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Thread: 9-11 Survival was no Accident

  1. #1
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    Post������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������ 9-11 Survival was no Accident

    For many on Sept. 11, survival was no accident

    By Dennis Cauchon, USA TODAY

    Interactive graphic: For thousands, a sealed fate

    Last edited by Mari; 12-28-2001 at 02:52 AM.

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    Continuation of 9-11 Survival

    A complex drama

    The unscripted drama inside the World Trade Center is a complex story. It involved 10,000 to 15,000 people spread over 200 acres of floor space inside two buildings. There were 99 elevators and three stairwells in each building. Ten bystanders were killed outside by falling debris.

    Columbia University scientists recorded the precise time of the attacks on a seismograph connected to an atomic clock. The north tower was struck at 8:46:26 a.m., two to five minutes earlier than in most accounts. The impact registered magnitude-0.9 on the seismograph, equal to a small earthquake. The south tower was hit at 9:02:54 a.m.

    Please read next thread for continuation.

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    Continuation #2 9-11 Survival

    By Stan Honda, AFP
    A survivor takes refuge after the collapse of the World Trade Center towers.

    The south tower collapsed first, at 9:59:04 a.m. The north tower fell at 10:28:31 a.m.

    Nearly everyone's fate inside the two 110-story towers was sealed the moment the jets hit.

    In the north tower, American Airlines Flight 11 struck the 93rd through 98th floors and wrecked the stairwells on the 92nd floor. At the crash and above, 1,360 people died; none survived. Below the crash line, 72 died and more than 4,000 survived. Floors could not be determined for two people who died in the north tower.

    In the south tower, United Airlines Flight 175 struck the 78th through 84th floors. The higher wing cut into the offices of Euro Brokers, a financial trading firm. The fuselage tore into Fuji Bank offices on the 79th through 82nd floors.

    Of 599 fatalities in the south tower, only four worked below the crash area. Nobody who worked on the 58th floor or lower is known to have died.

    Although the official death toll stayed above 4,000 until Nov. 19, the inaccuracy of the estimates became apparent just days after the attack. All major companies with employees in the towers estimated the number of missing and presumed dead within 48 hours of the attacks, and their estimates were far lower than police figures.

    Morgan Stanley, the largest tenant in the World Trade Center, occupied 21 floors in the south tower between the 43rd and 74th floors. Of 2,500 employees who worked in the building, only six died, including three security officials who stayed to evacuate the building.

    Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield, the second-largest tenant, occupied 10 floors in the north tower between the 17th and 31st floors. All but nine of its 1,900 employees survived.

    "The evacuation was a remarkable success story," says Jake Pauls, a safety consultant who is the nation's leading expert on stairway design and safety.

    Design aided escape

    That evacuation began on the drawing board.

    The World Trade Center had an excellent stair system, much better than required by building codes

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    Continuation #3 9-11 Survival

    Many companies did head counts after the attack to determine how many employees had been in the buildings. Although a complete accounting is not possible, counts from more than 50 floors indicate the buildings were barely half full.

    For example, Marsh & McLennan, an insurance company, had offices on the 93rd through 100th floors in the north tower. About 1,000 worked there; 295 were at work at the time. All died. Fred Alger Management, a money manager, occupied most of the 93rd floor. Thirty-five of 55 employees were in. They all died.

    Only 25 of 55 employees were in the New York Metro Transportation Council's 82nd floor office. Three died. The receptionist was the only person in the office at the 16-employee law firm of Drinker Biddle & Reath on the 89th floor. She lived.

    Several factors kept desks empty. Some people voted that morning in New York City's mayoral primary. Others took children to the first day of school. Some were on sales calls or business trips. But the biggest factor was the early hour: Many simply hadn't arrived by 8:46 a.m.

    Many floors in the two 110-floor buildings were not occupied. Twelve floors in each tower were dedicated to mechanical equipment and a giant lobby.

    In addition, dozens of Asian investment firms in the World Trade Center had closed their offices or cut employment sharply because of the recession in Asia. Other offices were leased but empty or under renovation. The Atlantic Bank of New York had moved out of the 106th floor of the south tower in July but was still paying rent.

    Tourists were sparse at 8:46 a.m., too. The observation deck, on the 107th floor of the south tower, wasn't scheduled to open for another 45 minutes. Outside the buildings, the TKTS booth, which sold half-price tickets to Broadway shows, hadn't opened either. Most stores in the World Trade Center's busy underground shopping center were still shuttered. USA TODAY identified only one tourist who died.

    Elevators: The quickest way out

    Sixteen minutes, 28 seconds. That was the length of time between the first and second crashes. The fate of more than 2,000 people on the south tower's upper floors was determined by what they did during that time. Most made the right decision: They left soon after the first jet hit the north tower.

