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America Under Attack: World Trade Center Construction Actually Saved Lives

Aired September 14, 2001 - 03:39   ET


RALITSA VASSILEVA, CNN ANCHOR: We now return to New York City for the latest on the recovery efforts and the search for survivors.

Garrick Utley joins us with an update.

GARRICK UTLEY, CNN ANCHOR: Well, Ralitsa -- thank you, Ralitsa. As we've been reporting, we wish we had something more or better to report.

Thursday no survivors were found or pulled from the rubble in there in lower Manhattan. The work was continuing. The severe thundershower has caused some interruptions, but it will keep going of course, 24-hours a day. The workers working in two 12-hour shifts.

And as that happens, we await this return to normal life, much advertised, much awaited, which in a way, did begin today. But what we really see now is that Manhattan, at least, the center of New York, is divided into two parts. That in the lower end where the disaster occurred and above that in Central Park -- Central Park area, east side, west side, even up to Harlem.

There's nothing physical that you can actually see that relates to the disaster. People are back in museums, they are stores, they're strolling along the sidewalks, they're in Central Park, and yet, the one telling difference is what you see and you sense in people's faces, and their eyes, and their body language. In snatches of conversation, you over hear.

That's an observation everybody is making and everybody is feeling including our Maria Hinojosa.


MARIA HINOJOSA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): What could be more normal than a mother and a son, and a baseball in Central Park? But another mom with her baby looks listless, sad. And the great Central Park lawn - empty.

There are roller bladders, but New Yorker's know that on a beautiful day, the park would actually be packed. Now, just a trickle.

In midtown, the traffic is back and running. And there are crowds in the streets, but these people were evacuated.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There was a bomb threat on 42nd street, and for precaution reasons, they've asked us to leave.

HINOJOSA: There is foot traffic, lots of it, and people soaking in the good weather. But on the same street, tears.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've been to all of the hospitals, we'll go back.

HINOJOSA: Yes, there is a sense that things are up and running in midtown Manhattan. But everyone knows it's just not the same.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm military, right. I'm waiting for the call, baby.

HINOJOSA: It's unsettling to almost everyone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The environment up here seems untouched by what happened. You know, there's a lot of tourist and people still shopping, and you see people laughing and having fun. And it's kind of upsetting to me.

HINOJOSA: Yes, people are shopping again, but the big seller, photos of the towers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: New York will not be the same without those towers. They will not be the same.

HINOJOSA: Now the school buses are up and running, but so are the teens evacuated from a high school.

New Yorkers are used to graffiti but now they stop to read or write as others casually stroll by with face masks because of the lingering smoke.

At the Plaza Hotel, a roll of flags from around the world are all now U.S. flags. The red, white, and blue -- up and down 5th Avenue. The tourists can get into the Metropolitan Museum now or see a show. They've got tickets but also misgivings.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's very difficult to go through a comedy when the nation's in grieving. But at the same time, our president and everyone else says to go about life as normally a we can.

HINOJOSA (on camera): As normally as we can? These days in New York or all around the country, it's hard to know just what normal is anymore.

Maria Hinojosa, CNN New York.


UTLEY: Maria was showing us this American flags all up and down 5th Avenue. Of course, that's been happening across the nation. There's been a run of tremendous surge in demand for flags, just as there's been a tremendous surge for human blood. And of course, one of the things we've noticed these past couple of days, is how the blood has been given in greater quantities than ever and those flags have been displayed in greater quantities than ever.

Ralitsa, back to you.

VASSILEVA: Garrick, this has been a day of false hopes, dashed.

We started the day with this good news that five firefighters had been rescued. It turned out not to be the case. Describe to us the emotions of this day.

UTLEY: Well, the emotions are mixed, as we saw in Maria Hinojosa's report right there. We're trying to get back to a normal rhythm of life which you simply can't do.

There's that one couple, for example, she interviewed on the sidewalk, they were gong to go to a comedy. Now Broadway has lots of comedies, lots of tragedies, too, a play a theater plays. And you probably ordered those tickets a long time ago. You've been looking forward to this great occasion. Tonight's the night that's there. What do you do? Not go? No, you go. How do you laugh? Can you laugh?

I don't know how I would react to the comedy if I were able to get tickets to the Producers, which is sold off for the next two years, is one of the great comedies of all time on Broadway.

So I think people sitting in the theaters -- who were sitting in the theaters Thursday night and will be there on Friday night, too, had very mixed emotions. And that's the drama and indeed that's the theater of life we're going through right now in New York. Ralitsa?

VASSILEVA: Garrick, thank you.

JONATHAN MANN, CNN ANCHOR: The disaster at the World Trade Center raises questions about the structural integrity of skyscrapers.

David George explores that technology.


DAVID GEORGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was the attack that was never supposed to be happen, and when it did, what happened next happened just like it was supposed to.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The building rocked like you were on a -- on a -- on a -- on a ship. And it swayed back and forth a couple of times.

GEORGE: The World Trade Center's north tower, shook and swayed but thanks to a design concept engineers call "redundancy", did not fall -- not right away.

PROF. BARRY GOODNO, GEORGIA TECH: If the load carrying capability is disturbed or destroyed in one area, within reason it should be able to -- the structure should be able to transfer the load from that point and carry it down to the foundation using a different path.

GEORGE: That's what happened at the World Trade Center.

After the impact, the north tower stood for more than an hour. Long enough for hundreds, perhaps thousands to escape. The collapse, when it came, was caused by fire.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The fire was very intense and burned for a long time. The fire weakened that portion of the structure which remained after the impact. It was weakened by the fire to the point where it could no longer sustain the load.

GEORGE: When the World Trade Center Towers did fall, they pancaked onto themselves, minimizing damage to adjacent structures, just like the center's designers had intended should disaster every strike.

In the 90s after Oklahoma City, many government buildings were retrofitted to better withstand bomb blasts. But when an airliner hit the heavily reinforced Pentagon, the seat of the nation's military leadership didn't stand a chance.

GOODNO: A large jet full of fuel hitting a structure is about as severe as it gets.

GEORGE: In the days after the World Trade Center strategy, Georgia Tech's Barry Goodno suggested it would be technically possible but too expensive to design a totally disaster proof building, unless, he said, the building were built underground.

David George, CNN.




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