New York's World Trade Center: Official Accounts

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Excerpts from: "8 Hurt as Trade Center Elevator Rams Ceiling" by Dan Kadison, Adam Miller, Erika Martinez and Cathy Burke, New York Post, August 12, 2000, p.4.

The express elevator to the Sky Lobby at the World Trade Center roared 24 feet past its stop and slammed into a ceiling 960 feet above ground yesterday, injuring eight of 12 people trapped inside.

The trapped passengers - who were stuck in Elevator No. 20 about 15 feet above the 78th floor at Two World Trade Center - had to be escorted to safety in a heart-stopping operation conducted from the roof of a second, adjacent elevator.

"We didn't know if we would get out alive," Queens resident Richard Gallo, an electrical engineer at the building, told his wife, Helen.

"Everyone was screaming. There was blood all over the place. We were really scared that the elevator was going to plunge to the ground...."

"I've been riding the elevator for years" [added a co-worker]. "Occasionally they slip, it's not something you can focus on."

Others [present] described the crash as sounding like a horrendous "boom."

People "thought it was a bomb," said Kim Dunlap, a receptionist on the 100th floor. It rocked the building. There's never a dull moment at the World Trade Center."

The crash occurred around 8:30 a.m....when the elevator overshot the ��� floor and hit the top of the elevator shaft two flights above....

For about two hours, the 78th floor - the Sky Lobby - was awash in rescue personnel. "It was very chaotic," said administrative assistant Jodi Salmieri, 28. "Fire personnel, EMT, police were all over the place.

The car-to-car rescue had hearts racing.... Riding atop a 7 x 12 elevator roof... the heroes then straddled a 2-foot wide plank to reach the passengers through a "rescue door" leading into the crippled elevator.

Below them: 936 feet of dark.

"It's so high and the elevator shaft is so dark, that when you look down, you don't see anything at all.

"It's like an abyss," said Port Authority Police Officer Gregg Froehner....

Officers Tibor Toth and Michael Kuligoski were the first cops to reach the damaged elevator.

"When we opened the hatch,...I saw people all over the floor," Toth said. "One woman was there with an obvious broken ankle.

"There was a little bit of moaning and groaning. Mike went in there and gave them psychological first aid, saying things like, 'Don't be afraid. We're going to take care of you.'"

Seven of the 12 walked across the plank to Toth - each gripping one of Toth's hands and one of Kuligoski's while they stepped across - and rode down on the roof to the 78th floor.

The remaining five people had broken bones and fractures, cuts and bruises and had to be strapped onto stretchers and hoisted onto the elevator rood one-by-one.

"The doctor determined the worst case should stay on the elevator so he could help her," said Froehner. "She had little pulse in her ankle and he needed time to set it."

"There's not much room to move around the roof. It's slippery from the grease from the cables. You have to watch your step. It could have been a bad job."

Dr. Dario Gonzalez, the medical director of clinical affairs for the New York Fire Department played down his own role and gave credit where credit was due:

"There wasn't any panic," he said. "These are New Yorkers. They're used to everything."

Correspondences: Joseph Milano, P.E. to John Donatich, Publisher, Basic Books

February 19, 2000

Dear Mr. Donatich:

The Eric Darton book, Divided We Stand gives an illuminating and well-written account of the financial and political forces behind the planning and building of the New York World Trade Center.

Unfortunately, however, there are some areas of misinformation in the book that need to be addressed.

The author, for example, describes Austin Tobin's testimony with respect to the World Trade Center's advanced telecommunications system as self delusion or possibly a conscious intention to deceive.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Mr. Tobin made a very sincere, determined personal effort to provide Trade Center tenants with the most advanced and efficient communications services then possible. He was not satisfied with AT&T's standard offer.

In 1964 Austin Tobin challenged the AT&T monopoly. This was one year before Carter Electronics filed a private antitrust suit against AT&T which led to the landmark 1968 Carterfone decision.

The Port Authority was the first organization (public or private) in America to invite qualified electronics corporations or consortia, including AT&T, to submit competitive proposals for an integrated communications and information system. The Trade Center was planned to offer tenants the very first interactive, converging (voice, data and video) civilian telecommunications system.

The brilliant ITT proposal, prepared by Armig Kandoian, came closest to meeting all of the project requirements.