    The elevator system was the hero there. Built by Otis Elevator and modernized in the 1990s, the World Trade Center's elevator system was one of the biggest and fastest in the world. The 99 passenger elevators in the south tower moved several thousand people out of harm's way before the second crash.

    The elevators on the highest floors took people down to the 78th floor. In the 78th floor elevator lobby, people transferred to giant express elevators that sped to the ground in 45 seconds.

    These room-sized express elevators held up to 55 people each. Every two minutes, a dozen express elevators could move 500 people from the 78th floor to the ground.

    (Two giant express elevators ran non-stop from the ground to the 107th floor in each building, but they were not in service. The elevators went to the not-yet-open observation deck in the south tower and the Windows on the World restaurant in the north.)

    The bottom wing of United Flight 175 ripped through the south tower's 78th floor elevator lobby. The floor exploded in flames. Walls crumbled. More than 100 people lay dead or wounded from the initial impact.

    AON Corp. senior vice president Judy Wein was thrown across the lobby and broke her arm. Her boss, who had been standing next to her, died. Another colleague's legs were broken. "Goodbye, Judy, I love you," he told Wein before he died, according to her first-person account in Ladies Home Journal.

    "A man with a red handkerchief over his face seemed to appear out of nowhere and pointed to the stairs. 'Anyone who can get up and walk, get up now,' he urged the other people on the floor," Wein wrote.

    A small number, perhaps 10, escaped down Stairway A at the northwest corner of the building. If the jet had hit just 10 feet higher or had not tilted sharply at the last moment, the crowded elevator lobby would have escaped most of the carnage.

    USA TODAY identified 76 people who worked below where the jets struck. Some victims were obese or frail, unable to finish the long walk down. Others were trapped in elevators. Some were just unlucky.

    General Telecom, in an 83rd floor corner office in the north tower, suffered most. Everyone survived from the four other companies on the floor, 10 floors below the impact zone, but all 13 General Telecom workers in the office at the time perished.

    After the crash, half the employees went through a kitchen and a telephone equipment room to reach an exit, General Telecom chief operating officer Bill Callahan said. The door was blocked by debris or jammed shut from the crash's impact.

    When the workers turned around, the kitchen ceiling collapsed, trapping them in a 15-by-15-foot equipment room. Others were trapped in another part of the office.

    The employees were in communication with the outside world throughout, sending a pager message shortly before the collapse.

    On the 64th floor, five to 10 Port Authority workers gathered in a security command post equipped with video cameras and communication equipment.

    "They talked about what to do and felt safer staying put than leaving the building," Port Authority spokesman Allen Morrison said. After the south tower collapsed at 9:59 a.m., they tried to get out. They did not make it.

    First Union, a bank, lost four employees who worked on the north tower's 47th floor. One woman tired during the descent and stopped. Three men got outside but died when the south tower collapsed.

    At Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield, nine employees and two consultants died. Some deaths are understood: One man, for example, stayed on the 27th floor with a disabled friend; both died. Other deaths remain a mystery. "We suspect some were in elevators" when the plane hit, vice president Deborah Bohren said. "But we don't really know."

    One survivor's story

    On the north tower's 92nd floor, one floor below the crash, 69 employees from Carr Futures found themselves trapped. Most, perhaps all, survived the crash. But, in phone calls to loved ones, the employees reported that the stairwells were impassable.

    They crowded together in corner rooms as the floor filled with smoke. People appear to have lived until the building fell. By phone, a mother told her son that the south tower had collapsed.

    On the 91st floor in the north tower, the story was different.

    At the American Bureau of Shipping, George Sleigh and his co-workers counted heads after the crash: 11 of the 22 employees were in the office. All were unhurt. Other than Sleigh's area, the office was remarkably intact. Sleigh went back for his briefcase.

    The closest stairway was blocked. The second was open. The status of the third was unknown. "It was quiet and peaceful at first" in the stairwell as the employees made their way out, Sleigh recalls. "Nobody was behind us."

    A few minutes later, Sleigh's office was engulfed in flames. Fifty minutes after the crash, Sleigh was out of the building.

    Bruised, bloodied, covered in dust, separated from his colleagues, he was loaded into an ambulance. A police officer shouted: "Get out! Get out! The building is coming down!"

    The south tower was collapsing. It was 9:59 a.m. The north tower's highest survivor was on his way to Beth Israel Hospital.

    "Sometimes, I think it was God's providence that spared me," Sleigh said. "Other times, I wonder why me and not others. I realize I am a very fortunate man."

    Contributing: Barbara Hansen, Anthony DeBarros and Paul Overberg


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