Emma 'Georgia' Barnett
September 17, 2001, "Cheating death," Lloyds List, by John McLaughlin and Alison Bate,
Preserved for posterity under the aegis of Penn State College of Engineering, [first archive.org capture June 14, 2002]
Two employees of the American Bureau of Shipping tell of their miracle escape from the 91st floor of the World Trade Center’s north tower.
EVERY catastrophe has its miraculous survivors, who escape the carnage around them only through a chance meeting or a freak accident or a small decision unthinkingly taken, writes John McLaughlin. Tuesday’s terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York was no exception. In the days that followed, any number of stories emerged of hairsbreadth escapes and unlikely rescues.
They were cheering in themselves. They certainly sold newspapers. But they also served an important purpose for a city still stunned into silence by the images of the attack and its aftermath, each life saved adding its small sum to the growing, desperately willed belief among New Yorkers that the city’s famous spirit remained unbowed, that life could regain its old optimism and vibrancy.
Steve McIntyre’s is one of those stories. McIntyre is 48 years old. He is a husband, and the father of three small children, and he lives on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. For the last 24 years, ever since he graduated from the University of Michigan’s Naval Architecture School, he has worked for the American Bureau of Shipping. He is now its director of regulatory affairs. Until last Tuesday, his office was on the 91st floor of World Trade Center One.
That morning, he arrived in the office at 08:35, a good half-hour earlier than usual. His office faced north, and on that brilliantly sunny day, from that height, he could see all Manhattan stretching out before him. He closed his blinds because of the glare, sat down at his computer and began checking his email.
He says, “it was then that I heard the roar of jet engines coming right at us. I have a vague recollection of a shadow crossing the blinds. And then one or two seconds after the roar came the impact. The whole building shook, moved, and oscillated. The interior wall and the ceiling at the east end of the office came in.
"My perception was that it came in at about the 93rd floor, right smack in the center of the north face. I knew it was a jet engine. I thought, 'Oh s**t, someone's lost control of a private Lear jet and crashed into us'. I had no idea of the size of the thing." It was 08:48.
The quotes above and below directly contradict the main-stream media reporting that said George Sleigh saw in a split second not only the mass and scale of a commercial jet-liner, but even individuals who were manning the cockpit---as well as seeing the landing gear, self-contradictorily reported in different accounts as being both in extended and retracted positions.The news, and the images of what happened, was soon rocketing around the world, but on the 91st floor, Steve says, the 11 ABS employees had no idea what was going on outside. He thinks now it was one of the things that saved them. The mood was definitely not calm, but it was orderly, perhaps also because some had been through the World Trade Center bombing in 1993 when ABS had occupied a sparkling office on the 102nd floor of Two World Trade Center. "We started our routine, started checking who's here...." He chokes up, as he does several times in an hour-long conversation, and then apologizes. "Sometimes it gets me at odd times," he says.
[sic] See: Sept. 18, 1991, Real Estate Weekly, "Full floor leased at 2 World Trade," for notice of ABS leasing 50,000 s.f. on the 106th floor of the South Tower to house 140 employees, after vacating a 168,000-square-foot structure named after the shipping concern located at 45 Eisenhower Drive in Paramus, NJ. [See: Dec. 27, 1992, The Record (Bergen County, NJ) "Drug Giant Coming To Paramus," for Hoffmann-La Roche's leasing of 80,000 square feet of that structure.] The Record said: "The 129-year-old American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) has selected New York City and Two World Trade Center as the location for its world headquarters."He collects himself, and continues: "People were getting fire extinguishers. Someone had the presence of mind to soak a big roll of paper towels." Everyone was safe, though George Sleigh, a phlegmatic Briton who is manager of ABS' Technical Consistency Department, was "encased" in debris and had to be extricated from his cubicle. Steve went to check the fire exits. There were three of them. "The first, on the left, had a lot of water and debris. I went down the hall and turned right to the second fire stair. It was dark, worse than the first. And I have a clear feeling now that the two closest stairs were blocked above our floor. I thought ‘where the hell is the third fire stair'.
Consequent to 9/11/01, ABS moved to 60 East 42nd Street, as announced in an undated pdf, "W&H Properties is pleased to announce that American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) has leased 12,712 square feet on the entire 42nd floor..."]
However, a May 20, 2009, Real Estate Weekly article, WTC firm's NYC return. (W and H Properties) indicates that after 9/11, ABS first returned to their original New Jersey home for eight-and-a-half years---expressing it this way: "ABS relocated to the property [42nd St.] from Paramus, New Jersey, where it was based after 9/11. Previously, the firm was on the 91st floor of the WTC's North Tower." The announcement neglects to mention that ABS had previously "selected...Two World Trade Center..for its world headquarters."