For over two years Tobin was beset with conflicting staff studies and reports comparing ITT proposal with the more traditional ATT-IBM joint venture offering. Also complicating the issue was the political and regulatory situation. Governor Hughes [of New Jersey] and ITT were afraid that New York regulators would delay review of the ITT plan sufficiently to effect completion of the entire Trade Center project.

Time eventually ran out on the ITT proposal and the ATT-IBM partnership was to lose IBM by a U.S. Department of Justice consent decree. Despite all this, however, the Port Authority created some remarkable "firsts" for Trade Center tenants and the business community.

Among the many examples:

  • The first commercial building with a shared electronic telephone switch.
  • The first business data and video cable system in the U.S.
  • The first data/video fiber optic network in any U.S. office building.
  • The first U.S. Postal Service high speed electronic international mail (Intelpost) service.
  • The first international 24-hour news television studio (CNN) with public viewing.
  • The first public Electronic Yellow Pages (AT&T).
  • The first building management standards for private telephone networks in the U.S.
  • The first public two-way high speed facsimile service between a New York office building and a New Jersey marine terminal facility.
  • On-site tenant access to point-to-point and multipoint radio, microwave and teleport services.
  • The first U.S. building to offer tenants competing broadband fiber optic telecommunications circuits (NYNEX, Teleport Communications and Metropolitan Fiber.)

I believe that an objective reporter would have to agree that the World Trade Center was an "intelligent building complex" long before the term became commonplace.

It should also be noted that the decline in Port Authority economic development activities occurred in the post-Tobin era.

Following Austin Tobin's retirement, the Port Authority real estate fever intensified, causing the demise of the World Trade Department's Special Programs Division, the Engineering Research Groups and the Technology Assessment Group - all working on regional transportation, telecommunications and public information project.

It was during this "dark age" of industrial parks and fishport real estate projects (late 70's through late 80's) that the Port Authority senior management, on two separate occasions, ignored the unprecedented, generous offers of the National Research Council to advise and assist the Port Authority and other regional agencies plan and execute a comprehensive long-range study and development of telecommunications applications for the benefit of the New York/New Jersey metropolitan region.

The Port Authority had rejected the voluntary assistance of some of our country's finest scientific and engineering minds (men and women from G.E., IBM, Bell Laboratories, M.I.T., etc.) It was obvious that the Port Authority was suspicious of anyone whose output they could not control.

The generosity of the National Research Council contrasted sharply with the niggardly attitude of some Port Authority executives with respect to providing technical assistance to Port District communities.

In May of 1980 the New York City Planning Commission had appealed to the Port Authority and other City agencies for assistance in helping to prepare a cable television action plan for New York City. City Planning Commission Chairman Herbert Sturz had specifically asked for my engineering services. Before turning down this request, Port Authority administrative staff deliberated as to whether or not they should require reimbursement.

During this period, I was able to do my assigned work with the TV Broadcasters, earn a lot of money for the Port Authority on antenna leases, participate at the National Research Council and on a Library of Congress project (the Port Authority got my fee as required.)

I originated the Telecommunications Satellite Park concept (later called Teleport - a word coined by Admiral Bill Houser of COMSAT General) at the National Research Council where I faced strong opposition from AT&T. I was fortunate to get a very positive market reaction from the TV Broadcasters All-Industry Committee, the major cable television operators and an informal boost from FCC Commissioner Abbott Washburn. In 1979 the idea was made public by the Diebold Group.

Meanwhile at the Port Authority, the "visionaries", with the sole exception of Malcolm Levy and Chief Engineer Ray Monti, rejected the Telecommunications Satellite Park plan as a minor "gimmick." Their minds were focused on what was to be a huge real estate coup. They were to lease hundreds of acres of Staten Island property to a Japanese automobile company.

When the boastful strategy to capture the Japanese automobile organization crumbled into an embarrassing fiasco, the Teleport began to look attractive, but not too attractive. Port Authority Comptroller John McAvey, never a supporter of information oriented business projects, decided to finish my attempts at calling attention to the region's telecommunications by asking me to find private joint-venture partners.

When I brought in a partnership letter of intent from COMSAT General, it was still not enough. Executive Director Peter C. Goldmark Jr. asked that I go back to COMSAT General and obtain an attestation from them listing other American cities that had committed to planning and building Teleports. The response came back in less than a week.

It was clear that the Teleport concept was a success and that America was moving rapidly into the "Information Age", whether the Port Authority was ready or not.

