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September 11, 2007

World trade center — my host father’s story

Filed under: 往事如风 — Tags: — Fei @ 12:15 am

Preamble: This article was finished almost a year ago, shortly after I first created the series of 9.11 and the article describing my experience on that day. However, I never intended to post it on the blog in the past year.

A lot of things have happened in the past year. I still remember the last time I met my host family in a hotel near SFO. In our dinner conversation, we talked about 9.11 again… My host father was a frequent visitor of the restaurant: Windows on the World, which was on the 107th floor of the north tower. His company had a club called fifteen year club, to credit each employee who served the company for more than fifteen years. The annual banquet of the club was in that restaurant. My host father himself was the chair of the banquet the year before (2000). My host mother was actually in the tower the day before 9.11: her company invited her to have lunch in the Windows on the World. She looked down from inside the window and told her friends… it was sooo intimidating looking down… human was sooo small comparing to the gigantic concrete building… I didn’t realize at that time that it was the last time I met her…

But anyway, below is my original article with minor refinement.

My host father was born in a fire-fighter’s family. His father was a chief firefighter of a small town in upstate New York. Since his childhood, he helped his father in the fire department and gained extensive knowledge on fires. Even today we can still find some fire-fighter’s old gadgets in his house.

But he did not become a firefighter. He joined a lucrative consulting company, mainly consulting fire hazard for insurance companies. The company used to headquarter in the world trade center. One day after the 9.11 attack, he told me his story about the twin towers.

Shortly after the twin towers were completed, the company was considering to move to one of the towers. Because it’s a fire hazard consulting company, the company asked my host father to give the twin towers an inspection. The result was quite disappointing. No fire hoses were found in the high-rise buildings, neither were axes. More importantly, the doors to the emergency exit stairs were not automatically shut down in case of a fire. The smoke would soon fill the stairs, making it impossible to escape. He reported the poor condition to the company as well as the port authority. Later, because of a fire accident in one of the high-rise buildings in 1975, port authority did install electronic doors to all exits. However, the company still decided not to move into the two buildings. It moved to world trade center building seven. That building, was the third building collapsed in 9.11, mainly due to fire.

Time soon became the year 2000. In the past twenty plus years, the land of lower Manhattan appreciated significantly. As a result, the rent of world trade center also skyrocketed. The company finally decided to move out of Manhattan, to the other side of the Hudson river — Jersey city. The main incentive was, of course, the rent. The relocation could save several thousand dollars per squad foot, per year in rent. The move did not finish untill the first half of 2001. His new office was just facing the Hudson river, lower Manhattan, and the twin towers. At that time, neither him, nor the company realized the importance of the relocation. It not only saved the company millions of dollars in rent, but also saved the company itself as well as the lives of all employees.

On the day of Sept. 11, 2001. He stood in front of the window facing the flamed twin towers, as a first hand witness. His co-worker, a veteran in Vietnam War, said: I want to go to war again.

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