Page B1.1 . 07 November 2001                     
ArchitectureWeek - Building Department
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Early Days at the Disaster

by Patrick J. McNierney

Like hundreds of other volunteers, I spent most of the week of September 11 at the site of the former World Trade Center, helping with rescue efforts as best I could. My particular background lent insight to some of the problems we faced.

As a structural engineer, I was familiar with the behavior of steel buildings, and because my father had been a Port Authority architect during the towers' original design and construction, I had developed since childhood a familiarity with the buildings.

My father had shown me the World Trade Center foundations being constructed. I still remember the view from the field office into the excavation for the five-story basement. Now, some 35 years later, answers to questions about, for instance, underground wall locations were as accessible as a cell phone call to my father.

The Morning After

After barely sleeping the night after the attack, I woke up at 3:30 a.m. and knew that I had to go to the World Trade Center site. An expired student identification card from Columbia University and a professional engineer stamp got me through all of the checkpoints en route.

I arrived at Church and Liberty streets in lower Manhattan at dawn. I was shocked and amazed at the unspeakable carnage. The crater made when falling debris broke through the plaza floor was more devastating than could be imagined.



ArchWeek Image

Rescue workers during the first week after the World Trade Center collapse.
Photo: Patrick J. McNierney

ArchWeek Image

Destruction and chaos caused by the collapsing towers.
Photo: Patrick J. McNierney


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