Correspondences: Eric Darton to Joseph Milano, P.E.

March 27, 2000

Dear Mr. Milano:

John Donatich at Basic Books passed your letter on to me.

First of all, let me thank you for taking the time and effort to respond. Secondly, I was fascinated by the light you were able to shed, by virtue of your firsthand experience, on both the communications technology of the WTC, and on political machinations surrounding the development of Teleport.

I would, however like to clear up what I think is a misreading of the text. In the section you took issue with, I am not claiming that Tobin was insincere in wanting to build into the trade center the "smartest" information systems available at the time. My point was rather that he could not have believed that the advanced communications technology in the WTC would actually serve to integrate the functions of the port. Yet he testified to precisely this before the City Council. At issue in the hearings was not whether the trade center would be a sophisticated building, but whether it would do for the port what Tobin claimed it would. The tactics Tobin used haven't changed much since those days though. How often do we see powerful technologies being presented as substitutes for actual planning?

The WTC story is ongoing, and since the publication of Divided We Stand a number of people including yourself have come forward with invaluable information. In the interests of making public as wide a range of perspectives on the WTC as possible, I am developing a website that will, I hope, serve as an archive of material that could not be part of the book. If it agreeable to you, I would like to post the information contained in your letter on the website. You would be credited as the source, unless you wished otherwise.

Correspondences: Joseph Milano, P.E. to Eric Darton

March 30, 2000 (via email)

Dear Mr. Darton:

Your letter response to my comments on your book is very much appreciated. The thoughtful exposition of the real estate interests of the Port Authority in Divided We Stand points to the larger question concerning the financing of self-supporting quasi-public agencies - an issue that rarely comes up in public policy discussions.

The pressure of tax-free bondholders on these agencies to protect their investments will sometimes push aside the public (voiceless owners) interest. Bond-funded agencies are consequently motivated to create revenue-generating real estate and/or lease their facilities as "billboards" for corporate image promotion.

You are most welcome to post the information that I have provided in my letter on your website.

A Day at the Office: by Carl Selinger, 3/1/93

An account of enduring five hours alone in a dark, smoky elevator in the World Trade Center after the February 26, 1993, bomb blast.

Shortly after noon I went to the Port Authority Cafeteria on the 43rd Floor of One World Trade Center to bring back lunch to eat at my desk. I was going to prepare for a 2:30 meeting with the head of the World Trade Center (!), Charlie Maikish and his WTC staff about a project we are working on.

12:15 pm -- got on elevator by myself with my salad at the 43rd Floor, Cab #66. The elevator suddenly and joltingly halted almost immediately, somewhere around the 50th Floor.

My first reaction was that it was a power failure, and I expected the back-up power to kick in and the elevator to go to a floor. No announcements on the two-way radio concerns me; low static sounds from speaker. The lights are still on.

I started getting annoyed that I’m not going to have enough time to prepare for the meeting, and will chide Maikish for this! Decide to start eating my salad; no fork, so carefully picking the food without the salad dressing so hands won’t be greasy when the elevator resumes.

12:30 pm approx. -- start smelling smoke; at first it smells like engine oil and I think an elevator motor has burned out. Smoke slowly becomes perceptible, and gets thicker. Easily push open elevator doors, which were slightly ajar; faced with wall of elevator shaft. Ring emergency button alarm repeatedly. Check out situation, doesn’t seem like any way to get out; roof of cab with lights and grating seems formidable and, with thickening smoke, felt I should not exert myself. Hear others in an elevator nearby starting to frantically bang on walls and press emergency button continuously.

12:40 pm -- smoke seems like it’s worsening, look at "NO SMOKING" sign in elevator cab! Feel nose starting to sniffle, so I wipe with my index finger -- and my finger is black! "Uh oh" I say aloud, and I think, "This is not going in the right direction." What should I do? Cover my nose and mouth with handkerchief. Then I first think I may not get out of here. Maybe I’ll see my mother later (she passed away over ten years ago). I think that at least my children are grown up (three teenagers) and my wife (Barbara) can manage. I think that my Port Authority life insurance will be a multiple because this is job-related.

I think this indeed may be my fate because only the night before I was stunned by my alma mater (Cooper Union) that I will be honored as "Alumnus of the Year". I think that I’ve just developed a baseline move in basketball. I figure that maybe this is my time.

