Builder Of WTC Watched
In Confusion, Then Anger,
Then Sadness
By Chris Barge
Scripps Howard News Service

BOULDER, Colo. - The man who supervised construction of the World Trade Center's 110-foot twin towers felt confusion, then anger, then sadness as he watched his masterpiece crumble on a television screen in his Boulder home.
Hyman Brown, 59, a University of Colorado civil engineering professor and the Trade Center's construction manager, said the towers were destroyed in the only way imaginable. He speculated that flames, fueled by thousands of gallons of aviation fuel, melted steel supports, causing the collapse.
"Prior to 7 o'clock this morning, I would have told you there's no way you could bring that building down," Brown said. "What you don't plan for is 24,000 gallons of jet fuel. As far as I know, it's never been thought of."
Experts in skyscraper construction said video of the collapse led them to think the towers were perhaps weakened by the initial impact of the airplanes that hit them Tuesday, but that heat from the resulting fires were likely the most punishing blows.
But to Brown's mind, fire was the sole cause of the buildings' collapse.
"It was over-designed to withstand almost anything," including hurricanes, high winds and bombings, the Brooklyn native said.
For seven years, starting in 1967 as a promising, 27-year old civil engineer, Brown coordinated the construction of New York's first 100-story plus buildings since the 1927 construction of the Empire State building.
The New York Port Authority had hired Brown's boss, Tishman Realty and Construction Co., to supervise all aspects of the project, from the architect, to the engineer, to the structural experts. Tishman put Brown in charge.
"They were building some of the biggies," Brown said of Tishman. "And that's what I wanted to do. It was exciting."
The building Brown built contained 130,000 tons of steel. The steel alone took four years to weld in place. The skeleton featured a giant steel latticework "tube" at its core.
As he watched his wide-screen television Tuesday morning, Brown said he assumed the first plane crashed into one of the towers by accident.
"When the second one went in, I realized this couldn't be an accident," he said. "Then anger took over and I said, 'Oh my God, this is a terrorist attack.' Then there was sadness. I realized there's got to be 10,000 deaths. Then the buildings collapsed." His engineer's mind went to work on the numbers. An average 50,000 people go to work in the twin towers every morning. Based on the timings of the explosions, he estimated 40 percent had died. Then he figured hundreds more were killed when the rubble struck as many as 17 neighboring buildings.
He tried to phone some of the 500 people he knows who work in the towers. All circuits into New York were busy.
"With 500 friends in the building, for me to believe that all of them lived is absolutely naive, but I'm going to believe it until I hear otherwise," he said.
Brown said he hopes someone reconstructs the towers. "I think if we don't rebuild it, we're saying 'You beat us,'" he said.
Brown's estimated cost to replace both towers: $3 billion.


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