1. #1
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    Default What did you think of the PBS Special "Why the Towers Fell"?

    Just wondering what you all thought.

    A lump is still in my throat, but I thought it was well done. Hindsight is 20/20. A lot of "woulda-coulda-shoulda", and I thought all sides were presented pretty well.

    I still feel that under the technology and mathematical formulas available, WTC was architecture at its best. My heart goes out to the head of the project.

    May we learn and grow from this, and hold no bitterness that perhaps they should have considered the unthinkable.

    My thoughts only.
    Spec. Krista M. Aukeman, United States Army

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    Default Wishes

    I heard it was pretty good. But i didn't get to see it i was working. I wouild love to know what it was about so if anyone wanted to fill me in, i would be happy.
    thanks

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    I found it to be the most informative out of all the "what happened" documentaries I've seen. While some of it was basically the same thing that was on TLC's "Anatomy of a Collapse" there was also some info and insight that I was not aware of. I feel bad for the engineer, he did what he had to do back in the 70's and he is left full of guilt. All I can think of is a friend of my families from Ladder 4, he was found somewhere between the 43rd and 50th floor. Irons near him like always. I do have to say its easier for me to watch a technical side of it, then the personal side. The personal stories bring me back to that day, and surfaces images burned in my memory that took me months to get out.
    Damn trusses, it still shocks me one side held all that weight with 3/4 inch bolts. that is amazing.

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    I also felt it was a good program. I feel that the engineer should be proud that the structure remained intact as long as it did.
    By building the building in the first place, the lives of the men who actually built it were endangered just by the nature of the job. A certain amount of acceptable risk must be considered and then go build it. You cannot let the remote possibility that an aircraft of the size of a 767 striking the building be a reason not to build (especially since the 767 did not even exist at the time).
    Truss construction is a danger to firefighters, but there has to be a margin of acceptable risk there also. The fire retardant would have done its job in a typical fire in these structures.
    As firefighters, we probably set the acceptable risk bar higher than anyone, the lives of the entire crew are worth risking to save even one life.

    May that never change.
    See You At The Big One

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    Default Overall it was good, but......

    I think that overall the program was very informative and I got a real understanding of the events that led to the collapse of each tower.

    But did anyone else take note of one of the engineer's comments made toward the brothers of FDNY??? I couldn't believe what I was hearing. He said something along the lines of "....the firefighters hindered the evacuation of people from the buildings because they were clogging the stairwells. They were going up while occupants were trying to come down." He actually had the nerve to say that the brothers "should have stayed in the lobby and assisted with the evacuation from there!!!"

    I wish I could have reached through the TV screen. That pencil-pushing geek doesn't have a clue. There were only 1000+ total people trapped above the fires. Here's a thought.....what if the engineers of the building had designed the stairwells to be wider than those in my house!

    Personally, I disagree with with this statement...
    An engineering report on the collapse of the World Trade Center in the Sept. 11 attacks has found no evidence that the twin towers fell because their design sacrificed safety for economy.
    They go on to basically blame the fire retardent being knocked from the floor trusses.

    Regardless of whether the fire retardent was knocked from the trusses, I believe the buildings would have still collapsed. It was just that, a fire retardent. What was the hourly fire rating on that stuff anyway? It wouldn't have lasted that long. From what I saw on the program, the buildings were designed to maximize floor space ($$$) with relocated steel columns and lightweight floor trusses with weak points of attachment. Stairwells were protected with fire rated drywall instead of concrete. At the time, this was a major deviation from previous methods of high-rise construction. So how can anyone say they didn't sacrifice structural stability and safety for the almighty dollar? Sounds to me like they're trying to divert the blame when they need to accept at least partial responsibility.


    I must say that the comment about the brothers of FDNY still made me the maddest!

    Just my opinion.

    15 Truck
    "Greater love hath no man than this; that a man lay down his life for his friends."

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    Default

    But did anyone else take note of one of the engineer's comments made toward the brothers of FDNY???
    I heard it and assumed I must have not taken it in context. I'll be reviewing the tape.

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    I agree with a lot of what 15truck has to say in his post. The fire service is always subject to this kind of "Monday Morning Quarterbacking." I unfortunately did not see the program, but I did read the companion web site. I am a structural engineer by training and the conflict that the engineer faces is a balance of economy and safety. Unfortunately, the emphasis in the training of an engineer is on economy. After all, the client wants to maximize the productivity and return on his investment. Unfortunately, this results in the designer emphasizing the elegant "do the most we can with the least amount of material" while meeting the minimal standards of fire codes. Most of the time, this doesn't cause any problems, but in an extraordinary event, these buildings have very little reserve capacity to stand up to uncommon events. This is true in all areas of construction from the single family home to the office tower. We as a fire service have to educate the engineering community on what we need in design to allow us to do our jobs.

