the buildings fell under fire.

“I gave the order to evacuate,” Picciotto said. “That means the rescue workers get out. It was the toughest order I’ve ever given in my life, because I knew that meant the people on the top floors didn’t stand a chance … when I gave the order to evacuate, the North Tower had been burning for an hour … it wasn’t likely many of the people on those top floors were alive, and those who still were, we weren’t going to be able to help.

“I want to be out of the building so badly; I know it’s coming down. Then I hear the noise and feel the rumble again … The building is literally coming down and falling apart. As it comes down it’s flattening the level above it,” he said. “It took the South Tower ten seconds to come down. It took the North Tower eight seconds.”

As the tower fell, Picciotto said he saw what was most important to him.

“What do you do in what you think is going to be the last eight seconds of your life. People say your life flashes before your eyes. That’s what happened to me. I saw my family. Then I prayed … I never prayed so hard in my life. I prayed what I wanted too much: I didn’t want to suffer. ‘Please God, make it quick.’ Then the floor I’m standing on disintegrates and I’m free-falling in blackness,” he said. “Black. Silence. Still. ‘Well, I guess I’m dead now,’ I thought. It was the loudest and most violent thing anyone has probably ever experienced, and then silence and blackness.”

After realizing he was still alive, Picciotto said he felt himself covered in thick amounts of dust.

“I was covered in the ash, like a grey talcum powder … of 1,000 people, we couldn’t find a single fingernail or piece of DNA; it was all this grey talcum powder,” he explained.

Picciotto said he told people not to move, because he understood the building had collapsed.

“A friend from Queens heard what had happened and came down with a radio and I was able to get in contact with him … he said he would get some guys to try and find me. I asked him not to leave my frequency so we stayed in contact,” he said. “I remember I have my bullhorn so I speak over it to try and help them find us … this goes on for a couple of hours and they can’t hear me. There’s 100 to 200 feet of debris on me.

“You have to hand dig … around this time I’m also getting very tired and lethargic. I think I’m just going to close my eyes and take a nap. I realize I’m asphyxiating. It wasn’t a very bad thought, it was better than wondering how long I’d have to go without eating or drinking … then just above me something is turning a dark grey out of the black. I could be hallucinating from the lack of oxygen, but I’m pretty sure I see it. I call out and some of the other guys see it … All of the smoke mixed with the dust and obscured all of lower Manhattan and that’s why we hadn’t been able to see the light,” he said.

“After another hour or two, I decide to tell everyone to stay where they are and I’m going to climb up to this light. Then I’m out and I’m on top of the largest debris field there … I made sure other fireman knew where everyone was then they put me in an ambulance and took me to the hospital,” he continued.

He concluded by saying, “Also, if you remember 12 years ago what was this country like? We treated each other more kindly. We stood together as Americans. Are we still close that way?”

Abbott Talks about Overcoming Obstacles

In another special keynote session Jim Abbott, a professional baseball player and motivational speaker, says the key to overcoming life’s hurdles is the ability to adapt.

He had a word for each letter of adapt—Adjustability, determination, accountability, persistence and trust.

“Being born this way and growing up this way [without a hand], I knew how to be different,” Abbott said.

He was born September 19, 1967, in Flint, Mich., without a right hand. He went on to become an all-American hurler at the University of Michigan, won the Sullivan Award in 1987, and was the pitcher for the Gold Medal Olympic Team in 1988. He spent 10 seasons playing for four different teams and threw a 4-0 no-hitter for the New York Yankees versus Cleveland (September 4, 1993).

“What is it that I took away from the game?” Abbott asked. “What can I share with you today? It’s our ability to adapt. … Great challenge can come with great success and greater challenges and pressure. … What are you going to do about challenges?”

Optimism is key, according to Abbott. By making small changes, he found ways to do things that came easily to others, such as the football snap. He took a moment to show attendees how he quickly flips the glove from one arm to other to catch and throw the ball, using his good hand to do both.

“I was doing what I wanted to do and I learned to fit in. I had great people who taught me,” Abbott pointed out. “When you do things differently and step out there is bound to be pessimism. … For everybody who encouraged me there were others who doubted me.”

“I believe in mental toughness,” he said. “It can be cultivated and nurtured.”

“I look back at all those years of playing major league baseball and what a great time,” Abbott added.

In 1996, he lost 18 game.

“I went on a downhill spiral,” he said. “… I was sent down to the Minor Leagues for the first time.”

After getting released, Abbott took about a year off and then went back into training. He got signed to work for a farm team in the Minor Leagues and after several promotions and being bounced around the country, the Chicago White Sox welcomed him back to the major leagues.

Abbott said perseverance is vital in life.

“My little hand has taught me great lessons and that work isn’t always easy,” Abbott said.

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