Discussion Thread

  • 1.  9/11 - Personal memories, and Professional Impacts

    Posted 09-15-2021 04:12 PM
    Hey all,

    I'm a little late in getting this thread started, but I was curious to see if anyone was interested in sharing their memories of 9/11. This forum seems to have a very diverse range of people in terms of geography and age, so we might get a wider range of answers than those typically shared during this time of year, which could be interesting to learn about.

    My memory of 9/11/01 is not too full of interesting details. I was in 5th grade in Southern New Jersey, just outside of Philadelphia (and about a 2 hour drive south of NYC). Even before the news seemed to reach my school, a few of my classmates were picked up early. Pretty shortly after the WTC towers were attacked, I seem to recall some of my teachers going into each other's classrooms to talk. Some of them got a little emotional, and I remember one teacher saying "they hit the towers". As a 12 year old, the sentence made me assume that she had knowledge that I didn't, and a more complete understanding of the situation, such as who "they" were, and what the reasons were. Two decades later, I have come to understand that this was likely not the case and that people sometimes cope this way when they are in shock.  I kind of remember the teachers eventually turning on the television in the classroom to watch the news, but I don't really remember understanding the context of what was happening. More and more students were picked up throughout the day, until it seemed that over half of my class had gone home early. I remember getting home from school and asking my parents if they were concerned our town would be attacked, too. They explained to me that our entire town was not even as populous as the WTC towers in NYC. My dad called his sister and their family who lived in Manhattan at the time, who were all thankfully safe.

    While I am fortunate that the events of the day did not impact my life personally, I will note that they did serve as the catalyst to my interest in geopolitics. By high school, I had read a number of books from primary sources about the United State's subsequent invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as their use of controversial private military contractors. It got to the point that I almost went to school for political science instead of engineering, but that is another story.

    In terms of how 9/11 impacted the engineering world, it looks like ASCE has a number of interesting articles discussing how the design process was (and wasn't) changed by the events of that day.

    20th anniversary of 9/11

    Some of the articles here have noted how impressive it was that the towers managed to stand for as long as they did after being damaged. Others pointed out the updated building codes that have come out in the last 20 years, some of which now relate to blast protection. I also recall reading about other changes to large buildings, such as reinforced elevator shPostafts, fire suppression systems that wont drain if damaged, and "firemen only" stairwells.

    Another article I read noted that while some people feared that 9/11 would lead to "the end of tall buildings", globally, their construction has only increased.

    Do any of you have anything you'd like to share on this topic?

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    Christopher Seigel P.E., M.ASCE
    Civil Engineer
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  • 2.  RE: 9/11 - Personal memories, and Professional Impacts

    Posted 09-16-2021 08:49 AM
    I was in high school in California and we watched the news in every class. There were two emotions. I was conflicted. As a second generation Taiwanese (Republic of China) immigrant, I couldn't quite relate to a terrorist attack on "our nation." Were the terrorists upset with us(me) or with the US corporate and government? Are someone of my values un-agreeable? I was sad. Why must so many innocent people die and suffer for a political persuasion?

    My sister was in midtown when they got evacuated. Subway was out of service and cellphone didn't work. She along with many others walked home. Hours across Manhattan and across Brooklyn Bridge, as they witness the debris and try to visually understand the situation without the aid of internet news, smartphones, or social media. She reflected her day as not with fear but with caution in her next actions. From her perspective, I learned that we live each minute often not knowing the long term impact. We do our best at the moment.


    Thank you for another reflective topic. As we associate our mundane day to day design/engineering job to the bigger picture. Every big disaster stems from a rippling effect of small details missed...

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    Charles Ou-Yang S.M.ASCE
    Yorba Linda CA
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  • 3.  RE: 9/11 - Personal memories, and Professional Impacts

    Posted 09-27-2021 08:01 AM
    I'm not sure it had a tangible impact on my professional life, but I do remember that day. I was in my third grad classroom, and I sat at the desk closest to the door. I heard a frantic voice in the hallway, and then another third grade teacher rushed in and said, "Joyce, Joyce, something terrible has happened. It's all over the news." My teacher turned on her radio and I heard the first descriptions of a plane having hit the towers. Seeing our teachers look so overwhelmed with the news made me feel similar to when the OKC bombing took place when I was a toddler.
    One of my earliest memories was my mom holding me and crying over the news of the bombing. I had no idea what was happening, but it was so strange to see her upset like that. I didn't even realize that memory was from the OKC bombing until I was older. Years later she explained to me that we only lived a few hours from there and seeing the destruction of the daycare in the building on the news hit her extra hard being a mom to a baby and a toddler.
    What did stick with me from 9/11 was the nearly immediate sense of community and unity that I saw develop around me. As bad as this may sound, as a young kid the after-effects in my daily life were pretty positive. There seemed to be fewer disagreements. People had a renewed sense of how precious life is. In an already welcoming and friendly town, those qualities increased. I remember thinking how strange it was that it seemed to take a tragedy for people to come together so well.

    I think that level of unity during a formational period in my life did have an impact on me long-term. There are young adults today that have never experienced that kind of national unity or sense of belonging that my classmates and I felt in elementary school. Even though in our school we had diverse economic levels, academic abilities, ethnicities, etc. we very much were in an environment for a few years where the most important things were what we had in common. I think that's one reason why I am so passionate about trying to find a common ground with others in my life. We can disagree about a lot of things, but when we start from what we share it seems to make all the difference.

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    Heidi C. Wallace, P.E., M.ASCE
    Tulsa, OK
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