Thursday, September 13, 2007



MSNBC replayed some tape from the morning of 9/11/01 and I watched it for a while. I was not impressed by the idea that the collapse was brought about by conspirators who had planted explosives; nor was I impressed by the notion that it was caused by collisions with the airplanes. My conclusion was that it was brought down by the fires. I suspect that if a floor of the WTC was engulfed by fire from any cause the building would have collapsed. The authorities might have wanted to cover up that vulnerability as much as anything else.

Why would buildings have been built that were so vulnerable to contact with the air traffic, considering how heavy that is in the New York Metropolitan Area? That's where Prof. Petroski's book comes in. There are lots of "other" forces that cause engineers to push designs to the edge of failure, and sometimes beyond that edge--aesthetics, greed, convenience of construction, etc. And sometimes that leads to lots of casualties--in this case over a million Iraqis have died and more millions displaced by the war that was justified by the 9/11 disaster.

But we won't learn from such a disaster if we don't look at it closely and honestly, and we are not in the kind of historical period that makes that possible.

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