Later on in this "Cheating death" article, it is explained that "ABS has held offices in the World Trade Center for about 10 years, but downsized when the corporate headquarters moved to Texas two years ago. The New York office normally employs 22 people, but at the time of tragedy only 11 staff were actually in the office." Forbes reported on Sept. 14, 2001, that ABS occupied 8,400 s.f. on the 91st floor of the North Tower, or over 380 s.f. for each of the 22 employees. The rest of the floor was vacant.
Since ABS lost no computer function or data on 9/11, their redundant "backup" office in New Jersey was sufficient for their skeleton staff. The original justification for taking 50,000 s.f. in New York City in 1991, to "attain a higher profile, one befitting the role that ABS plays in setting standards for the shipbuilding industry," was then put on hold until 2009.
The fact was that ABS, like many other companies said to be housed in the World Trade Center, never was a legitimate for-profit tenant for the Port Authority, but served instead as a "Potemkin" presence meant indicating business as usual. Even ABS' former quarters on the 106th floor of the South Tower, which housed the Atlantic Bank for a brief period while their real leasehold elsewhere in Manhattan underwent renovations, was vacated by the July before the attack.
This scenario is repeated over and over again throughout the towers. Marsh & McLennan, for instance, which was a significant, long-term tenant in the South Tower, had leased floors directly in the strike zone of the North Tower only three years previously, to house an affiliate that no one in the business community had ever heard of before. This was entirely a sham operation, never actually occupied by anyone, with the 700 employees said to have died there being a complete fiction.
And it was under these economic conditions that Larry Silverstein negotiated his billion dollar lease from the Port Authority.
"The corridors to the east were impassable, and there was a lot of smoke. I finally found my way to the third fire stair. But I tripped on some gypsum board and fell. I slid down to the first landing and then round the corner and down to the second landing. Then I realized 'it's better here'." He went back to get the others.
"We started down. I remember very few people coming down from other floors. We stopped at around the 85th floor to take stock and to calm each other. That was much better. We realized the fire was above us and that it was clear below. We just had to get down."
From then on, they moved quickly, their minds focussed entirely on getting out rather than on whatever might be happening above them. All the same, he says that emotionally he was "up and down like a yo-yo". "We were completely encased in tunnels. And then we would open a door onto a floor and there would be guys fighting a fire, and then we would open another door and there would be people just milling around. It frightened me, all these people just standing around. Maybe they had seen what happened to the second tower."
They continued their way down, crossing floors to find new fire exits when the clog of people became too thick and the pace of descent too slow for comfort or when, as on the 78th floor, they ran into a locked fire door and had to retreat. By the 40s, they met the first firemen moving slowly up against the current.
Okay, "climbing 44 floors" is a precise statement after a vague one, but it represents an almost equal meeting place between the separate journeys, one up and one down, that began at exactly the same moment. However there is no logic in equating a descent of 47 stories in the lightest portion of total traffic flow, against the amount of time it took the firemen to muster and travel from their station-houses to the Trade Center itself, then formulate plans, or receive "instructions," or "orders," and begin the laborious ascent, while carrying a heavy load, and facing off against a constant buildup of civilian traffic---before the "bottleneck" breaks---which the dubious oral histories of the responders averaged, took at least a minute per floor. There is a fundamental lie afoot here."They were already beat after climbing 44 floors with heavy equipment. People were giving them water and encouragement. And those poor guys kept climbing up to do what they could do." Many would never make it out again. Steve and his companions kept going down, counting the floors until they reached what they imagined the sanctuary of the mezzanine. He still had no idea what had happened outside. It did not cross his mind that his ordeal might just be beginning.
"I was thinking 'okay, great, we're safe'. But outside I could see all this falling debris flying around. I thought 'we've being coming down for an hour, what the hell is this'." By now, he had been paired with Ruth, who had sprained her ankle and had trouble getting down. They were ordered down to the lobby floor and directed across the plaza to an exit on the eastern side of the complex, Steve helping Ruth along under the drenching rain of the fire sprinklers. Seconds later, at 9:58, Two World Trade Center imploded.
