Statement at WTC Building Code
Task Force Public Forum
Good afternoon. My name is Monica Gabrielle.
My husband, Rich, was killed at the World Trade Center on
September 11th. He worked for Aon Corporation at 2 World Trade on the
103rd floor. He was last seen waiting for an elevator on the 78th floor
Sky Lobby. He was injured when the second plane's wing tip crashed
through that floor. He was thrown, the marble walls collapsing on him,
crushing his legs and preventing him from continuing out to safety. He
was still alive waiting to be rescued.
Why, with 15 minutes between the attacks, were so many
still waiting for elevators? Why were so many still in that building?
What was learned and implemented from the experience of the 1993 bombing?
The occupants that were in the buildings in '93 had an advantage -
experience. THEY RAN.
We cannot continue with business as usual. We need to take
a careful look at how we deal with the life-safety issues of occupants in
all buildings, most especially, hi-rise buildings, where knowledge and
speed of egress could be an essential factor of life or death. The health
and safety of building occupants must become a primary concern in all
future building, not only at the World Trade Center site, but also across
this city and the country. We must become a model for others to follow.
There can be no more immunity to compliance of building codes or fire
codes, as there was when the Port Authority built the World Trade Center
with complete immunity to Federal, State and City building codes as well
as New York City Fire Codes.
Full evacuation drills must be mandated. As is evident
from oral histories acquired not only in 1993 but also after September
11th, many occupants DID NOT KNOW WHAT TO DO OR WHERE TO GO, causing mass
pandemonium. Each and every occupant must be made aware of the egress
design, most especially if there are any deviations to a straight down
exit path. They must be aware of every option of escape route available
and NOT available to them and have physically walked it. This can only be
done by mandating that all occupants be required to participate in a FULL
EVACUATION DRILL. We must take into account the employee and tenant "turn
over" to avoid anyone from "falling between the cracks". This must be
done with the cooperation of owners, building management and tenants.
Each must play a major role in communicating available escape plans and
routes to the occupants and it must be their combined responsibility to
assure the COMPLETE AND TOTAL compliance. We can no longer meet in
stairwells and point to exits signs and call that a fire or evacuation
Stairwells that are designated as emergency exits must be
constructed in a manner that will not only accommodate the maximum number
of occupants streaming out of the building to safety, it must also be
constructed using the BEST AVAILABLE MEANS OF FIRE PROTECTION. All
emergency evacuation routes must be constructed of concrete block NOT
gypsum board, as was the case in the World Trade Center. The stairwells
should have a minimum of 48 inches of clearance between handrails. The
ideal would be much wider with a center handrail. The stairwells need to
be able to accommodate large numbers of people, have enough space to
assist with handicapped persons and also be able to accommodate the
expected counter flow Ð the fire and rescue workers attempting to go up as
the occupants flee the building.
The number of stairwells that are included in future
construction needs to be proportionate with the number of anticipated
occupancy. Three stairwells to accommodate the potential frantic exit of
25,000 occupants from a 110-story building is unconscionable and criminal.
The stairwells are the ONLY means of egress available in the case of
fire, since the public is cautioned never to use elevators during such an
event. On September 11th, the World Trade Center elevators were knocked
out of commission by the impact of the planes. We must look beyond the
The issues of life-safety and future construction Ð not
only of high-rise buildings but ANY size building Ð must go hand in hand.
If we have learned nothing else from September 11th, or from the 1993
bombing of the World Trade Center, we have learned that these are serious
concerns that need to be addressed IMMEDIATELY. We should not have to go
through a lengthy legislative process to institute changes to life-safety
factors. Nor should we need to wait for the NIST report. Apparently it
wasn't ever refered to after the '93 bombing. These changes should be
morally agreed upon by the designers, engineers and the construction
industry. We cannot afford to wait any longer for these very important
issues to be addressed and corrected. What I find most appalling is that
on September 11th, the same situations encountered during the 1993 bombing
were present. None of the changes made after '93 addressed the problems
of a safe and full evacuation. When are we going to learn? When are we
going to put the safety of building occupants before the desire to make or
Now is the time to make the necessary changes. Now is the
time to address these serious problems. This is a living testament and
legacy for those lost on September 11th. Let us do all we can to ensure
that this never happens again. We need to put the value of human life
first. We need to think outside the box, we need to be creative in our
thinking and take every conceivable scenario into account to make safe
living and working environments for all citizens. We need to stand up to
those with financial interests and force them to recognize that we will
allow no more needless deaths.
We need to make it our responsibility to ensure the
life-safety of all people who live and work in buildings of any size. We
cannot continue to treat a 10 story building the same as we treat a
110-story building. The differences and consequences should be obvious.
We no longer live in a world where we can remain
complacent. We need to aggressively pursue what is right. We need to
make the necessary changes to protect citizens against future disasters.
We need to make the changes necessary to give them every conceivable
opportunity to get out of a potentially disastrous situation alive. It's
too late for my husband and almost 3,000 innocent victims. Let it not be
too late for anyone else.
Much has been said today supporting the need for change and
the working together of all sectors involved with building, code changes
and life-safety issues. I implore you to not let these issues sit in some
public record. Let us begin immediately to implement some of these
suggestions. Let us show the public that we do take this very seriously
and are committed to quality, safety and security. Please don't
Thank you for the opportunity to speak.
Skyscraper Safety Campaign
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