The following story is dedicated to all the rescuers killed at the World Trade Center incident on Sept. 11, 2001. This tragedy portrayed the sheer evil hidden in man’s darker side and, in turn, the heroes who rise above it all. (Note: Because this article was written five months after the event...
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As I stood there kicking myself for not bringing a camera, I couldn’t help but think what might have happened if the bomb had gone off directly below Tower 1, instead of between the tower and the hotel. The thought of one of the towers toppling was mind-boggling, I will admit, yet it was the first time the possibility had entered my mind. I remember being interviewed by several national publications. They told me that all the architectural, structural and engineering experts they talked to agreed that the towers could not be brought down by a bomb. I clearly recall them all saying that not even a plane flying into one of the towers could bring it down. They had said they built the buildings with that scenario in mind. I remember being the lone voice adamantly disagreeing with that opinion, feeling that regardless as to whether a plane could or could not knock a tower over on impact, the release and ignition of the jet fuel would be enough to compromise the structural integrity of the tower.
To me, common sense dictated that the fuel-fed fire would easily exceed 2,000 degrees. Fireproofing would be scraped off. Sprinklers would be destroyed. With the failure temperature of steel being around 1,100 degrees and with the compressive load being generated on the fire floors from the remaining stories above, the collapse of the tower would be a given. Along with everyone else, I figured that an aviation accident, much less a terrorist attack, of that magnitude was unthinkable. The collapse of even one of the massive towers was a thought that I could not easily entertain. Yet, standing there with a commanding view of the crater that February day over eight years earlier made me wonder whether we take a threat of that nature seriously enough. It is evident that someone has an agenda against us, but were they really attempting to bring one or both of the buildings down? Were they really trying to kill tens of thousands of innocent civilians and strike a blow at the very heart of America and all that we believe in?
I snap back to this warm September day, not 100 feet from where the 1993 bomb detonated. Did they, in fact, succeed in bringing them down this time? It just can’t be true, can it? The reality of it all grips me when the wind shifts again, the smoke momentarily clears and I find myself standing motionless on Liberty Street, staring in disbelief at the spot where the two towers once stood. The towers ARE gone. It’s almost too much for my mind to accept. I find myself wishing this was some kind of terrible dream, yet I know it’s all too real. I glance down to the corner of West and Liberty and see an old 30-story building heavily involved in fire, nearly from top to bottom. I look over my shoulder at 1 Liberty Plaza. A friend of mine, Larry Graham, works in that building. He oversees it and all the other assets in the U.S. for one of the largest real estate companies in North America. His office is on the sixth floor, facing the Trade Center. My stomach twists as I wonder if he made it out alive. His building must be missing a hundred windows, but you can tell it is structurally sound. It was the original headquarters of U.S. Steel and it is an incredibly sturdy 53-story tower. There is no way to tell who’s alive and who’s not at this point. I hope he was in midtown this morning and he’s all right, along with Nancy, his warm and caring assistant.
Suddenly, to my right, something odd catches my attention through the dense smoke. It looks like pieces of steel sticking out the side of the Bankers Trust Building at 130 Liberty St. I walk closer and stare upward. As if a giant cat has slashed the front of the building with its claw, a huge gaping hole about 20 feet across exists from around the 25th floor down to about the 10th floor. The curtain wall, floor slabs, everything – gone. Just open space where offices once were and several large steel columns protruding out of the middle of the gash. I knew the columns didn’t belong to the building. One of the towers must have fallen over and struck it, I thought. It was an imposing sight.
I work my way over to the World Financial Center and see hundreds of windows missing, the beautiful Winter Garden badly damaged, the facades of skyscrapers scoured. One 50-story building apparently also was struck by one of the falling twin towers. Several large steel columns jut out from the corner offices up around the 20th floor. It confirms my belief that the towers did not collapse straight down into one large debris pile.