"Across" the plaza is the wrong word. It should read "beneath" the plaza, which is what the "lobby" leads to."We were about 50 feet from the escalator up to Church St and I was saying to Ruth 'we're okay, we get up this escalator and we're okay', and then there was a big rumble and a huge roar and everybody shouted 'run' and then a huge wind came through there. I remember distinctly being lifted off my feet and blown down the hall, I don't know how far. Ruth was holding onto me but we were ripped apart. I had no conception of what was happening. It went through my mind that a bomb had gone off in the subway. Then the plume came through and there was an opaque blackness. It was not an absence of light. It was opaque. My glasses were gone. I put my hand in front of my face and I couldn't see it. I thought 'a bomb has gone off and I’m going to die right here of smoke inhalation'. Then I realized that it wasn't smoke, that it was just very heavy air. There was all this stuff on the floor but it was light stuff. I was coated in it, as if I’d been immersed in a vat of butter. And the exposed skin on my arm was all pocked from tiny glass shards, maybe 100 of them.
"We must have been on the very edge of the blast field when number two came down. I ran into a glass storefront. I could feel the glass but not see it. People were yelling. And then suddenly, and this was a seminal thing for me, I saw a flashlight, not the bulb just a lume of light, and a guy yelling 'come to me'. I ran to him and I grabbed his belt and hung on, and someone hung on to me, and in that chain we started stumbling around looking for a way out."
After a time, they heard more voices yelling, "and then it was like stepping out of a mirror. It took only a few steps to break out of the opacity, which was not smoke but ash and debris and dust, and into the light."
The following statement is one of the baldest and most distressing rebuttals to the supposed "heroism" of the responders, who "helped" civilians escape. Reading the 500-plus oral histories I'm hard pressed to find any examples of evacuation assistance from the FDNY. Notoriously, the FDNY didn't perform a single elevator rescue. The Trade Center came with its own fully trained police- and fire-rescue staff, who did perform their duty, and often had to guide and rescue the firemen first.Steve ran northeast. He realizes now he was in shock. He found an ambulance and asked for help, but the paramedics, as traumatized as he, were unable to respond. He remembers seeing ordinary people heading south, as if drawn irresistibly towards the site of the disaster. He remembers shouting at them 'run' and, still convinced there had been a subway bomb, 'don’t go down the subway'. They ignored him. Only when the first tower began to collapse did the tide of people turn, and only then did he look back for the first time. Even then, he believed only the top floors of number one had gone. It was 10:28, just half an hour after he had been blown off his feet at the very bottom of the building.
He kept heading north. A car radio told him that WTC1 had been hit by a flight from Boston, and it struck him like a hammer blow that his wife was due to fly back from Boston that day. He found a man with a cell phone, had him call his home. His nanny Rhonda burst into tears when she heard his voice. He reassured her, told her to tell everyone he was safe. A man gave him a ride to 23rd street, dropping him close to the UN school where his kids were.
Still covered in ash and dust, he started walking across town. "It was a lunchtime crowd on 23rd St. People were sipping cokes, talking on their cell phones. It was complete normalcy. I can't tell you how weird it was. I went into a deli and stood in line for a glass of water. I stood in line! A man came round from behind the counter. He gave me two bottles of water. But I realized he just wanted me out of the store. In all that time, only one person asked if I needed help. One person! I got a glimpse of what it means to be a refugee or a homeless person. I was transparent." He recalls with a hollow laugh pressing himself up against a building in fear as an F16 fighter plane flew low overhead, the lunchtime crowd walking on oblivious.
He arrived at the UN School, where at first the security guards refused to let him in. But he was finally able to make sure his children were safe, and then catch a ride back to West 84th St, where again the sight of life proceeding as if nothing had happened struck him as "utterly bizarre".
He says: "I walked into the apartment and Rhonda let out a scream. (His colleague) Greg Shark was sitting on the sofa, and it was such a comfort to realize he was there and alive. He had been there. He could corroborate what happened. It was almost hallucinogenic. I sat down with Greg and watched the images on TV. I remember lurching the first time I saw the plane go into Two. I jumped out of my seat. Later I saw the plane going into One, and I could connect it. But it is getting harder to watch all the time."
By some miracle, everyone from Steve's office made it out alive. His kids were fine. His wife chose not to fly, but drove back from Boston with a colleague. Thinking back, it scares him how close he and his friends came to disaster. If ABS had still been in its old World Trade Center Two home, their fate would have been sealed: all 650 people who were in the offices of brokerage Cantor Fitzgerald above and below the 102nd floor are still unaccounted for.
And on the day of the attacks: "If people in our vicinity had known what was really going on, or what was to come, there would have been complete panic. It is a miracle the plane did not come in a notch lower. It is a miracle the jet fuel did not come down to our floor. And it is a miracle the stairwells were as clear as they were. If we had been slower coming down we would not be here today."
Like her colleague Steve McIntyre, Claire McIntyre — no relation — was checking her e-mail when she first heard the plane, writes Alison Bate.
