What follows is an account of what I was doing on this day fourteen years ago. It is predominantly a re-post from a few years ago but this day will always hold more significance for me because I spent the last two 11 Septembers in Afghanistan. I didn’t go there because of today, but if it hadn’t been for this day I wouldn’t have been there.
On this day most of us remember where we were when we still had a World Trade Center in New York, New York (the town so nice, they named it twice).
For my part, I was going in to work late because I had something to deliver for work in downtown Birmingham. I was going to give my brother-in-law a ride to his condo in Dirt Pile (known to everyone besides he and I as a little burg named Mountain Brook). I stopped at my normal gas station, a Jet Station. You cannot make up the good stuff.
When I went in to pay the clerk told me that an airplane had flown into the World Trade Center. Now this did not concern me one little bit. NOT IN THE LEAST! Because I am a Civil Engineer, at the time I was still in school, in fact, I was taking my Structural Steel class. But I wasn’t worried because I know that skyscrapers are designed to withstand an airline collision. Of course, that design is predicated on the fact that the pilot realizes he’s headed for a building and is attempting to avoid it. The Empire State Building was hit by a B-25 in 1945. It is, to my knowledge, the highest fire that has ever been successfully put out. But when the pilot realized a collision was unavoidable he was still trying to avoid it.
Getting back into the truck we continued on and heard that the second tower was hit. Immediately I realized, the first plane wasn’t trying to miss and we were in for a bad day. Modern sky scrapers are not made to hold the weight of the floors above them. The floors are designed to hold up the weight of the floor, the weight is then transferred down. It is a fascinating concept that is a part of the reason I never wanted to be a structural engineer, however, no engineer can ever look at a structure without thinking load transfer ever.
As the radio told us the second tower was hit I turned to my brother-in-law and said, “Johnny, some country just used to exist.” I was as positive of that then as I am now.