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Context of '(4:30 p.m.) September 11, 2001: WTC Building 7 Area Is Evacuated due to Anticipated Collapse'

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In the lobby of the north WTC tower, just after the South Tower is hit, Fire Commissioner Thomas Von Essen speaks briefly to Fire Chief Ray Downey. According to Von Essen, Downey—who is a highly respected expert on building collapses—says to him, “You know, these buildings can collapse.” Von Essen later recalls, “He just said it in passing, not that these buildings will collapse in 40 minutes and we have to get everybody out of here, or not that they’ll collapse by tomorrow, or not that they necessarily will collapse at all. Just that they can collapse.” [Fink and Mathias, 2002, pp. 229; 9/11 Commission, 5/18/2004] But other firefighters do not appear to have shared this concern. According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the Fire Department command officers who are planning for operations inside the Twin Towers expect that there will “be localized collapse conditions on the damaged fire floors,” but do “not expect that there [will] be any massive collapse conditions or complete building collapse.” At the end of its three-year investigation of the WTC collapses, NIST will report, “No one interviewed indicated that they thought that the buildings would completely collapse.” [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 72 and 75-76] In fact, Deputy Fire Commissioner Lynn Tierney will meet up with Downey and others—including Von Essen—slightly later, on the south lawn of the WTC complex, where a new command center is set up. At that time, according to Tierney, Downey will only be concerned that the 360-foot antenna atop the North Tower will fall, and “No one ever thought the towers were going to come down.” [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 9/11/2006] However, shortly before the first tower comes down, EMT Richard Zarrillo will be asked to relay a message to some senior firefighters that the mayor’s Office of Emergency Management “says the buildings are going to collapse” (see (Before 9:59 a.m.) September 11, 2001). And later in the day, Mayor Giuliani will recount that around the same time, he had been told “that the World Trade Center was going to collapse” (see (Before 9:59 a.m.) September 11, 2001). The 9/11 Commission will state, “The best estimate of one senior [fire] chief, provided to the chief of the department sometime between 9:25 and 9:45, was that there might be a danger of collapse [of the South Tower] in a few hours, and therefore units probably should not ascend above floors in the sixties.” The Commission does not state, however, whether this fire chief was referring to a total building collapse or just a localized collapse. [9/11 Commission, 5/19/2004] Ray Downey is killed when the second tower collapses at 10:28 a.m. [New York Times, 9/9/2005]

Entity Tags: Lynn Tierney, New York City Fire Department, Ray Downey, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Thomas Von Essen

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Damage to World Trade Center Building 7.
Damage to World Trade Center Building 7. [Source: New York City Police Department]Firefighters notice significant damage to World Trade Center Building 7 at some point after the Twin Towers collapsed. Butch Brandies tells other firefighters that nobody is to go into WTC 7 because of creaking and noises coming out of there. [Firehouse Magazine, 9/9/2002] According to Deputy Chief Peter Hayden, there is a bulge in the southwest corner of the building between floors 10 and 13. [Firehouse Magazine, 9/2/2002] Battalion Chief John Norman will later recall, “At the edge of the south face you could see that it was very heavily damaged.” [Firehouse Magazine, 9/2/2002] Deputy Chief Nick Visconti will recall, “A big chunk of the lower floors had been taken out on the Vesey Street side.” [Firehouse Magazine, 9/9/2002] Captain Chris Boyle will say, “On the south side of [WTC] 7 there had to be a hole 20 stories tall in the building, with fire on several floors.” [Firehouse Magazine, 9/9/2002] One witness will describe looking at the south face of the building and seeing “broken windows, damage to the building, I-beams sticking out.” Another witness will describe seeing 10 to 15 floors where “the corner I-beam was missing,” and add that “there were more floors that had damage throughout the front facade of the building and several floors were completely exposed.” [Aegis Insurance Services, Inc. v. 7 World Trade Center Company, LP, 12/4/2013 pdf file] Richard Rotanz, the deputy director of New York’s Office of Emergency Management, assesses the condition of WTC 7 at around 12:30 p.m. “We’re looking at the upper floors of Tower 7,” he will recall. “The skin of the building or the outside skirt of the building was taken out,” he will say. “You could see columns gone, floors collapsed, heavy smoke coming out, and fire.” [BBC, 7/6/2008; BBC, 10/17/2008] WTC 7 will collapse at around 5:20 p.m. (see (5:20 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 111]