"I was working at my computer and first heard this horrendous roar of a jet engine," she recalls. "I thought it couldn't possibly be here this close. Then I saw the wing and tail of a plane." She jumped up screaming and ran out her office to alert the rest of the staff. "I thought: 'Oh my God, all my people'. I ran out into the hallway and just screamed: 'Everyone, get out now'."
Then American Airlines Flight 11 slammed into the building two story's above her head, wiping out the 93rd floor offices of the world's largest insurance broker Marsh & McLennan. At the end of last week there were still 700 Marsh employees missing. Claire had no idea at the time that it was a terrorist attack. "I thought it was an accident," she says.
As all her 11 colleagues working in the office that day gathered in the reception area Claire had the presence of mind to grab her pocketbook and a flashlight before they started their long escape down 91 floors. "The first two flights were dark, with no emergency lights, and water was pouring down the stairs," says Claire. "We could barely see and I put my flashlight on. Then the emergency lights came on, and water was still flowing down."
Fellow office worker Emma 'Georgia' Barnett slipped and slid down three flights of stairs. She got up but then tripped over a hose, damaging her knee, but carried on. Claire and four others crossed over to another stairwell that was moving faster and worked their way down floor by floor.
"In the 60s I was thinking: 'How much more to go?'" says Claire. "I remember getting to 22 and saying: 'Oh my God, we're almost there'." When they emerged from the stairwell at the mezzanine level, and were greeted by emergency services people, who were rushing everybody out.
Then came the worst part. Claire chokes as she recalled the moment. "As we passed the Plaza, I saw bodies and body parts." By this stage desperate workers still trapped in the building were throwing themselves out of windows to escape the blaze that had engulfed both buildings.
When she got to the escalator to reach the lower level, Claire met up again with Georgia, and they went through the Concourse. Finally they reached the street, exiting on the east side of the complex. While Claire was helping Georgia toward an ambulance across the street they saw the neighboring south tower start to collapse.
As it began to fall at around 10:00, Claire, Georgia and Steve started to run up the block. "We thought: 'We made it down 91 flights of stairs and now we are going to die'," says Claire. Just as they realized they were safe from debris, a huge cloud of dust came at them, reaching them as they were halfway up the block. "We were in total blackness and couldn't breathe at all."
They pulled part of their shirts over their faces for protection, and Claire and Georgia held on together, feeling their way up the street. In the murky confusion they became separated from Steve. Gradually the dust cloud lessened, becoming dark grey, and they ran into the Chase Bank, next to the Millennium Hilton Hotel. The bank had closed its doors, but someone let them in and they stayed for about 15 minutes until the air cleared enough to go back outside.
As they walked toward Broadway, they met a TV crew and gave a phone interview about their escape.
Claire also called her sister and ABS office headquarters in Houston, Texas, to let everyone know they were safe. "It was very emotional, of course," she says.
ABS has held offices in the World Trade Center for about 10 years, but downsized when the corporate headquarters moved to Texas two years ago. The New York office normally employs 22 people, but at the time of tragedy only 11 staff were actually in the office. Miraculously while hundreds of people located on lower floors in both the north and south buildings are still unaccounted for all the ABS staff escaped.
At least 70 Port Authority of New York and New Jersey staff — including the executive director Neil Leven — are still missing. Their 65th floor offices are over 20 floors lower down the building than ABS’ office.
Georgia was now also able to get some medical attention for her injured knee. Throughout the ordeal, Claire feared for the safety of her fiancé, Danny Franco, an elevator mechanic working in the south tower, the first tower to collapse. "We both thought each other was dead," she recalls. Cell phones were not working well, and it was 11.30 before Claire could leave a message for him. It was another hour before Danny got through to her and they learned of each other's safety. "We just couldn't believe God blessed us. It was a miracle all round."
She learned Danny was having coffee on the 44th floor of the south tower when the first plane hit her building. He saw a fireball come out of the building and had made it to the lobby when the second plane hit his building just 18 minutes later.
Later that day, Claire went to her brother's house on Long Island and checked around again that all ABS staff had escaped. All the roads, bridges and tunnels were closed off in the wake of the attack so she stayed at her brother's home overnight. It was Wednesday evening before she got to go home to Union Township, New Jersey, and was reunited with her fiancé.
Since then, Claire has been crying a lot. "I feel up and down, but I am fine," she says. As to what action the US should take now, Claire admits to feeling torn. "I wouldn't want other innocent people to be harmed," she says. "I want the responsible parties to be harmed, but it has to be well thought out."