    I agree that the comment of the engineer as presented was unfortunate at best. However, we must realize that until we educate people on what we as firefighters do and why we do it, we are going to hear comments like this. I doubt the gentleman was making a personal attack on firefighters or FDNY. His comments are based on his lack of knowledge. We have to realize that engineers are more than "pencil pushing geeks." As an engineer and firefighter, my experience has been that there is a lot of joking around fire houses about how "these guys are so smart and have no common sense." That's true of some engineers, but the same could be said about firefighters. My concern is that to a large extent, the fire service does not attempt to work with the structural engineering community to make our case for why things should be done. We need to tell these people our concerns. Otherwise, they will never know what their design decisions mean to us.

    I am somewhat concerned that my non-firefighter engineering colleages are going to pat themselves on the back and say that the buildings performed wonderfully in not falling immediately and letting so many people escape. That actually is true. However, the buildings did fall with apparently little warning and many brave people died as a result. We have an obligation to minimize the chances of this happening again. Sorry for the long windedness.
    Chris Minick, P.E., Firefighter II
    Structures Specialist, MD-TF 1

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    CJMinick390,

    "pencil pushing geeks"
    My apologies.....that was my frustration taking over. You're right, he is uneducated in the ways of the fire department....but by the nature of his profession, should understand the context of the fire department's mission - to save lives. I too have an Engineering degree and unfortunately cost to the client is paramount in nearly all situations.
    "Greater love hath no man than this; that a man lay down his life for his friends."

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    Smile

    15Truck, it's good to run across another engineer in the firefighting world. Seems like we're kind of a rare commodity, at least in my neck of the woods. Anyway, I guess we need to be voices "crying in the wilderness" so to speak and maybe we can get our calculator wielding, computer operating cohorts to think about us a little more. Now, if we could just come up with a means of showing the project owners that what we need in in their economic interest...
    Perhaps marketing more comprehensively designed buildings to attract tenants? I guess I'd better get back to work. Have a summary of quantities and an estimate for a bridge widening to get done.
    Chris Minick, P.E., Firefighter II
    Structures Specialist, MD-TF 1

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    Thumbs down Say What???

    "....the firefighters hindered the evacuation of people from the buildings because they were clogging the stairwells. They were going up while occupants were trying to come down."
    I guess our FDNY brothers were supposed to extend their 1700 foot aerials and climb toward the fire floors, huh? Perhaps, someone from NOVA and/or the producers of the program should have addressed that statement. How else could fire suppression be initiated without humping hose & equipment up the stairwells?

    My suspicion is that the team was focused on the structural aspects and didn't consider FDNY's responsibility...attempting suppression.
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    The report suggests studying ways to improve fireproofing, enhance structural supports and strengthen walls around stairwells. In theory, the team said, occupants in the floors above the impact could have escaped had the stairwells withstood the impact.

    So given 500 years we should have all the building in America rebuilt so in "theory" the stairways will survive. In 500 years if we start to require residential construction in all homes will hae a fire safe America.

    Damn firemen in the stairways, it's the firemens fault.

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    Default Tradeoffs

    Nice to see some engineering folks here.

    It's all about trade-offs. Theoretically we could engineer structures that would survive nearly anything - and we do, but we pay for that engineering. The economics (and risks - natural and man-made) need to be considered as well as the engineering (a parallel could be a firehouse every .5 miles fully staffed with full time firefighters, great for response/suppression, but could every community pay for this - or want to in a world of competing interests?).

    Where is the balance? That is the much tougher call and has to be made on all projects of this type. Making those decisions carries heavy responsibilty.

    The program was very interesting in that it presented many lessons learned (and the on-going analysis will continue to do so). Getting spun up about select comments distracts from the central lessons.

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    I hope fdmavrik is being sarcastic...
    Chris Minick, P.E., Firefighter II
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    Default

    I have not personally had a chance to view the tape yet, but I did look at the site, and I agree with what has been previously posted.

    On a side note... hopefully this will make some of you smile.

    I was speaking to a friend who works for an engineering firm, and they have decided to keep a copy of the program on file in their library. They are also going to have all of the engineers in the home office view it,hopefully the rest will follow they have several offices world wide. The reason... simply because it was stated the building could with stand being hit by a plane. They want to use it as an example of things that need to be taken into consideration when working on a projects. Since many new structures are using light weight construction materials, hopefully more firms will follow suit, look at potential problems and consult the appropriate people ie the local fire dept.