It occurs to me to write my family a letter before it’s too late, and I lose consciousness. I happen to have a piece of loose-leaf paper in my shirt pocket. I think for a few moments, and then I write on the back:

"To my family -- from Dad.

12:40 pm, smoky elevator 66, 2/26/93

A few thoughts if I am fated to leave you now --

I love you very much. Be good people. Do wonderful things in your life.

Barbara [wife] -- I’ve always loved you, and showed you as much as I could.

Debbie [14] -- My beautiful girl, with wonderful bear hugs & kisses. Do good.

Jeff [17] -- What a terrific person, stay well, make good decisions, help people.

Doug [19] -- My boy. Discover secrets to cure lots of the world’s problems.

I’m so proud of my children -- they’re each so wonderful.

Things I love & cherish -- ideas, people, Cooper Union (Alumnus of the Year!!!), my work, my family, doing the best I could. Nothing more to say.

Love, Dad (Carl Selinger, address, phone number)

(12:59 very smoky)"

I finish and then I look over the letter soberly. I think that I will not be around when someone reads it. I think what my wife and each of my children will think when they read it. Will it say the right things? I look to make sure I haven’t slighted anyone. I think of whether to say that I love the Port Authority (where I’ve worked my entire 24-year career); I think about this seriously for a moment and then decide that, no, I don’t love the Port Authority, but I do love my work. I consider whether to add that I’m not in pain nor discomfort nor panicky; I don’t add anything, figuring it would upset people and the letter would indicate a calm state of mind.

I then think about where I should place the letter so it would be found; I fold it and put it sticking out of the breast pocket of my suit jacket, like a fancy handkerchief. I reason that it should be noticeable when they find me, but not get separated from me. I wonder if I will ever read it aloud; that would be strange.

The smoke is till thick, and I hear a woman coughing in the other elevator. I figure I should be coughing soon, still only sore throat feeling but no discomfort. I wonder if I will get drowsy instead; I try to imagine how it feels to commit suicide in a closed car with the engine running. I stand by the elevator controls and ring the alarm and yell intermittently.

1:30 pm approx. -- The lights suddenly go out! Pitch black. Alarm goes dead. But now I hear low radio static on the intercom. Still not scared, know where everything is -- my food on the floor, the shaft wall, the control panel. Smoke doesn’t seem to be getting worse because I’m still not coughing; handkerchief still over my nose and mouth. Think maybe they’ve finally purged the smoke. Hear people in other cab yelling from time to time; I do too. Can’t really communicate with them; perhaps they hear me like I hear them.

Start to consider whether it’s better to be alone or with others. Pros and cons. Appreciate being alone in final analysis, must be very difficult in other elevators with strangers, standing up, or with a lot of people. At least I only need to deal with myself; figure that rescuing my elevator is a low priority compared to other bigger elevators, that’s why it’s taken so long. With smoke seemingly lessened, though I can’t see anything, I now start to figure I will be saved so it’s just a matter of time.

2 pm approx. -- Still pitch black. Wondering what’s taking so long. People in other elevator still make noise from time to time; so do I, but concerned that I don’t overexert myself because I’m sure no one can hear me. Suddenly hear very faintly but clearly on elevator radio "Hang in there, we’re coming to get you." Don’t know if it’s a message to my cab 66; from time to time I do talk to the microphone thinking they can perhaps hear me even if I can’t hear them. Time goes on. I get tired of standing, so I sit down with back to corner of cab. Low voice on radio is constantly saying something that I could never understand, sounding like "Blah, blah will be in a brief moment" over and over. Conclude it must be in a foreign language, that it’s a recording for when the elevator doesn’t stop at a floor properly. Over and over it sounds; thank goodness it’s very low and not too distracting.

Hear people going down stairs on the other side of shaft wall. I bang on wall, tap loudly on metal with a key; now one seems to hear, not surprised, but encouraged tha people sound calm and not panicky. Feeling good now that I will be rescued; just a matter of time.

3 pm approx. -- By now have stretched out full length on the floor of cab. Not too uncomfortable. Eyes open in pitch black, but never drowsy, handkerchief still covering nose and mouth. Didn’t want to use suit jacket as pillow because of letter in pocket. Will this end in a few minutes, or go on another two hours? What will be the first thing to happen when they start to rescue me? Will the lights go on? Will the elevator suddenly start? Still pitch black and the low voice drones on. Should I start keeping track of time by determining how long the recording is (approximately 5 seconds), then count the number of times. Decide it’s not worth bothering with.

