Engineers respond to media bashing

Engineers respond to media bashing
submitted by Bob Johnson

Structural Engineers Association of Illinois, 203 N. Wabash Suite 2010, Chicago, IL. 60601
TEL: 312-372-4198 WEBSITE:

For IMMEDIATE RELEASE, Contact Donna Childs: 312-372-4198


CHICAGO, SEPTEMBER: There have been some suggestions in the news media stating that engineers were involved in helping to plan the bombing of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. (Reference 1) Statements such as "A DESIGN THAT DID NOT STAND" also appeared in the press that to some extent implies that the structural design of the World Trade Center was flawed. (REFERENCE #2)
I find comments such as these as very disturbing.

Perhaps there were a few demented individuals involved, who may have been trained as structural engineers, provide input to determine the best means to fail these structures. If this is true, it would be very difficult to accept, because structural engineers are a dedicated group and do everything possible to prevent failures. I cannot conceive of any structural engineer who would violate the very reason why the profession exists.

The World Trade Center withstood a bomb attack in the parking structure below in 1993. Most recently, both towers of the World Trade Center sustained the initial impact from aircrafts. Their ability to remain standing, for such extreme conditions, would be tributes to the structural engineers who designed them.

The intense fire from jet fuel could not reasonably been anticipated by the engineers. The extreme heat generated, far exceeded the temperatures normally associated with the combustion of materials commonly present in buildings, which are used as the basis for the current building codes. The intense heat, in all probability, significantly reduced the strength of the structural steel framing, eventually resulting in the collapse of the towers.

As I write this letter, my fellow colleagues are presently inspecting the remaining high-rise buildings near "ground zero." To do this is an overwhelming responsibility, not to mention the personal risk that these engineers are taking. I commend the structural engineers who, without compensation, are undertaking that task.

It is totally unfair and entirely untrue to imply in any way whatsoever, that the structural engineering community or the "engineers of record" are even remotely responsible for these disasters. The public must recognize the responsibility that the structural engineering profession accepts on a daily basis. This is especially true of those who are currently inspecting the structures that are still standing.

On behalf of the Structural Engineers Association of Illinois, I would like to offer our condolences to all of the family members and friends of those who lost their lives at the World Trade Center and at the Pentagon on September 11, 2001.

Very truly yours, Jay H. Paul, SE, President Structural Engineers Association of Illinois
312-372-4198 e-mail:

REFERENCE #1 EXTRA: An Engineer for Terrorism

REFERENCE #2 Chicago Tribune, September 12, 2001, Section 1, page 11
"Engineers seek answers after mighty towers fall"

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