Thelma Kilayko Sy



I had the great fortune of building my career with the Port Authority. I spent 28 years working for this wonderful company until I retired.

In October, 1970, I had a chance meeting with an NYU law student (a complete stranger) who advised me to apply to the Port Authority and mention his aunt’s name, Mrs. Adams, as a reference. After my successfully passed written test and interview process, I was hired that same day and told to report to work the following Monday as an Accounting Clerk. Later, two executives -- Saul Goldman, Cost Accounting Supervisor, and Irwin Bressler, Revenue Accounting Supervisor, to whom I owe a heartfelt gratitude -- were instrumental in helping me advance my career. I was promoted to Accountant and then eventually, Accounting Supervisor.

I look back at the many projects and contributions to the company with gratitude to be part of them. I led development of a pilot database for the World Trade Center that included Susan Jones, my assistant, among others and instituted revenue accounting systems and controls for new facilities such as the Newark Legal Center.

My daughter Marlou was able to do a summer internship and worked with Lillian Liburdi, CEO Port Department. The experience she gained was priceless and she now works for The Walt Disney Company.

The World Trade Center was also such a fun place to work. It was always bustling with tourists. It was a playground for my family. I took out-of-town visitors to see the observation deck on the 102nd floor. We saw the 4th of July Centennial parade from my office in the NYC harbor.

With all good memories, there is one unfortunate one that I wish I were never a part of… such as the first bombing on February 26, 1993. My office was located on the 69th floor. I was on the 43rd floor cafeteria having lunch. We heard a loud boom and were told to evacuate the area. I recall some employees jokingly making light of the situation, saying, “Let’s bring our lunch as this may be our last meal”. As we walked down the flight of stairs to the ground floor, we experienced fear as we can barely see in front of us due to the heavy smoke. I made it to my home in Park Slope by crossing the Brooklyn Bridge with no shoes (heels were not comfortable) and winter coat in the freezing cold weather. The 9/11 tragedy destroyed a beloved landmark and took the life of my fellow employee, Ken Grouzalis. Treasured memories come with sadness to think that the iconic buildings that I once called home for many years is no longer there.

I am extremely grateful for having been a part of the Port Authority who took a chance on a female immigrant from the Philippines with an Accounting degree, recognized talent with promotions, and provided long term benefits towards a great retirement. God bless the Port Authority and Happy 100th Anniversary!



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