Think about random thoughts. What will I say when I receive the Cooper Union alumnus award? Suddenly I think that the letter I wrote earlier to my family would be perfect, and resolve to read it if I get out of here. [I didn’t.] I think about what kind of rescue operation is underway, and why I’m still here two hours later.

3:44 pm -- The lights suddenly go on! I check my watch, wow! It’s over three hours! Hear applause from the other elevator. Lights are painful at first, but appreciated. Seems like no smoke anymore, but handkerchief is very sooty. Feel it’s only a matter of time now. Still lying of floor stretched out; should I get up? Elevator looks funny when lying on the floor. Figure it would be fun to stay this way and then tell rescuers to go away, that I wanted to continue my nap. Lights flicker a bit, but stay on. Hear voices of rescuers, walkie-talkie sounds, I make whooping yells but no acknowledgement. Then lights go out, back to pitch black.

4:15 pm approx. -- Lights out for awhile now but not concerned; still hear voices of rescuers. What is taking so long?! Decide to get up -- what the heck, stretch out, walk around, silly to stay lying down. Still alert, never the least bit drowsy. Take the measure of the cab. Walk several paces back and forth for about ten minutes (like swimming short laps at the Y pool). Start talking more out loud; maybe someone is listening at the other end.

Decide to sing songs, no one is there to moan at my awful singing voice and tell me to shut up. Good acoustics too. What should I sing? Start singing oldie rock song "Rip Van Winkle" with the bass that starts, "Buhm Bahm -- Buhm, Bahm, Buh, Buh, Buhm --, Rip Van Winkle, Rip Van Winkle, sleep, sleep, sleep, --" A cappella sounds great in the silence. Then I think it’s ironic I’m singing about Rip Van Winkle; will they find my skeleton here in this elevator in fifty years?!

Then I sing "Achy Breaky Heart", "America the Beautiful" in its entirety, the Star Spangled Banner -- but I am embarrassed that I forget the words in the middle, so in penance I again sing "America the Beautiful." Then "Love Shack", then "Marching to Pretoria." I think this is a strange assortment of songs that came to mind. [My son Doug told me later that rescuers probably heard my awful singing and delayed rescuing me.] I considered starting "99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall" but I decided that would be no fun.

4:45 pm approx. -- Stop singing for a moment and then I realize it’s suddenly gotten very quiet. The static on the radio has ended. There are no longer any voices or walkie-talkie sounds. Silence, to go the with pitch black. What’s going on? Damn! Maybe I should have yelled more when I heard the voices earlier. Did I miss my chance? Now I start thinking that this is what solitary confinement must feel like, like the Colonel in "Bridge on the River Kwai," or in a castle dungeon.

I put my ear to the wall of the shaft in earnest and listen. Absolute silence. Not even the sound of the building creaking, and it creaks in the wind all the time. Why am I hearing no noise transmitted through the building? Not a sound for minutes and minutes. Take out my keys and start tapping on the metal strip "Shave and a haircut -- two bits." First methodically, then harder and more insistently and loudly. Why is there no noise? Think that if a "Toon" like Roger Rabbit were around they would burst in to get me. Minutes go by, ear still pressed against the wall, tapping more insistently.

Ear starts to hurt after a while, so I pull away, and start thinking of what could explain why there’s no noise? Could it have been a nuclear attack; I think of scene from movie "On the Beach" where the Australian submarine is looking at a silent North American city following a nuclear war. No, that can’t be, the building is still standing. What would explain why there is no noise? Was there radioactivity released, or dioxins, so that the building was completely evacuated -- but I’m still here? What would explain that it’s five hours and I’m still here when the earliest steps are to check all the elevators? I have no answers.

The thought suddenly occurs that maybe I’m not going to get out of here after all. That would be ironic, I think, after getting through the earlier smoke, and hearing rescuers, and singing. Damn, maybe I should have yelled louder. Well, so be it. I start thinking how long I could stay here. I still have some salad left, and I’d eat the green peppers when I get thirsty. Are there rats in the elevator shaft that will eat my food? I think not, but I make sure plastic cover is tight. Haven’t had to go to the bathroom yet (thank goodness I went just before I got in the elevator) but now starting to feel like I’d have to urinate soon.

