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How Long Before We Act On "Lessons Learned"?
By Monica Gabrielle
September 24, 2002
During this past year, I have been searching for answers
about why there were so few options for those innocent people trapped in
the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. My husband, Rich, worked for
Aon Corporation at 2 World Trade on the 103rd floor. I was told that he
was last seen waiting for an elevator on the 78th floor Sky Lobby. Injured
when the second plane's wing tip crashed through that floor and the walls
fell in, he was still alive waiting to be rescued when the buildings
We must address the critical issues relating to the
emergency response to the September 11th terrorist attacks at the World
Trade Center. I am deeply concerned about the information that has come to
light in the past year regarding the fire department1s inoperable radios,
lack of coordination with the police department and other emergency
agencies, and unfamiliarity with the World Trade Center.
It is apparent to me that the input of fire experts must
play a more important role in the development, design and construction of
buildings. The fire service should no longer be left on the sidelines to
come into the game only after the buildings are up, left to figure out how
best to defend and evacuate them in an emergency. The fire service needs
to have a voice in how to equip a building so that they can put out fires
and rescue people more quickly, lowering the potential for loss of life,
both uniform and civilian.
We can never again allow a building to be built that is
immune from building and fire codes, as the World Trade Center was. The
fire department had no authority over those buildings, and could not force
the Port Authority to comply with their recommendations. If the Port
Authority does not begin following building and fire codes, they should
leave the real estate business.
Regarding coordination between the police and fire
departments, the continuous turf wars must cease. The various agencies
charged with the safety of the public need to learn to work together. The
lives and safety of our loved ones are at stake. The agencies must realize
that the first and foremost responsibility is the safety of the public,
put aside the competitive nature that has been in place for many, many
years, and start anew.
I was also deeply disturbed to find that there was no
helicopter rescue available to those trapped on the upper floors of the
towers. When was the decision made to no longer attempt rooftop rescues,
and who told the occupants of those towers about it? It has been written
that many occupants of the World Trade Center were believed that in case
of an emergency or devastating fire, that they could be rescued from the
roof. Instead, many found that the doors were locked leading to their
It is clear to me that there has to be a very concerted
effort made to take a hard look at what happened on September 11th. We
need to take a good look around this great city of ours. We need to be
aware of potential dangers. We need to find ways to work together to
ensure that if there is ever another devastating event, we will be aware
of what needs to be done and can communicate those instructions and
dangers to others.
I keep hearing about "lessons learned." But over a year
later, some of the simple issues have not yet been addressed or changed.
How many reports or meetings will it take to make use of these
Monica Gabrielle is co-chairperson of the Skyscraper Safety Campaign.
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