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    dz
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    15 truck I agree with your first statement. The engineers are there to save face. Yes the Planes hit, and blew away the fire retartant. And the trusses failed (why we have trusses in any building I DON'T KNOW) Yes I do its cheap. And using drywall In the stair wells and Places for excape. because its cheap and light. Use what ever excuse about the constrution. To me the bottom line is the planes Hit the towers. They were not built to take that kind of a hit with that kind of fire. THE TOWERS FAILED!!! Because they failed 2823 people are dead!! And out of the dead we lost 343 brothers. DOING THERE JOB THE BEST WAY THEY ALL KNEW HOW!!!! Not hindering. But doing there job. So lets hope the pencil pushing geeks will take a lesson and DO THERE JOB BETTER NEXT TIME. As they sit in there office looking DOWN on our brothers, working as long as they did to find the remaind of all of the ones that lost there lifes. Looking down on them ( I dare them to show there face and say how bad THEY FEEL) I may be out of line because these building were 30 years old. I just don't like excuses. Stand up and take the blame or glory, but don't tell me that it could have stood IF!!!! IF the biggest littlest word in the world. Sorry for rambling but I'm mad now.

    be safe and take care
    dennis
    dz

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    Default Settle down kids

    I think some of you have missed the whole point of the program. The program explained in detail why the engineers believe the towers fell. I watched, paid attention and agreed. The comment about the firefighters clogging the stairwells was not stated with malice. It was a statement from a man who makes his living designing structures. He is not a firefighter. I do not expect him to understand my job, nor do I understand his. Calling him a "pencil neck geek" just lowers you to name calling. Very mature.
    Indeed the building would have emptied faster had the fire department not been on the steps. This cannot be denied. On the other hand, he does not realize that firefighters are compelled to put fires out, no matter the risk. You cannot expect others outside the fire service to understand this. IT WILL NEVER HAPPEN. Get over it. The engineer built, in my opinion, one hell of a pair of buildings. The firefighters did one hell of a job of trying to mitigate the situation. Case closed.
    15 truck - yes you are correct. Trusses are there because they are cheap. It is a matter of acceptable risk. Auto makers decide what the acceptable amount of lost lives are allowable in the design of vehicles. Structural engineers are the same. I have no problem with trusses. I don't trust them in a fire, but I look around my first in and see that of all the structures that have them, 99% have not had a fire in them, and prevention is lowering the number of fires every year. Odds are, most of them won't. That is why it is acceptable.

    BTW - lives are never saved, they are only prolonged. Lives are never lost, they are merely shortened. Sorry to be so cold, but the truth is not always a happy place.
    See You At The Big One

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    I haven't had the oppurtunity to read the FEMA/ASCE report yet. I did hear and read some excerpts from the report. From what I have seen so far, I have no problem with what the investigators have come up with. In hind sight, maybe some different decisions in design and materials would have resulted in a more robust building. However, in 1966 the idea of international terrorism of the type we are experiencing today was inconcievable. Based on their world at the time of the WTC design, I think that an attempt was made to address a large number of (for the time) plausible loads that the building might experience.

    I can tell you from reading the trade magazines of my profession that structural engineers are rethinking the viability of such large buildings in light of the events of 9/11 and they are giving more thought to the implications of building size in terms of life safety and evacuation issues.

    The editor of "Structure" magazine has called upon the structural engineering community to work with fire protection engineers and fire department officials to develop safer buildings that are not cost prohibitive. He has also challenged structural engineers to meet with local fire officials to discuss ways that we can educate the fire service on building construction and how to make good tactical decisions based on the characteristics of construction techniques.

    As firefighters, we have an obligation to learn ourselves and to take advantage of the knowledge that others can make available to us. We can learn from people even if they have never geared up and faced the "red devil" head on. I'm fortunate, I wear two hats. I try whenever I can to teach a little engineering to the guys and gals in my fire department. When we go on tours, I make a point of noting what type of construction is present and I think about how much time we have for an interior operation based on fire volume and elapsed time. I've found a good number of people who will listen and talk about such things, but I've also run across a lot of guys who can't be bothered to take the time to learn about things that can kill them. It's a good thing they have guardian angels.
    Chris Minick, P.E., Firefighter II
    Structures Specialist, MD-TF 1

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    Unhappy Whoa there lil doggie

    I believe you can read a witnesses testimony that they past no one going up stairwell 1 in the south building. How does that mean the stairwell's were clogged with FF's?
    I think PBS site on the whole thing was done very well. Especially with the eyewitness reports as well. My wife saw the TV special but I was working.

    God Bless

    PD

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    When we go on tours, I make a point of noting what type of construction is present and I think about how much time we have for an interior operation based on fire volume and elapsed time. I've found a good number of people who will listen and talk about such things, but I've also run across a lot of guys who can't be bothered to take the time to learn about things that can kill them.
    That is an appropriate way to train. By pointing out that it can kill you, you hope that they remember. The unfortunate part is the number who don't listen. That seems to be an epidemic in the fire service.