Figure that I could easily stay through the weekend, and when they come in to work on Monday, they’ll tun on the elevators and I’ll just pop out and say "Hi!" Warm enough, used to darkness, not panicky. Then I figure my wife will call tonight and say I haven’t come home, and they’d come look for me.

5:15 pm approx. -- Put ear to wall again, still not a sound. Start tapping again, though don’t feel it will be of much use. Listening for anyone on the stairs, then I will tap very hard and yell. Let out war whoops from time to time -- like an ambulance siren, or like calling for the ball in basketball. But don’t want to hurt my voice. More time goes by.

Suddenly the wall moves! I jump back startled -- what happened?! It’s pitch black, no sound. Then I realize the cab is going up slowly. Big relief! Scared to touch the wall in case we’re moving fast. Think "it’s all over." Slowly going up, see dim light on floors through door cracks as we pass. Start hearing people and start seeing flashlights. A few floors below I yell "Hello!" I hear someone say: "Hey, there’s someone in this one!"

Cab gets to floor, rescuers shine flashlights on me and ask if I’m OK. Say yes. Prying elevator door open takes another five minutes. I walk out (FREE!) into darkened 67th Floor about 5:30 pm. My name is taken, how do I feel, can I walk down (yes). Start waking down, stop at my 64th Floor to get coat, call wife. "I’m OK. Just got out of an elevator." She get hysterical with relief, so does my daughter. (I had been planning to causally say "What’s for dinner" when I finally called her, but I forgot.) Walk down to Port Authority Cafeteria on 43rd Floor -- where I left five hours ago -- amid police and fire command post and medical triage area. Get treated like a king: feet up, oxygen, get drink, but starting to feel numb in shock.

Very aware of everything going on around me but don’t feel like talking, eating, drinking, even going to the bathroom right away. Just feel like sitting. Rescue groups were starting to disband having not found anybody for over an hour until they found me.

Police want to carry me down 44 floors. I say I can walk, decline their offer about ten times. Tell them I climbed Mount Washington this summer, and played full court basketball last night, I can walk down 44 floors. Yes, but hey say I inhaled lots of smoke. Start down with entourage; they’re carrying another police officer. No problem until about midway down when I think that I’m going to see my daughter Debbie again, and I lose it. Cry hysterically for several minutes, my escorts patting me on the back, saying it’s OK. Get control again, and resume walk down.

Still had no idea of what happened, just overhearing others. Get to ground floor, looks like movie set of "Die Hard" at end of the movie, flashing lights everywhere and I’m an actor. Think that maybe TV will interview me, look forward to it, maybe someone in family will see me. No luck; slowly walk past several uninterested reporters to ambulance; figure I don’t look bad enough and I’m probably "old news" by now.

Get in ambulance, "Saddle Brook (NJ) Rescue Squad". Taken to Mother Cabrini Hospital, wave at Cooper Union as I pass by! What irony! People at Cabrini Emergency Room stare at me when Rescue Squad proudly tells all that their charge -- me -- has been alone in a World Trade Center elevator for 5 hours; I marvel dumbly at being a celebrity. They take my vital signs, and check blood for CO level; doctor says I’m OK but need to take oxygen for an hour, and then it’s OK to go home. Call Barbara and tell her what’s happening and that I’ll catch a cab to the Bus Terminal, and bus home; no, I don’t need anyone to come get me.

Trip home interesting. Look at everything more sharply. Things in clearer focus; thought I might not have seen these things again. People look strangely at me on the bus; I hadn’t washed the soot off. Walk slowly the two blocks from bus stop; take in everything. Get to my house, and again break down and cry outside my door for several minutes; hope no neighbors see me. Finally compose myself, and walk in. Instantly assaulted by daughter and wife and son, and we all hug and bawl in happiness and relief for ten minutes. What a feeling.

Spend weekend telling story over and over to scores of relatives, friends; people say it’s good to talk about it. No, I was never scared, panicky; it was an ordeal, I don’t recommend it to anyone. It’s over. Decided Cab 66 is my lucky elevator. I threw out the sooty shirt I wore, but keeping the sooty handkerchief as a memento. Afforded the privilege of reading the letter I wrote to my family later in the evening; we all cried again. A surreal moment.

