First letter to O'Reilly at Fox News (no response)
(c) 2001, Mike Barkley

From: "Michael Barkley" ,
Subject: WTC stairwells - How many killed by Port Authority Greed?
Date: Mon, 12 Nov 2001 01:38:26 -0800

> Posted by Barry on November 08, 2001 at 10:09:15:
> In Reply to: WTC stairwells posted by
> Mike Barkley on November 07, 2001 at 23:10:11:
>> I've been wandering the engineering sites looking for an
>> answer to a question that's in the back of my mind whenever
>> I'm in a high-rise. As a civilian, not an
>> engineer/architectural person, if I am in a building like
>> WTC above the impact point, how do I find the right
>> stairwell to take to get down past the impact? I've seen a
>> comment that of the 8 stairwells, only one, in tower #2,
>> was usable past the impact? Smoke in the 'well? heat?
>> location? It took a lot of looking to find the 'wells were
>> only in the core, with 3 of the 4 immediately adjacent,
>> surprising me a bit. Was it the same in both towers?
>> Also, I've seen comments here and there from people who
>> escaped about water running down the lower third of the
>> stairwells (and not above there) in the (South? Both?)
>> tower(s), impeding the evacuation process. Where would that
>> water be coming from?
>> This is a fascinating web site. Thanks.
> Hi Mike,
> If you are in a high-rise & are above the impact point
> from an airplane crashing into it & exploding with a full tank
> of gas, then what's the sense of knowing what stairway to
> exit? You're a goner anyway. There is no chance of
> survival unless you're a superperson & can fly out a window.

Well, if you are a civilian like me, that's probably a good answer. But if you are in architecture/engineering/building development, it is unacceptable,

As is the following comment from Rudy Giuliani:

"There were people on the 104th floor who walked all the way down, if they were lucky enough to find the stairs." Newsweek Commemorative Issue, Fall 2001, p. 65

Wow. Escaping that certain death was a matter of luck, not public policy as reflected in building codes and safety standards? Tsk, tsk, Rudy....
"I was on the 98th floor," says Kevin Dorrian, a carpenter leaning against a van on Franklin Street around 1:30 with some fellow union members. "I saw a friend of mine get blown out the window. He was right there, three feet from me. He was putting up blinds. I couldn't do nothing. I took the stairs down, past the fires...."
["...of Tower 2",
, inconsistent stories, this other one has him at floor 75 when Tower #2 was hit. Setting aside the rumors, has anyone actually seen or heard an uncontroverted account from anyone who was above the impact points in either tower who thereafter escaped? ]

"...south tower...Rooney...told his wife that he was trapped on the 105th floor of the burning building. He had made several attempts to escape first trying to run down the stairs, but he was beaten back around the 76th floor by the heat and smoke. Then he tried to access the observation deck just above his office, but he couldn't because the door was locked. "
[ 76? I thought it hit at 80 & above? and locked?]

"...Tower One...Leder and Forney...had faced their own ordeal. Heading downstairs, the two had hit a dead end at 72. The stairs just didn't go any farther, they said. Leder and Forney found a door to another stairwell, but it was locked.

"The situation was bad. "There were fires all over" the 72nd floor, Leder said. "No walls, wires everywhere." They found another staircase, but it was packed. Progress was slow. People would walk down five steps and then stop. "We were sweating like crazy," Forney said...." [locked?]

"...85th floor of One World Trade Center...As they descended into the breathable but intensely hot stairwells, Heineman's staff was stopped cold seven stories down, at a stairwell door that was locked. Forced out through the 78th floor's "sky lobby," where express elevators go to the main lobby, a building employee "didn't know" any other way down, said Heineman.

"Frantic, he discovered a second stairwell on the building's east side, and continued downward, only to be stopped by yet another locked door. This time, he said, someone had a key...."

and on and on....

A search on Yahoo for "World Trade Center stairwells locked" produces 184 hits and 384 hits on Google. There are, of course, duplications and irrelevancies, but still....

Maybe there's enough to prosecute building management for it.

When I mentioned to my brother (who is an engineer) that all 4 stairwells in each tower (at least from the floor diagram I saw online, and assuming both towers were alike) were in the core, with 3 of them contiguous, and no stairwells were at the far corners of each floor, he was very surprised. Like me, he has learned to check out the location of fire exits when he stays in a high-rise hotel where such stairs are usually at the extreme ends of any wings. Is there a differing standard for offices? When did it become acceptable to cluster fire stairs in the core instead of placing them at the extreme ends of floors?

I hadn't really paid much attention to high-rise fire risks until the MGM Grand Fire (the original MGM Grand, not the current one, see for instance and -- this is the event that "made" CNN, where for the first time their coverage was clearly superior to that of broadcast networks). In that fire, a number of fairly small mistakes led to a large loss of life. Absence of sprinklers, taking elevators instead of stairwells (they found an elevator full of cindered guests at the bottom of the shaft), and fire stairwell integrity (construction work left holes into the stairwells from adjacent hotel areas transforming them into smokestacks). As I understand it, once the fire had built up enough heat, the flashover on the main casino floor took 45 - 90 seconds to cross the entire floor, and unless you knew in advance where the exits were and how to navigate among the slot machine and table banks to get there, you would not be able to run fast enough to escape it. After that fire I began to prefer lower floors, to look for the floor diagrams, and to carry a flashlight with me whenever I traveled or in my desk wherever I worked. What does WTC tell me I should do?

