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Statement of September 11th Advocates Regarding the Release of the NIST Final Draft of Collapse of WTC7

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For Immediate Release
September 26, 2008

NIST has finally released its long awaited investigative report regarding the collapse of World Trade Center 7. WTC 7 was the third building in the World Trade Center Complex to collapse at 5:20 PM on September 11, 2001. However, this building was not hit by an airplane.

As family members of 9/11 victims, we were extremely interested in the findings of this report. We had hoped that NIST’s report would serve to explain the cause of a total collapse of a conventional steel building and be able to refute the rampant conspiracy theories. We also hoped that this report, in conjunction with NIST’s final reports on WTC 1 and 2, would offer recommendations for improved building and fire codes to ensure public safety in ALL buildings going forward.

While we feel that technical experts should review, critique and replicate the findings within this report, we also feel that we must express our concerns based on public comments by NIST regarding their findings.

Over the past seven years, the Families of the 9/11 Victims have been repeatedly told by fire experts, engineers and architects that we should NOT FOCUS our efforts on advocating for building and fire code changes based on the collapse of the WTC 1 and 2 towers. We were continuously reminded that the crashing of airplanes into buildings was a unique event. Additionally, we were told that the design and construction of WTC Towers 1 and 2 was unique and that there were no other buildings of that particular height or design in the world. We were repeatedly told that the key was WTC 7 since this building was of conventional design and height, yet it too collapsed without the unique event of an airplane striking it.

As admitted by Dr. Shyam Sunder of NIST, WTC 7 was a more conventional design, like many other buildings in NYC and across the country.

Essentially, the construction of WTC 7 utilized traditional steel frame skeleton (uniformly spaced column and beam construction), without the questionable bar joists and trusses used in the construction of the WTC 1 and 2 Towers. WTC 7 was not a “tube” building like the WTC Towers. It was a rectangular shape and was less than half the height of WTC 1 and 2.

Dr. Sunder also stated that WTC 7 met all New York City codes. Yet, WTC 7 is the first steel high-rise building of traditional construction in the United States — and the world, to completely collapse as a result of fire. According to the briefing given by Dr. Shyam Sunder on August 21, 2008, the collapse of WTC 7 was due to fire that was ignited by debris from another WTC building which was then fed by office paper and furnishings — NOT the diesel fuel tank stored in the building by Giuliani and his Administration against the strong advice of the FDNY, NOT a plane, and apparently, as stated by Dr. Sunder, “there were no flaws with the construction of the building”.

We don’t how the rest of the country is feeling about this news, but we are very scared! These findings suggest that ANY EXISTING building is prone to a progressive collapse if a fire should start and the sprinkler system fails for whatever reason — regardless of how it starts! This is a distinct possibility, especially in earthquake prone areas where the water supplies can easily fail and the availability of firefighters is scarce or stretched very thin.

The ultimate purpose of advocating for the $16 million to have NIST study this event was to determine how to make buildings safer in the future. If we are now to believe that any skyscraper is subject to total collapse from fire, why isn’t NIST emphasizing the impact on EXISTING buildings? The actual quality of spray-on fireproofing is a well-known problem throughout the country. NIST’s report indicates that a complete burnout, without sprinkler system or fire department intervention, could lead to the complete collapse of ANY high-rise. NIST needs to rewrite its “new” recommendation B (5.12) and provide guidance for EXISTING buildings.

NIST should put the most important conclusion in plain English and announce it to the entire country: UNCONTROLLED FIRES IN HIGH-RISE BUILDINGS CAN LEAD TO THEIR TOTAL COLLAPSE. NIST also needs to be more aggressive with the code writing groups regarding this critical fact, communicating with them through a high-profile meeting that includes the Director of NIST and the leaders of these code groups.

NIST must address this dangerous issue immediately. The future safety of the public and the fire services hangs in the balance. Refusal to make changes based on economics, greed, willingness to retain the status quo, cowardice to accept responsibility, failure of leadership to promote reform and political expediency are a deadly combination to the public at large.

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Patty Casazza
Monica Gabrielle
Mindy Kleinberg
Lorie Van Auken