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    Default About the "geek".......

    Bringing this back to prolong the discussion - I got sidetracked when I wanted to respond the other day.......... Probably a good thing to let my emotions even out, so I could type a reasonable response instead of a ghetto blasting.

    15 truck, the engineer you are talking about is (embarassingly) a fire protection engineer named Jake Pauls from Canada who specializes in people movement. His comments were totally out of line. Maybe editing changed how it was presented, but at face value I took it as a slam too. Dishonor has no place here. He did mention "hindsight", but it's still second guessing an operaton that had no precedent whatsoever.

    It may be interesting to some of you viewers that most of the "experts" on that program were not even involved in the investigation. The program never made that clear. Many, including me, assumed that they all were. I was educated when I spoke with a member of the investigation team the next day.

    Bottom line is, yes the building could have been safer, but none of the original designers made any mistakes simply because none could have foreseen the event. Those of us in code enforcemnet know that the game is we can't allow less than the code, but can't require more. I usually see fire protection consultants when they want to get out of something, not when they want to increase protection and costs for the owner.

    Jake Pauls shouldn't be blaming the FDNY for using the stairs, any more than he should be blaming the stair designers for not making them wider than required so they could serve both purposes (entry and evacuation). They did what they had to do, something evidently he can't understand, because apparently he has never served as a fireman.

    And I have to say, not all of us FPE's are pencil-pushing geeks. Some of us have been firemen longer, and consider ourselves firemen first. As for me, I don't have my diploma on the wall at work - I have a printout showing each of the 343 murdered FDNY members.

    'nuff for now...........

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    Default question to ponder

    i thought the program was good and very informitive about the technical aspects of the collapse. Just a question to ponder: If we fortify our buildings to withstand the impact of a 767 fully loaded with jet fuel is that really living in freedom, or is it living in a constant state of war. I think it was amazing the towers stood as long as they did and had there been no fire would probably still be standing today.

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    Explorer-

    You make a fresh point. If we all sat in a room and thought of all the sick things people can do to a building (and thus didn't build until we knew of a way to protect against all of it), we wouldn't get S#!t built. And we would stop living.

    I disagree with those who think or imply that shortcuts (material/economical in nature) were made in engineering the WTC. Budgets are not synonimous with shortcuts. And the nature and progressiveness the towers had at that time would indicate to me that no compromises to safety were committed. They were a risk just by their size, and builders made them the best they knew how.

    Why is the term of the forum "pencil-pushing-(insert own term/explicative)?!?!?!?! Architects and engineers - especially involved in such a project - are educated and talented individuals. Don't hang them because they don't have firefighter mentalities.

    DZ Wrote:
    I dare them to show there face and say how bad THEY FEEL
    Did you watch the entire program, DZ? The head engineer does feel terrible about what happened. And you know what...he shouldn't. Your sick joy in wanting innocent and good-willing persons to suffer is very un-firefighter, unprofessional, and unhuman. The people you direct it towards do NOT deserve it. The terrorists do.

    My last point (allow me to get emotional) I'm frickin appauled and ANGRY that the engineers are blamed at all. Bin Laden caused the towers to collapse. End of story.
    Last edited by crashbgfdchick; 05-03-2002 at 08:35 PM.
    Spec. Krista M. Aukeman, United States Army

    Some day, in years to come, you will be wrestling with the great temptation, or trembling under the great sorrow of your life. But the real struggle is here, now, in these quiet weeks. Now it is being decided whether, in the day of your supreme sorrow or temptation, you shall miserably fail or gloriously conquer. Character cannot be made except by a steady, long continued process.
    - Phillips Brooks

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    First of all. If what I said has offended anyone I'm sorry. But the attack on New York as well as D.C. and the ones that lost there life in the plane In Pitts. really bothers me, as well as many others. The title of this tread is "What did you think of the PBS special "Why the towers fell?"" So I expressed what I felt. I'm no engineer or know a whole bunch of what they do. Me calling them name may be unfair, will I take it back? Wish I could, but it is said, so I will have to stick by it, right or wrong. Sound silly dosn't it. I'm not polically correct and my spelling needs help. But as being unfirefighter I don't think so. Say what you want but if you don't like people expression then don't title a thead in a question. As I have said before the best thing about this whole forum is we all to express our feelings. And we wont agree. Heck we can't get the three shifts at one station to agree. how can we expect hundreds of firefighter to agree? So I don't mind a fellow firefighter not agreeing, just don't let a outsider kick me around.


    You all take care and be safe

    dennis
    dz

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