Commentary and Introduction- 9/11-

Sep 1, 2020 by

This Computer Simulation Explains How the Twin Towers Fell - YouTube

Each year in September, we pause to reflect on 9/11.

For those who lived through it, it needs no introduction. For those who lost friends, relatives, loved ones, children, aunts, uncles, colleagues and friends, it brings back many, many memories and feelings.

For those policemen and women, firemen and women, and EMT’S and paramedics and all who lost their lives, we pause to grieve and mourn and attempt to heal.

For those who health was impacted by the event, we pause to pray. For those who died as a result of the event in the years following 9/11, we grieve and pray for you.

For those around the world who were impacted, one way or the other, we understand, to a certain point your grief and anguish and pain.

For those who still bear the scars- the emotional scars, the physical wounds, we salute you.

Over the next few days, we will be reviewing some of the parts of 9/11. There were many- the attack on the Pentagon, the planes flying into the twin towers, the impact on the City of New York and it’s surrounding environs. We cannot possible hope to cover all the various events, and tragedies and also the heroic efforts to save those trapped in the Twin Towers.

But we will try to hold those impacted near to our hearts and lift up our hands in prayer for all who died, all who suffered, all who continue to suffer, and for all those we have lost. We could try to list each and every first responder, police individual, fireman/firewoman. We could try to thank each and every doctor, nurse, health care professional, and caring individual who did what they could on that fateful day. We can raise the cry so often heard- Never Forget.

We should never forget those who died, and those who gave even the smallest effort to assist to help, to aid, those harmed and injured on that fateful day.

Never forget.

An Interview with Professor Donald Elder: It was 19 years ago—Never Forget

Michael F. Shaughnessy

  1. Professor Elder, we are approaching the date of 9/11, which every year, reminds us of that awful day when two planes crashed into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. But like many things, there is a certain history behind this event. First of all, when were those two towers constructed, and what did they house?

The concept of a World Trade Center in New York actually dates back to 1943, when the New York State Legislature sent a bill to Governor Thomas E. Dewey, giving him the authority to pursue that goal. For a myriad of reasons, the idea languished for the next 18 years. Finally, in 1961 consensus began to develop in favor of a world trade center, with two locations in Lower Manhattan emerging as possible locations.

Eventually, a piece of land on the Lower West Side of Manhattan where the Hudson and Manhattan Railroad had its terminal won out over a site on the Lower East Side, and the purchase of real estate then began. This process took place under the control of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and concluded in 1966.

At that point in time, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey settled a dispute with the New York City Council over property taxes. With procedural issues taken care of, the next step involved selecting a design for the world trade center. An architect named Minoru Yamasaki received a contract from the Port Authority to design the facility, and the plan that he submitted envisioned constructing two 80-story towers. He soon had to modify his proposal, as the Port Authority wanted more floor space than buildings of that size could offer.

Recalibrating, Yamasaki then suggested two 110-story towers (soon to become known as the Twin Towers). The Port Authority found this revised plan acceptable, and with that final piece in place construction of the World Trade Center could commence.

  1. When exactly were the Twin Towers opened?

With buildings the size of the Twin Towers, the Port Authority had to move immense amounts of soil in a lateral sense, but it turned out that the excavation had to be extensive vertically as well. This stemmed from the fact that bedrock lay 65 feet below the surface. Eventually, the Port Authority had to move over 1,000,000 cubic yards of soil before work could start on the Twin Towers.

Finally, in August of 1968 construction of the North Tower began, and work on the South Tower started five months later. Utilizing new construction techniques, including the ingenious use of “sky lobbies” to facilitate elevator traffic in the immense buildings, work on the Twin Towers proceeded rapidly.

Indeed, construction of the North Tower ended on December 23, 1970, and work on the South Tower concluded on July 19, 1971. Interestingly, the first occupants moved into the North Tower on December 15, 1970, before construction on the building had ceased. The formal opening for the Twin Towers took place on April 4, 1973. The Port Authority added smaller buildings to the World Trade Center complex, eventually giving it even more office space. In fact, it offered so much space that it did not fill to full capacity until the Port Authority offered generous subsidies to renters.

  1. As I recall, there was one previous attempt to damage the World Trade Center during the time of Bill Clinton’s presidency. What do we know about that event?

Although the subject has a very complicated history, one can make a reasonable assertion that the first attack on the World Trade Center had its origins in a growing rift between parts of the Muslim World and the United States.

The antagonistic relationship began with the decision by the United States in 1948 to recognize the independence of the nation of Israel, an action that antagonized many Muslims, especially in the Middle East. These hostile feelings only intensified through the series of wars fought between Israel and its neighbors, conflicts where many Muslims felt the United States had provided moral and logistical support for the new nation.