I thought that since Triangle Shirtwaist (see for instance, ) (wherein escape routes were locked "for security reasons") we'd made more progress in high-rise protections than that. In reading the engineering comments here ( , and especially the discussion of the viscoelastic dampeners under the 9/28 discussion on "Progressive collapse of Twin Towers" ) and on other web pages (such as ) since 9/11 I'm hearing that the towers were a bit like huge rubber bands, ready to snap if hit in the right place, with many thousands of people at risk.

Then there's the issue of evacuation of disabled people, which has become of great importance to me since my wife wound up in a wheelchair from multiple sclerosis.

In its 10/01/01 issue People Magazine ran a story, p. 24, about Tina Hansen (or Hanson), who has had rheumatoid arthritis since age 3, uses a power wheelchair, and worked on the 68th floor of Tower 1. After the 1993 bombing, they (WTC?) bought her an evacuation chair, a sort of sling with rigid supports. Two men who apparently did not know her carried her down all 68 floors to safety. (see also, , about one of the men who rescued her).

In Celebrity Worldwide, Inc.'s commemorative-style magazine, "Attack on America", issue 03, 2001, at an un-numbered page in a story "Friends Until The End, A Story of Undying Love," [see also numerous web references], "...Abe Zelmanowitz and Ed friends...Abe, an Orthodox Jew, refused to leave the side of Ed [42], a Christian and a quadraplegic [sic], when their office on the 27th floor of the North tower....Ed told Abe that he couldn't leave the office. He was paralized [sic] from the neck down, and was struggling to breathe from a panic attack. He also felt that he would not be able to get down the stairs, even with assistance. Abe, 55, assured Ed's nurse that she should leave, and he would stay to help Ed. A fireman was already by their side, offering to lend a hand. The nurse made it out. The fireman, and Abe and Ed (who were both computer programmers for Blue Cross/Blue Shield) did not."

And there's the elevators. "The last time Cindy Guan's family spoke to her, she was trapped in an elevator on the 12th floor of Tower 2. She had been on her way up to her office on the 86th floor, where she worked....Guan's brother had phoned her as soon as he saw TV footage of the first plane crashing into tower 1. He called her again after seeing the second plane hit her building, only to find that she was still trapped on the same floor...." Newsweek Commemorative Issue, Fall 2001, p. 96, and left there to die?

There was some discussion in this bulletin board about various wacko methods to convey those trapped past the target floors, 11/03/01 -- Time, 9/24/01, p. 69, plus many web sites mentioning his name: "Roko Camaj...Most days, he surveyed the surroundings from indoors, operating a remote-cleaning machine from the rooftop; but the windows on the 107th floor could not accommodate the machine, and he would attend to them manually, suspended from a harness....He called [his wife] at 9:14 a.m. last Tuesday from the 105th floor of the south tower. 'He told my mom he was with about 200 other people, and he was just waiting for the OK to head down,' says [his son] Vincent." In the various web page photos, it looked like he had use of a fairly conventional window-washer's scaffold, as well as the sling, but I would assume the equipment would have lost power by then. I'd also seen mention in early days that the doors to the roof were locked "for security reasons", [ LOCKED!! ] and I've seen photos of the roof showing the TV tower guy wires over the entire roof preventing helicopter landings (should any pilots brave the smoke) and any evacuation except by sling, etc. It also appeared from the videotape progressions that the only safe exterior passage past the impact floor was at the extreme northeast corner but that avenue did not remain open for long before those windows blew out. Did no one think to ensure Mr. Camaj had the tools to help himself and the others trapped to escape: auxiliary power for the equipment, a way to move the equipment to the only corner useable (assuming the equipment wasn't damaged), instructions to unlock the doors to the roof, to assist other trapped victims with helicopter slings, ground center communications that would guide his actions and suggest to him how quickly he'd have to move to save anybody? From the various web pages and other stories, it seems Mr. Camaj was a heroic figure in his own right. Were decisions made that inadvertently cheated him of the opportunity to make those heroic rescues, and save his own life as well?

I know that 5-6,000 people were murdered by the terrorists on 9/11 - but, How many of those would not have died but for the greed of the Port Authority in specifying a development of such a large size that it stretched safety beyond the limits of common sense and took grisly risks with their lives? and the lives of the rescuers?
- - -
On the water in the stairwells in the lower third of the building, , John Labriola:

"WTC1....Around the 35th floor....A few floors lower water was flowing creating rapids down the stairs. This got worse as we got lower down...."

Also, Time special issue, without page numbers, week of 9/11, Nancy Gibbs' story, comments from Andy Perry, not a direct quote:

"...down 46 flights....The lights stayed on, but the lower stairs were filled with water from burst pipes and sprinklers."

- - - -
Same story, comments from Architect Bob Shelton, not a direct quote,

"...south tower..."You could hear the building cracking. It sounded like when you have a bunch of spaghetti, and you break it in half to boil it." Shelton knew that what he was hearing was bad. "It was structural failure," Shelton says. "Once a building like that is off center, that's it.""

Same story, from comments by Michael Otten:

"...south tower...44th floor...Otten and other groped through the dust to find a stairway, but the doors were locked. Finally they found a clearer passage, found a stairway they could get into and fled down to the street.

"Even as people streamed down the stairs, the cracks were appearing in the walls as the building shuddered and cringed. Steam pipes burst,..."

Locked? Aargh! Haven't we learned *anything*?!?

--Mike Barkley, 161 N. Sheridan Ave. #1, Manteca, CA 95336
(H) 209/823-4817 , - MS is not Microsoft.
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--Mike Barkley, 161 N. Sheridan Ave. #1, Manteca, CA 95336 (H) 209/823-4817