As with so many New Yorkers, talk is now of rebuilding and getting back to some sense of normality without ever forgetting those who lost their lives in the world's worst terrorist atrocity. Claire and Danny, like so many affected by the disaster, have practical matters to deal with. Both lost their cars, which were parked at the World Trade Center, and are dealing with insurance issues. "We're trying to get our life back in order," she says.
December 20, 2001, USA Today, For many on Sept. 11, survival was no accident, by Dennis Cauchon,
NEW YORK — George Sleigh, a British-born naval architect, was on the phone in his 91st floor office when he heard the roar of jet engines. Looking out his window, he had time to think just three things: The wheels are up, the underbelly is white, and "man, that guy is low." An American Airlines Boeing 767 was hurtling toward him at 500 mph, loaded with 92 people and 15,000 gallons of jet fuel. The jet exploded into the 93rd through 98th floors of the World Trade Center's north tower with a force equal to 480,000 pounds of TNT. It was 8:46 a.m. on Sept. 11.
The walls, the ceiling and bookshelves crumbled. Sleigh, 63, manager of technical consistency at the American Bureau of Shipping, crawled from the rubble. He looked up at exposed steel beams and the concrete underside of the 92nd floor. He didn't know it at the time, but that concrete floor was the bottom of a tomb for more than 1,300 people. Nobody survived on the floors above him. But on his floor and below, an amazing story unfolded: Nearly everyone lived.
The line between life and death that morning was as straight as a steel beam. Everyone on the 92nd floor died. Everyone on the 91st floor lived.
When a second jet hit the south tower 16 1/2 minutes later, the pattern was virtually the same. In each tower, 99% of the occupants below the crash survived. At the impact area and above, survival was limited to just a handful of people in the south tower who made an amazing escape.
Four hundred seventy-nine rescue workers died making the evacuation a success. The sacrifice of New York firefighters and police is well-known. But 113 others, from low-paid security guards to white-collar workers at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the buildings' owner, stood their ground with firefighters and cops.
From a distance of three months, it is clear that the early picture of what happened inside the World Trade Center on Sept. 11 was incomplete and often inaccurate. Many basic details that permeate news reports and the public consciousness are wrong, including the number of deaths, the number of people in the buildings, even the exact times and locations of the two jet crashes.
USA TODAY spent two months finding out precisely what happened in the 1 hour, 42 minutes and 5 seconds from the first jet crash to the last building collapse. The newspaper identified where 95% of the victims worked or were located at the time of the attacks. In addition, it matched floor plans, architectural drawings and photographs to the accounts of survivors and victims.
The key findings:
• The evacuation was a success.Nearly everyone who could get out did get out. The Port Authority had revised its evacuation plan for the buildings after a terrorist bomb exploded in a Trade Center garage in 1993. On Sept. 11, those changes saved hundreds, possibly thousands, of lives. The buildings, sturdily constructed, exquisitely engineered and equipped with stairwells bigger than building codes require, stood just long enough to give potential survivors a chance to get out.
• The number of dead was overestimated. The actual death toll is about 2,800, including rescue workers and the 157 people on the two jets. The New York Police Department's official estimate has fallen from 6,659 on Sept. 24 to 3,011 on Dec. 18. It continues to decline as police remove duplicate and inaccurate missing-persons reports. The initial estimates led to claims that Sept. 11 was the bloodiest day in U.S. history. According to USA TODAY's current count, the death toll from all four hijackings is 3,040, excluding the 19 hijackers. That's more than the 2,388 who died at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, but fewer than the 3,654 who died Sept. 17, 1862, in the Civil War battle at Antietam, Md.
• The buildings were half-empty when the jets struck. USA TODAY estimates 5,000 to 7,000 people were in each tower when the attack began. Earlier estimates ranged from 10,000 to 25,000 per tower. But company head counts show many desks were empty at 8:46 a.m. There were few tourists; the observation deck wasn't scheduled to open until 9:30 a.m.
• Most of the dead were in the north tower, the first one hit and the second to collapse. USA TODAY documented 1,434 who died in the north tower vs. 599 in the south tower. (Locations could not be determined for 147 of the building occupants.) An analysis shows that two-thirds of south tower occupants evacuated the upper floors during the 16 1/2 minutes between the attacks. In the north tower, an average of 78 people died per floor at the crash area and above, compared with 19 people per floor in the south tower.
• One stairway in the south tower remained open above the crash, but few used it to escape. Stairway A, one of three, was unobstructed from top to bottom. The jet crashed into the 78th through 84th floors of the south tower. A few people escaped from the 78th floor down these stairs. One person went down the stairs from the 81st floor, two from the 84th floor and one from the 91st. Others went up these stairs in search of a helicopter rescue that wasn't possible because of heavy smoke on the rooftop.
