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Douglas G. Karpiloff

Security Pro Was a Friend to Tower Tenants

January 23, 2002

Doused in thousands of gallons of jet fuel, both skyscrapers were towering infernos. Douglas Karpiloff, the complex's security head, manned Tower Two's fire command center on the skyscraper's ground floor. His right-hand man, George Tabeek, was in charge of the security command- back-up operations center on the 22nd floor of Tower One. Responding to a call from World Trade Center director of aviation, Alan Reiss, to assess Tower Two's damage, Tabeek -- accompanied by three co-workers, an FBI agent and two firefighters -- proceeded to peer out the window toward Tower Two's blazing upper floors.

Suddenly, the top 20 floors of Tower Two blew up, Tabeek recalled. As he ducked for cover behind a file cabinet, Tabeek said, he saw a huge fireball and the underside of tumbling floors as the tower caved in. The impact of the explosion peeled off the outer skin of Tower One, shattering the thick double-paned windows in the process. As Tabeek, who for a split second didn't know whether he was dead or alive, came to his senses, he realized he owed Karpiloff his life. Thanks to his boss, Tabeek said sobbing, an inner layer of laminated bulletproof glass put in months earlier at Karpiloff's behest withstood the blast and undoubtedly saved his life and those of the others with him. "When he died, we lived," Tabeek said of his former boss. "He was a very gifted individual who found his first love."

At home, Karpiloff, 53, is survived by his wife, Jacqueline, a daughter, Lisa, a son, Joseph, and a brother, Kenneth, all of Mamaroneck.

His passion and talent for protecting World Trade Center tenants became apparent after the 1993 bombing at the complex, colleagues said. With him as the newly appointed director of security and life safety, the trade center went from a facility where just about anyone could simply walk in off the streets to one boasting electronic ID cards requiring activation at the lobby turnstiles to gain entry. Non-cardholders had to be announced by security personnel, and vehicles entering the basement did so under a strict identification and tracking system.

Karpiloff took the skyscraper's security system to a new height. A multilayer system he put in targeted everything from truck or car bombs to visitors transporting explosives into the building and the potential for trash cans to be used as a receptacle for hidden bombs. He was ahead of the curve in chemical and biological warfare substances such as anthrax and lobbied vocally for the budgeting of detection equipment, protective wear and training, colleagues said. "He saw things with a different eye from most," said Reiss.

As he fine-tuned and beefed up security, Karpiloff made sure the tenants he was trying to protect were treated as people. This meant, for instance, training security guards to maintain eye contact and wear a smile. It also meant putting out candy near the guard booths at Halloween. "I'm spending $2,000 on candy, he'd say," Reiss recalled. "He saw this as a means to help the security personnel maintain a friendly rapport with tenants and visitors."

Tabeek, the trade center's manager of security operations, said his former boss, whom he'd known for more than 15 years, was a true professional. Karpiloff was honest, straightforward and "told it like it is," Tabeek said. He also carried himself like a professional, Tabeek said, who wouldn't be caught without his suit jacket on. Once on an outing aboard a friend's boat, Karpiloff confided that the blue jeans he had on were the only pair he owned, Tabeek recalled. And just as he never took off his suit jacket, he never had a bad hair day. Every single hair was always in place.

"He looked professional, he acted professional and he was an outstanding professional."

-- Collin Nash (Newsday)