US support for the Shah of Iran also proved infuriating for many Muslims as well. But the American action that most directly led to the first attack on the World Trade Center came ironically from an action that seemed to benefit Muslims. In 1979, the Soviet Union sent troops into the largely Muslim nation of Afghanistan to prop up a regime favorable to it, and this created an unfavorable reaction among many in the Muslim World. These disaffected Muslims started a campaign to oust the Soviets from Afghanistan, and individuals from around the world journeyed to that nation to fight the “infidels.” Known as the mujahedeen, these combatants included a wealthy young Saudi by the name of Osama Bin Laden. After the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan, Bin Laden decided to form a group that would use terror to drive other infidels from Muslim lands.

Accordingly, he joined with a cleric named Abdullah Azzam to found Al Queda. Many historians believe that Al Queda would have targeted the United States eventually anyway, but another conflict seems to have provided the motivation to quickly strike the superpower.

This stemmed from Iraq’s conquest of Kuwait in 1990. Bin Laden believed that Saddam Hussein, the leader of Iraq, might then attack Saudi Arabia, and so he offered the support of his group to defend his homeland’s territory. But Saudi Arabia ignored his offer, instead accepting a promise of protection from the United States. This further radicalized Al Qaeda, and the group began planning a terrorist attack against the United States. Choosing a very visible symbol of American influence around the globe, Al Qaeda decided to bomb the World Trade Center.

On February 26, 1993, two members of Al Qaeda drove a rented truck packed with explosives into the underground parking lot of the World Trade Center, and set off a fuse with a 12-minute delay. At 12:17 pm the truck exploded, causing massive structural damage to the parking garage.

Fortunately, the blast killed only 6 people, but it did injure over 1,000 individuals. Experts later determined that if the terrorists had parked the truck closer to the main concrete supports for the North Tower, they might have achieved their goal of destroying it, and having the resulting debris then collapse the South Tower.

  1. What was the American response at that time, and was there any major concern?

American authorities immediately recognized that terrorists had carried out the bombing, and called in a number of law enforcement agencies to determine who specifically had perpetrated the attack. Investigators found that even though the explosion had proven powerful enough to rip huge holes in the parking structure, it turned out that it had not completely demolished the rental truck. Indeed, federal agents found part of one of its axles, and this allowed them to determine where the terrorists had rented the vehicle.

An examination of the company’s records yielded the name of the renter, Mohammed A. Salameh. Agents prepared to conduct a search for him, but incredibly Salameh came back to the rental company. There, he told the company that someone had stolen the van, and for that reason he felt that he should get his rental deposit back.

Authorities immediately took him into custody, and soon began to arrest other individuals connected to him that had played a role in the bombing. Eventually, six of the seven people that planned or carried out the bombing faced prosecution; most remain in prison, while one has since died. Abdul Rahman Yasin, the one terrorist never brought to trial, sought refuge in Iraq, but Saddam Hussein’s internal security force imprisoned him for reasons which remain unclear. When US forces conquered Iraq in 2003, they found no trace of Yasin. His fate remains unknown to this day.

  1. Was there any kind of response from either Congress or the US military?

In the investigation conducted after the bombing, it became apparent that Al Qaeda had played a role in carrying out the terrorist attack. As one FBI agent later said, the bombing of the World Trade Center “put Al Qaeda on the map” for law enforcement. But because the case seemed to involve individuals associated with a fairly amorphous non-national group, the bombing did not bring about action on the federal level beyond the roles played in the investigation by the FBI and the ATF.

  1. In summary, did anyone see this as a precursor of things to come?

Chillingly, one of the individuals convicted for his role in the bombing of the World Trade Center warned that “this is just the beginning.” Recognizing that the terrorist meant what he said, New York City quickly moved to improve security at buildings ranging from the World Trade Center to City Hall. By the end of the decade, these efforts had resulted in making most of the important buildings in the city invulnerable to an attack similar to the one perpetrated in February of 1993. Unfortunately, when terrorists struck New York City again in 2001, they used a completely different technique.

  1. Is there anything I have neglected to ask about the event that served as a precursor to 9/11?

It should be noted that in retrospect, authorities may have had opportunities to thwart the terrorists before they carried out the bombing.

First, it turned out that federal authorities had received a tip that a bombing would take place prior to the attack. Emad Salem, an officer in the Egyptian army, gave FBI that information a few weeks before the event, although Salem apparently did not know the specific location that the terrorists would strike.

Because the tip lacked specificity, the FBI took no action. And second, it seems remarkable that Salameh proved able to rent a truck. He had failed his driver’s test numerous times, and had been involved in at least two vehicular accidents. None of this prevented the rental company from allowing him to procure the truck that would carry the explosives into the underground garage at the World Trade Center. Sadly, the same pattern of missed opportunities to avert a terrorist attack would repeat itself 8 years later.

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