• Elevator mechanics left the buildings after the second jet hit.Eighty-three mechanics from ACE Elevator of Palisades Park, N.J., left the buildings when the second jet hit. Dozens of people were trapped inside elevators at the time, according to the Port Authority. An elevator mechanic from another company rushed to the buildings from down the street and died trying to rescue people.
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.
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 — both when it was built 30 years ago and now. Each tower had three stairwells. New York City building codes require two.
Stairways A and C, on opposite sides of the building's core, were 44 inches wide. In the center, Stairway B was 56 inches wide.
The bigger the stairway, the faster an evacuation can proceed. In 44-inch stairways, a person must turn sideways to let another pass — for example, a rescuer heading up. In a 56-inch stairway, two people can pass comfortably.
The World Trade Center stairwells allowed thousands to get out despite panic and smoke.
Lessons learned from terrorists
On Feb. 26, 1993, terrorists exploded a bomb in a parking garage under the north tower. Six people died. The evacuation took nearly four hours in dark, smoky, poorly marked stairwells. Some people were stuck in elevators for 10 hours. The Port Authority made crucial improvements after that attack. The changes saved countless lives on Sept. 11.
The Port Authority put reflective paint on stairs, railings and stairwell doors. It added bright arrows to guide people along corridors to stairway connections. It installed loudspeakers so building managers could talk to people in their offices as well as in hallways. It gave every disabled person an evacuation chair that would let two husky men carry them down stairs. One evacuation chair was used to carry a man down from the 67th floor.
In the 1993 attack, the explosion knocked out the main power source, its backup and the fire-control command post. The Port Authority added a second source of power for safety equipment, such as fire alarms, emergency lighting and intercoms. It built two duplicate fire command posts, one in each tower. The Port Authority also put batteries in stairwell lights so a power failure wouldn't blacken the escape route. Overall, the improvements cost more than $90 million. Sprinklers, added before 1993, helped suppress fires.
Most important, building management took evacuations seriously. Evacuation drills were held every six months, sometimes to the irritation or amusement of occupants. Each floor had "fire wardens," sometimes high-ranking executives of a tenant, and they were responsible for organizing an evacuation on their floors.
"They had done a great job," says Brian Clark, a fire warden and executive vice president of Euro Brokers, located on the 84th floor of the south tower. "People knew where the stairs were."
Not fully occupied
The World Trade Center was only half-full when the first jet struck at 8:46 a.m. That took pressure off the stairwells.
Previous estimates of the number of people in each building ranged from 10,000 to 25,000. USA TODAY found that the actual number appears to have been between 5,000 and 7,000 per tower.
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
September 9, 2006, The National Post [Canada] Faces of survival,
To mark the fifth anniversary of Sept. 11, The Post sought out five people from the photos of the attack. They share their stories of the day that changed their lives, and ours, forever.
To mark the fifth anniversary of Sept. 11, The Post sought out five people from the photos of the attack. They share their stories of the day that changed their lives, and ours, forever.
On September 11, 2001, George Sleigh sat at his desk on the 91st floor of the World Trade Center and watched an airplane fly directly toward him.
He noticed the airplane's underbelly gleaming in the morning light. He noticed the wheels were still up. And then, boom. American Airlines Flight 11 hit the building.
"It flew into the building going 500 miles an hour or so," recalls Mr. Sleigh, 68. "I didn't have time to do much else than cover my head and pray for the best."
The ceiling tiles fell. The bookcase in his office toppled; books tumbled on him. He did not know at the time that the plane hit the 92nd floor, just a few feet above him.
It was time to get out. Down, down, down, Mr. Sleigh walked with 10 colleagues from the American Bureau of Shipping, down 182 flights of stairs, past the firefighters walking up and into the concourse. He eventually climbed up a set of stairs onto the street.
As Mr. Sleigh walked up Fulton Street, a photographer named Phil Penman snapped his photograph. It shows him walking behind two Port Authority engineers toward Broadway with a look of determination. His face is covered in ash as he shuffles through an ankle-deep layer of dust and office paper on the street. He is clutching his canvas briefcase.
That briefcase was all Mr. Sleigh had time to grab from his office. He dove back into the rubble for it because it contained an address book with his wife's office number (he did not know it by heart; she had just moved to a new job). He would not reach her for several more hours, after he reached Beth Israel Medical Center and managed to get through on a pay phone.
His eldest son, Stephen, was living in London. He saw the photograph in The Daily Telegraph the following day.
"They looked like three soldiers emerging from the battlefield, caked with a mixture of blood, dust, soot and water from the firehoses and sprinklers," Stephen Sleigh wrote in a journal entry he sent to family and friends on Sept. 14, 2001. "Dad's right pant leg was soaked with blood, but with adrenaline flowing; he didn't know that he was bleeding."
