Today is the 9th anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center (WTC) towers. It was one of the most horrific and shocking events to take place in the US in modern times. When it happened it seemed inconceivable that those two stalwart steel made towers could be brought down.
About five years before the attack, I had written an article for The Steel Institute magazine in New York City. The article was about the reconstruction of the World Trade Center tower after it had been bombed in 1991. A number of lower floors had been hit by a truck loaded with explosives and extensive damage was done at several basement levels, including one fatality — an employee working in one of the areas.
One of our engineering clients was designing the reconstruction of the building. I interviewed the Chief Structural Engineer of the NY/NJ Port Authority, which at the time was responsible for the management and maintenance of the World Trade Center. Later, WTC was leased to Larry Silverstein of Silverstein Properties.
I will never forget that the WTC structural engineer told me that the towers could never be brought down. We talked about the possible effects of bombings on bridges and tunnels and other steel structures. Many people in the construction industry wondered if the Holland Tunnel or Lincoln Tunnel connecting New York and New Jersey were at risk, if they would be struck by terrorists. Would they be totally destroyed and demolished?
After the 1991 bombing of the WTC, the industry worried about terrorist acts on other landmark structures built with steel. But the engineer I interviewed said that the twin towers could not be destroyed by a bomb, that the steel was sufficiently strong to withstand bombings. There could be damage to areas of the building and to specific floors, but the towers could not collapse.
When I watched on TV the morning of 9/11 and saw the smoke billowing out of the upper floors, I just kept thinking that this is horrible, this is unbelievable, but, oh no, nothing could bring down the Twin Towers.
Nobody had talked about the extreme heat of airplane fuel and what it could do to the steel towers. Later I found articles on the Internet that talked about the possibility of airplanes being used to destroy landmark buildings. So the government knew about the possibility. They put their heads in the sand because the thought of it was too horrible. Just like the Holocaust was too horrible to imagine.
So today, let us remember the souls of those who perished and pray that they are peaceful. And let us pray for their survivors, especially the little children who lost a mother or father and are growing up without them.
Let us pray for peace around the world.