Scope of Interviews -
Key Points for Pending NIST Investigation
NIST Open Meeting - 06/24/02
I would like to thank Dr. Jack Snell for making this
meeting a reality, Mat Heyman for his sleepless nights coordinating all
the logistics, and the 911 families and concerned citizens for their
support by coming today.
I am pleased with the Proposed Plan put forth by NIST. It
is broad and comprehensive. The Plan demonstrates a true concern for
finding the truth about the collapse of the World Trade Center and the
multitude of issues related to the disaster.
However, regarding the Scope of Interviews, I would like to
recommend the following:
- It is imperative that the interviews for the NIST
investigation into the collapse of the World Trade Center, specifically
Towers 1 & 2, be based on a broad range of one-on-one, in-person, in-depth
dialogue with of a large sample of survivors, survivor families, families
of the victims, fire fighters, rescue workers, Port Authority employees,
building maintenance and anyone else that might be able to provide insight
into what was occurring inside the towers before, during and after the
time of the attacks on the morning of September 11th.
- The information from this sampling cannot be compiled by
respondents simply completing a questionnaire. The fact that over 9
months has elapsed and memory has perhaps become vague dictates the need
for in-person (face-to-face) interviews. Dialogue between the interviewer
and interviewee, done by a trained professional, could help to jog the
memory by the sequencing of questions asked for each particular situation.
The method and sequencing of questioning can only be determined by
conversations with each interviewee.
- The scope should include the use of extensive research
that has already been completed by the New York Times, specifically their
lengthy article dated May 26, 2002, and USA Today. Each of these
publications has been collecting data since September 11th. Also critical
is the upcoming FDNY McKinsey report, which will provide insight into the
operations of the FDNY on September 11th. Important data can also be
culled from the complete set of 911 tapes, land line and cell phone calls,
messages left on answering machines and BlackBerry e-mail devices.
Transcripts and actual recordings of these calls have also been made
available to magazines and syndicated television programs.
Our purpose here today is to help get the much-awaited
investigation underway. We, the Skyscraper Safety Campaign, the families
of the victims, and the public have many questions that need to find
answers. We have also, in our questioning, been able to determine some of
the immediate steps that can be implemented in order to prevent future
tragedies and sorrow.
My husband, Rich, worked for Aon Corporation on the 103rd
floor of Tower 2. At the time of the second attack, he was waiting for
one of the two working express elevators on the 78th floor sky lobby. He
was injured and unable to continue out to safety alone. He was alive and
waiting for rescue workers to reach him. This information I obtained from
a survivor who was with him at the time.
On the morning of September 11th some victims, in their
attempt to evacuate the towers, encountered obstructed or non-existing
stairwells, some ... smoke and fire. Several found themselves locked in a
conference room that was apparently designed to be "safe". The doors lock
automatically. THEY DID NOT KNOW! Some went up to the roof and found the
doors locked. Apparently a security change. THEY DID NOT KNOW! And many
jumped to their deaths.
In my opinion, based on this anecdotal evidence, I disagree
with the conclusion in the BPAT Report that there were "rigorous emergency
exiting training programs of building tenants." How could so many people
have thought that they could go up to the roof to get out or descend
stairways only to find dead-ends?
Hopefully the NIST investigation will uncover the facts and
focus our attention on finding answers to prevent future tragedies of this
magnitude. We are confident that the NIST investigation will get to the
bottom of this in a professional and scientific manner.
The anecdotal vignettes tell us how utterly horrible it
must have been inside those death trap towers. These stories do not yet
tell us WHY! These stories do, however, allow us to make assumptions
about corrective actions and procedures that can be implemented
immediately to create as safe an environment as possible for all occupants
of buildings in this city and across the country.
I would like to remind everyone that the individuals who
died on September 11th, were people, not numbers. They were husbands,
wives, mothers, fathers, sons and daughters. We grieve their loss and
hope that their legacy will lead to changes in skyscraper building
regulations and requirements that will create safe working and living
In the aftermath of September 11th, my daughter's company
recently had its first fire drill. The building has 37 floors. Thirty
more than the fire service can adequately reach with their aerial ladders.
My daughter works on the 10th floor. That's 3 floors out of reach.
The fire drill consisted of gathering in the building's
lobby area of each floor. The building's management proceeded to explain
where the fire alarms were, which stairwell to use ... A or B. They were
informed that there were 5 handicap chairs available for the entire
building ... a bit reminiscent of the Titanic. They were told not to use
the elevators in an emergency. They were told that they were responsible
for themselves and others.
This drill is post September 11th! Where are the lessons
At the World Trade Center, Morgan Stanley lost few
employees. WHY? Because their head of security INSISTED on regularly
scheduled full drills. He insisted that everyone participate in these
exercises. He insisted that all employees learn what to do in an
emergency until they could do it blind-folded.
We need to address this issue in the interviews. Survivors
need to be asked about emergency procedures. What they felt. Was it
adequate? Do we need to have more specific training of personnel put in
charge of safely ushering occupants out of buildings? What kind of
training would best serve the occupants? How often should re-training be
done? How often should drills take place? Should we continue to only
"gather in a lobby or central location"? Should full evacuation drills
It is imperative that OSHA be fully involved in this
investigation as well. It is a federal agency that is intimately
involved with building emergency and evacuation procedures. It is the
government oversight agency that regulates and monitors worker safety. It
is responsible for imposing fines and/or criminal charges when compliance
is not met. OSHA has received volumes of letters detailing complaints
about the events of September 11th. OSHA needs to enthusiastically join
the NIST investigation to determine how their regulations can be better
written and enforced to take into account extreme emergencies. The
complaints that were received by OSHA post September 11th need to be
submitted to NIST for their investigation. There can NEVER AGAIN be any
entity that is waived from compliance with any safety and security
regulations. There MUST be total evacuation drills mandated by law. OSHA
and all agencies need to think 'outside the box'. The safety and security
of people MUST come before economic considerations in constructing and
safe guarding buildings. We cannot put a price on the preservation of
The data ... obtained from people, from videotapes, and from
phone calls ... is critical to the investigation. Please ... don't let this
crucial information slip through our fingers. We implore you ... we do not
want a repeat of what happened to the WTC steel evidence.
Some will argue that we do not need to make quick "knee
jerk" changes to our building codes. A few will even argue that no code
changes are needed at all!
What we need is the boot end of a knee jerk reaction to
expeditiously kick out the despicable building code provisions that allow
10 story buildings to be treated the same as 100 story buildings!
We need to ensure that new high rise buildings are
structures of quality, safety, and security ... not the same old bare
minimum codes and structural requirements. And we need to have it on the
We hope that the NIST investigation will provide the
answers to the multitude of unresolved issues that remain in the wake of
the recent FEMA BPAT assessment.
We strongly believe that the NIST investigation will
provide an irrefutable, solid foundation for making appropriate changes to
building codes, design practices, and emergency procedures. This will be a
true legacy for those who were lost on September 11th.
We support and endorse NIST's proposed investigation plan,
and as Professor Corbett said earlier, this investigation should have
commenced in September, it is almost July. As for me, instead of making
plans for my 29th wedding anniversary on July 14th, I am here before you
today to urge you to commence a true, thorough investigation into the
death of Rich and the almost 3,000 other victims.
Let's get moving.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak before NIST
Skyscraper Safety Campaign
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