Entity Tags: Butch Brandies, Nick Visconti, Peter Hayden, Richard Rotanz, World Trade Center, John Norman, Chris Boyle

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

According to numerous rescue and recovery workers, the area around World Trade Center Building 7 is evacuated at this time. [Kansas City Star, 3/28/2004] For example:
bullet Emergency medical technician Joseph Fortis says, “They pulled us all back at the time, almost about an hour before it, because they were sure—they knew it was going to come down, but they weren’t sure.” [City of New York, 11/9/2001]
bullet Firefighter Edward Kennedy says, “I remember [Chief Visconti] screaming about 7, No. 7, that they wanted everybody away from 7 because 7 was definitely going to collapse.” [City of New York, 1/17/2002]
bullet Firefighter Vincent Massa: “They were concerned about seven coming down, and they kept changing us, establishing a collapse zone and backing us up.” [City of New York, 12/4/2001]
bullet Firefighter Tiernach Cassidy: “[B]uilding seven was in eminent collapse. They blew the horns. They said everyone clear the area until we got that last civilian out.” [City of New York, 12/30/2001]
bullet Battalion Fire Chief John Norman: “I was detailed to make sure the collapse zone for 7 WTC had been set up and was being maintained.” [Fire Engineering, 10/2002]
Several New York Fire Department chief officers, who have surveyed Building 7, have apparently determined it is in danger of collapsing. [Fire Engineering, 9/2002] For example, Fire Chief Daniel Nigro explains their decision-making process, saying: “A number of fire officers and companies assessed the damage to the building. The appraisals indicated that the building’s integrity was in serious doubt. I issued the orders to pull back the firefighters and define the collapse zone.” [Fire Engineering, 9/2002] Fire Chief Frank Fellini says, “We were concerned that the fires on several floors and the missing steel would result in the building collapsing.” [City of New York, 12/3/2001] And Fire Captain Ray Goldbach says, “[W]e made a decision to take all of our units out of 7 World Trade Center because there was a potential for collapse.” [City of New York, 10/24/2001] However, some firefighters seem surprised at this decision. When Fire Commissioner Thomas Von Essen is making his way through hundreds of firefighters who are being held away from the WTC site, he hears complaints like, “It could take days for that building to come down,” and, “Why don’t they let us in there?” [Essen, 2002, pp. 45] When Deputy Fire Chief Nick Visconti is instructing firefighters to evacuate the area, one comment he receives is, “[O]h, that building is never coming down, that didn’t get hit by a plane, why isn’t somebody in there putting the fire out?” [Firehouse Magazine, 9/9/2002]

Entity Tags: Joseph Fortis, Daniel Nigro, Nick Visconti, Ray Goldbach, Tiernach Cassidy, Frank Fellini, Thomas Von Essen, Edward Kennedy (firefighter), Vincent Massa, John Norman, World Trade Center

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

New York City Fire Commissioner Thomas Von Essen says that almost 4,000 firefighters who have participated in the rescue efforts at the World Trade Center have complained of respiratory problems, but adds that long term effects of working at Ground Zero are uncertain. “We won’t know for a long period of time if there is any long term effect. Some might lead to asthma, some might lead to lung conditions,” One firefighter has been treated for allergic alveolitis, a rare lung inflammation. Von Essen’s comments follow a Newsweek interview with Dr. David Prezant, the chief pulmonary physician for the city’s fire department. Prezant explained to the magazine that thousands of firefighters require medical care for a range of illnesses, including coughs, sinus infections, lung trauma and severe asthma. Prezant, a professor at the Albert Einstein School of Medicine, has referred to these ailments collectively as the “World Trade Center cough.” [CNN, 10/29/2001; CNN, 10/29/2001; New York Post, 10/29/2001; Newsday, 10/30/2001; BBC, 10/31/2001; New York Daily News, 11/20/2001 pdf file]

Entity Tags: David J. Prezant, Thomas Von Essen

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

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