Post script: I had kept a Chinese Fortune Cookie message in my wallet -- unusual because I always tape relevant Fortune Cookie messages to a metal butterfly on my desk -- that said "You will have good luck and overcome many hardships." I think I will keep in my wallet even though you can never believe Fortune Cookies.

PPS (10/27/99): One thing I always add to the account is that the next morning, a Saturday morning, I went out to get the home-delivered NY Times, looked at the banner headline, and blurted out "THEY BOMBED THE WORLD TRADE CENTER!" Nobody had told me what had happened during the aftermath; they all ASSUMED I knew what had happened. So I actually didn’t know what happened until the next day. A further irony is that several months later I spoke with a Port Authority colleague who had been in Moscow on a trade mission, and watched "live" as TV covered the breaking news in the evening. I was THERE and didn’t know what was happening!

The "Bathtub" – A Foundation Like No Other

Sept.19, 2000
Grt. Barrington, MA 01230
Dear Eric [Darton],

To give you some background on my contribution to World Trade Center:

I was General Mgr of a specialty construction contracting firm, National Prestress Inc., located in Queens, during the time of construction of the WTC up to the end of 1970.

Our specialty was the design, fabrication, and installation of a post-tensioning system called VSL, a Swiss patent, of which we license holder. This system is suitable for heavy construction, bridges, large girders, etc, anything where the conventional prefabricated and prestressed systems where not adequate. VSL also lend itself very well for rock anchors which furnished and installed at the WTC. A typical rock anchor consists of a number of 0.5in strands bundled together and inserted in a pre-drilled (4in dia.) hole. The far end is imbedded in the bedrock, usually about 10 to 15 ft and grouted in with neat cement. The number of strands in an anchor is determined by the lateral forces acting against it; in case of the WTC, the earth pressure on the foundation slurry wall. The top end of the anchor is secured with a steel anchor head that accommodate up to 34 strands. At the WTC the anchors consisted between 24 and 32 strands and were tensioned anywhere between 250 and 400 tons each, and in total length were between 160 and 250 ft. The anchors in the top row taking the greatest load had the most strands and were the longest.

After completing the perimeter foundation wall, excavation was done to the level of the first tier of anchors. The drilling contractor (Slattery) then drilled the 4in. holes in 45 degree angle to the required length. We then installed the anchors, grouted them in, and tensioned them. Once this upper tier was finished the, excavation went down to the next level, and so on, to four tiers of anchors. I guess there were about 1200 anchors at least. After completion of the basement these anchors had to be detensioned.

Now, you know more about rock anchors than you care for.

The anecdote I already mentioned to you was when Slattery drilled into a subway tunnel and nobody realized it. We then injected grout that promptly flowed into the tunnel. By the time we realized that something was wrong the subway supervisors alerted us to an abundance of grout in one of their tunnels. Well, train traffic had to be stopped until this embarrassing mess was all cleaned up.

I contracted directly with the Port Authority, and had a good relationship. In fact, later on we did the work on the inverted umbrella roofs at Newark air port for them. In those days, public contracts always had a 'buy America' clause, e.g. the bulk of the materials had to be made here. Well, our anchor heads were from Switzerland, and the strand was from Japan. We convinced PA to go along with this (it was cheaper), but they insisted that each coil of stand manufactured in Japan was tested (according to ASTM standards) in the presence of a PA inspector! There were hundreds of coils, but they had somebody there witnessing the tests. What a boondoggle job that must have been.

There were a lot of interesting technical details with these anchors, but I doubt that it would be useful for your purpose. However, I am enclosing a picture of the site when we worked there. It was made for the PA (photographer L. Johns) on 12/10/68. You can clearly see the rows of anchor heads all the way down to the fourth tier.

The WTC offered some structural features which were new at the time and deserve mentioning. It applied the concept of tubular design, e.g. the facade takes all the horizontal loads (wind etc.) Lateral loads start to control the design when a building is higher than about 25 stories. The facade at the WTC is a pattern of a 20in column followed by a 20in window slit, and so on. Other than the core there are no interior columns. Also, as an other novelty, where the floor joists connect to the facade there were viso-elastic dampers installed to dampen the motion induced by wind.

If I can think of something else I shall let you know. You probably know about the little museum that the PA had displaying the excavated artifacts (ship anchors, bottles, bricks, etc) from the former piers.

Good luck and best regards,

Hans Heuberger

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