George Sleigh also did not know at the time that another airplane had hit the second tower. And he did not know that everyone on the floors above him in the north tower had died. A religious man, Mr. Sleigh says faith is not what saved him.
"A lot of the people who had the same faith did not make it out that day," Mr. Sleigh says. "But it certainly has sustained me in the days that followed."
Five years later, Mr. Sleigh has retired. It was not a decision born out of the Sept. 11 attacks -- the time merely came. He and his wife, Elaine, have moved to Hudson, Ohio, from Livingston, N.J. He spends his days cutting the lawn, doing the daily Sudoku puzzle and volunteering at their independent evangelical church. They frequently visit their three children and 11 grandchildren in New Jersey, Massachusetts and Illinois.
He speaks of the events of Sept. 11 with whoever wants to listen. He is calm and straightforward. Mr. Sleigh does not have nightmares about Sept. 11, 2001. A few weeks ago, he watched the movie World Trade Center. He praises it as an accurate and non-politicized version of what happened.
He frequently gives talks about his experience on that day at schools and conferences. If Mr. Sleigh is offered money for his time, he donates it to charity.
His composure may come from experience: Mr. Sleigh was also working at the World Trade Center on the 106th floor when it was attacked in 1993.
He strives not to speculate on why he survived. In the weeks following the attack, Mr. Sleigh sat down and wrote his own version of events. When he has a "what if" moment and is tempted to second-guess his decisions, he re-reads his words and remembers why he and the other American Bureau of Shipping employees made the choices they did.
"You know, the one thing that really haunts me a little bit is the firemen," Mr. Sleigh says softly. Most of those firemen did not survive.
"When we were going down the stairs, it took an hour to get out. We were the 91st floor and there were 182 flights of stairs. As we were getting closer to the bottom, the firemen were starting to come in.
"Just their faces. I still see some of that."
December 14, 2005 [First Web Capture], WTC1 Witness Reports, Reproduction And Analysis Of Claimed “Flight 11” Witness Reports And Recordings, by Marcus Icke, [Also found at: 911research.dsl.pipex.com]
"I was on the phone; I heard a roar, looked out the window andsaw...er...this passenger jet coming toward the building. It was only 2 or 3 plane lengths away from me at that point and I didn't really have time to react. I just saw it then it was into the building."From "How The Twin Towers Collapsed". A Darlow Smithson Production in association with Channel 4 Television, Channel 4 International and the Learning Channel. Channel 4 Television Corporation 2001. First transmitted in the U.K in December 2001.
The story behind Sleighs report is a long one. It started with an alleged report from him posted at CNN’s web site on the 14th September 2001
Survivor saw inside hijacked jet - September 14, 2001 Posted: 10:18 AM EDT (1418 GMT)
George Sleigh escaped from the north tower of the World Trade Centre before it collapsed LONDON, England-- A British-born architect who survived Tuesday's attack on the World Trade Centre watched in horror from his 91st-floor office as a hijacked jet smashed into the building. George Sleigh, 63, originally of Gateshead, England, told the Newcastle Evening Chronicle he was close enough to the point of the initial impact to see people in the cockpit of the hijacked American Airlines Boeing 767.I reproduced this statement in my own article "Was Flight 11 A 767?" that was published in April 2004. In the paper I questioned the likelihood of the statement being genuine and in September 2004 Sleigh contacted me to set the record straight.
"When I close my eyes and picture that airliner coming towards me and the people in the cockpit it is like a dream," Sleigh said. After hearing the whining engine of the jet, "I looked up out of the window and just a few feet away from the building was this huge jet plane," he said. "The wheels were down and I could see the people in the cockpit. I thought to myself, 'Man this guy is low in the air,' but I still thought it would clear us. But then it smashed into the tower a few floors above me. "I couldn't believe it, even now it seems insane that anyone would do that, even a crazed terrorist."
"At no time have I ever indicated to anyone that I saw people in the cockpit. Some of the British tabloids attributed that quote to me and subsequently I refused to grant interviews with those tabloids. As is pointed out in the article, if I had seen people in the cockpit I would not be around to discuss it."
