Jacqueline Parker



HALCYON DAYS - My career began as a “Pool Girl” -- a secretary in training who would fill in as needed until offered a permanent slot. I was interviewed by a woman, began working for a woman, and saw that many top-level positions were filled by women, so career ascension seemed natural. I was in the Personnel Department—a relaxed atmosphere, and a nurturing one as well. There was no air conditioning in the PAB, people smoked throughout the day, and everyone dressed well.

Soon I was promoted to Manager’s secretary at the Bus Terminal. By then, I had enrolled at NYU and completed all the evening courses possible, so it was necessary to reverse my routine by working nights and attending classes during the day. The Port Authority not only paid for most of my tuition but worked with me to find the solution: working in the basement as an Information Agent.

After graduation, my first position was in the Special Services Division, where I presented lunchtime programs for employees, escorted dignitaries around the WTC (one of which gave me a chance to work in London’s House of Commons for a summer) and organized ceremonies large and small, including the Annual Medal Awards Ceremony. I was asked to create and manage a few projects to celebrate the 65th anniversary: a calendar dedicated to the history of the PA was a highlight and earned me a national award, as did the Birthday Party which was held on April 30. Cake was available to every employee that day, on all shifts, in all locations--even London and Tokyo! We also replicated a Veteran’s Plaque that had been in the PAB—I told my team that long after we were gone, that plaque would still be on the 44th floor of the WTC. Little did I imagine. . .

After 20 years, I left to test my talents in the private sector. While I did many things between my departure and retirement—for which my PA experience prepared me well--nothing was as fulfilling as the work I did there. My experiences were so varied, from working at the top of the WTC to the bowels of the Bus Terminal, I loved it all. I never again experienced that sense of pride and commitment I had at the Port Authority. Even now, when I hear mention of it, I perk up, as if I were still part of it all. When the WTC collapsed, I told my son, as we watched debris being taken up the West Side Highway, that I had helped build that building, however minor my contribution might have been. He quickly replied that the building had indeed built me, and my career.

Business virtues learned from superiors--who were all sterling--served me well in life. I’ll always be proud to have been part of the premier public agency in the country. I’m honored to be part of this anniversary, just as I was celebrating the 65th anniversary, half my life ago.




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