SOURCE OF COMFORT AMID DESPAIR:  Charles Wachter, holding a photo of his late wife Carol at the 9/11 Memorial Glade, said that before she died in August at 72 from brain and lung cancers linked to her exposure to toxins in lower Manhattan in the aftermath of the World Trade Center terrorist attacks, she expressed gratification at having played a key role in the municipal hiring process as the Assistant Commissioner for Civil Service Examinations.  

Over the arc of her 34 years with the City of New York, Carol Wachter touched the lives of millions of New Yorkers as one of the people responsible for creating and administering civil-service exams for an entire generation.

Ms. Wachter, who worked for the Department of Citywide Administrative Services in the David Dinkins Municipal Building on Centre St., died Aug. 14 after battling World Trade Center-linked brain and lung cancers for 10 1/2 months.

A 34-Year Vet

Her husband Charles Wachter, 74, also a DCAS retiree, said the brain cancer was aggressive and inoperable. The couple had no children.

Ms. Wachter in 2002 retired as Assistant Commissioner for Civil Service Examinations. She started her career with the old city Department of Personnel in 1968, which merged with the Department of General Services 33 years ago.

Mr. Wachter said in an interview at the 9/11 Memorial Glade that it was one of his wife’s last wishes that her story prompt fellow civil servants to pay closer attention to their own health for potential symptoms.

“Have yourself checked out,” Mr. Wachter said. “Don’t ignore any symptoms whatsoever. And keep checking with the authorities for what kind of symptoms would be meaningful for them to be registered [with the WTC Health Program.]”

‘Couldn’t Stand Up’

“She had the first attack last October when she had a seizure on Oct. 7 and she was just incapacitated,” he said. “No amount of rehab could get her to stand up on her own and walk. She had to be assisted with everything, even after spending a month-and-a-half at a rehab facility in Manhattan…I was able to communicate with her up until June.”

The Bergen Beach, Brooklyn couple met on a blind date in college to a fraternity basement party. “After about a year we decided we wanted to get married and we were going to wait an extra year,” he recalled. “But when we met with the caterer, he said he had Thanksgiving open that year, instead of us waiting until next June. So, we got married that Thanksgiving. It makes it easier to remember your anniversary.”

Mr. Wachter, 74, after college worked for Equitable Insurance, going on to become a city Teacher. After five years, he took an Examiner test so he could join his wife working on the civil-service tests. Over his 30 years at DCAS, he handled the Correction and Sanitation Department testing as well as the special physical exam for female applicants for Firefighter in the 1980s after a Federal judge ruled the regular exam discriminated against women candidates.

He said Carol felt “tremendous gratification” in playing a role in seeing to it that the people the city “eventually hired were the best possible hired for every position that existed under the civil service, particularly for the police, fire and Emergency Medical Service.”

A Fateful Delay

He said as a couple they looked forward to retiring together but it was still “weighing on him” that Carol had “wanted to retire a year earlier” and he had said “he was not exactly ready” to leave work. “We would have missed the whole thing [9/11] here if we had retired when Carol wanted to,” he said.

The Wachters both worked out of the Municipal Building on Centre St. from about a week after the attack through the end of the clean-up in May 2002. Mr. Wachter said they and their colleagues relied on assurances from officials that the air was safe to breathe in lower Manhattan.

He said he was grateful that he and his wife had 17 years of retired life together “enjoying events in the city like the [New York] Philharmonic, the opera, chamber concerts, Broadway, off-Broadway and off-off Broadway.”

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