"Every time I have discussed my account I have made it quite clear that what I witnessed was a large passenger jet (model or airline unknown) flying above my location with the wheels up, I particularly commented on the smooth underbelly of the plane. I have never indicated to anyone that the undercarriage was down!"Also,
"I was in my office on the north side of the 91st floor. I was alerted by a loud roar to look out of my window andsaw the plane approaching about 3 or 4 plane lengths away. I can remember it as clearly as if it were yesterday. I recognised it only as alarge passenger jet, with a light coloured, and smooth under-body. I had no time to react as the plane almost instantaneously hit the building above my location. We exited from our floor as quickly as possible taking the only stairway that remained accessible to us - the other two stairwells were blocked. We were to find out later that no one above our floor escaped. I continue to praise God for sparing my life that day."And later,
"The plane definitely had engines on its wings."
"I only recall that the undercarriage was light - I have been quoted as saying it was white, but I only saw the plane for a few seconds before it hit the building."
"USA TODAY December 19, 2001 in an article by Dennis Cauchon in which I said regarding the plane that 'The wheels are up, the underbelly is white, and 'man, that guy is low' ' ".
"Dean E. Murphy, a reporter from the NY Times "SEPTEMBER 11: AN ORAL HISTORY", page 41 "I saw the nose of the plane and then the smooth underbelly and one of the wings. It was just above me, a little to the right, and slightly bent so that the wing over me was higher than the other wing. I couldn't see any windows or recognize any markings but I noticed the landing gear was up."
David M. Bresnahan "TERROR IN AMERICA", page 27 "It was above us and to my right, so I saw the underbelly of the plane. I noticed that the wheels were up. That kind of registered with me".
What this demonstrates is that CNN had either deliberately or accidentally modified George Sleighs original report to add details that were not originally there, and that Sleighs recollection of the incident changes slightly each time he asked to recall it.
VATICAN PSYCHOSIS Three Essays on Twisted History, by STEFAN GROSSMANN,
The following is a list of my complete articles published to date, now availablefor download in one ZIP file on this web site, Gallerize.com, per December19th, 2007. The articles document an intense four year discovery process during a critical time for America and the world. Spin-offs additionally available now for free below are my book-length 9-11 pdf reports, namely "T MINUS 9-11, An Insiders’ Attack on America” (with Lenny Bloom) and the multi-volume "9-11 SCIENCE REPORT” plus its Appendices, further a number of recorded mp3 talk radio shows on related subjects.There are 89 documents in my zip collection of articles. 86 of the documents are htm/html web articles. Not counting the brief "Forward” for item # 73 (Ghost Gun UA175, historic version) then I have published 81 articles, not counting this present listing. The pieces originally appeared at http://www.gallerize.com/ ,http://www.cloakanddagger.ca/ and/or (after the middle of 2005 when the Canadian server got ambushed:) http://www.cloakanddagger.de/ 55 articles were authored by my associate Marcus Icke, partly with my input. The remaining 3 critically important documents are: 2 sound files and 1marked satellite photo (## 25, 49, 26). For file size reasons, the 23 seconds long video clip from news TV showing missiles at the WTC on 9-11-1 is a separate download in my shop (7 MB file size, see shop info at the end below, downloads are free for now).
Hyperlinks cross-referencing articles were not consistently adjusted but were left as when first published. The dates before the file names are the dates shown on the respective file (or in its digital information). Publication was on or shortly after such date. The graphics folders for htm(l) files are not shown.Three articles are autobiographical and they explain where my writing comes from, see items ## 88, 45 and 04. The Armenis information was the seed that started this tree growing, directly coming from this corner see items(respectively, sections within the same) ## 01, 02, 07,13,36,46, the latter three items portraying with unique key research the secret players Maurice Greenberg of AIG, Marvin Rosen of the illegal campaign financing mafia andLeon S. Fuerth as a mastermind closely associated with Al Gore). The very troubling Leon S. Fuerth connection is investigated at length in the multimedia pdf e-book T MINUS 9-11, see below in the shop information. My German legal history PhD paper 1990-2001 was used as a background in writing item# 34. I am particularly grateful for my participation in the 9-11 SCAJA (Science and Justice Alliance, informally the „Plague puppy” forum) whose discussions enabled my many technical 9-11 analyses and reports. A technical summary is item # 29. Starting 2006, Hitoshi Kato, ingenious Japanese mathematician in Munich, provided me with information meeting my standards to start writing about non-human Aliens between whose societies we seem to be caught up. The most widely read article is item # 35 and its follow-up articles about the rape of New Orleans that brought me a 15 minute appearance on the FOX News Alan Colmes nation-wide radio show (without much substance, each of us elegantly side-stepping to avoid slashing the other, at least this effort being successful). I am grateful to Dr. Leuren Moret and to Thomas E. Bearden’s
David Icke's Official Forums: The WTC was hollow, gutted before 9/11: no debris
Remember the guy who was in the WTC and saw the plane coming at
ABS had 8400 sq ft. on the 91st and 92nd floors