Editor's note: On the 11th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, here is a 2006 story from Seattle Weekly reporter Rick Anderson on>"/>
Editor's note: On the 11th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, here is a 2006 story from Seattle Weekly reporter Rick Anderson on Seattle's connections to the World Trade Center and the attacks.
Outside New York City, Seattle has a singular place in the calamitous history of five years ago today. It was here that people helped design and build the World Trade Center, here that people were aware of intelligence that came too late to save the WTC, and here that people assembled the airplanes that destroyed the WTC Sept. 11, 2001.
"It makes you feel real sorry," seeing the WTC wreckage, Nick Soldano told us a few days after the terrorist attacks. In the 1960s and 1970s, Soldano was manager of Pacific Car & Foundry (now Paccar) steel operations in a block-long warehouse on South Holden Street. Paccar supplied almost one third - 55,150 tons - of prefab steel for WTC. The three-story framing ended up as the twisted steel trellises we all saw in the death glow of ground zero. "That's what we built, the last thing standing," said Soldano.
Additionally, the WTC's chief designer was Seattle-born Minoru Yamasaki, a UW graduate and noted designer of Seattle's IBM Building, the Century Plaza Hotel in L.A., and the Dhahran Air Terminal in Saudi Arabia, among others. The WTC's lead engineering firm, as well, was Skilling Ward Magnusson Berkshire of Seattle (now Magnusson Klemencic).
Yamasaki and Skilling created the 110-story towers to absorb the impact of a large airplane; they did not envision, of course, the two Everett-assembled 767s that hit the WTC three decades later. What most people saw as the swift collapse of a colossus was conversely a feat of strength to the engineers. "It's not that they collapsed," said John Hooper of Skilling, "but how long they stayed up after being hit...Ninety-nine percent of buildings would have been leveled on impact," he noted, but the WTC towers, which fell separately, were upright from an hour to almost 90 minutes, "allowing thousands and thousands to evacuate."
Then there's Seattle's maddening connection to the WTC - the intelligence provided by Ahmed Ressam that went nowhere. The would-be terrorist bomber, caught two years earlier in Port Angeles enroute to bomb the L.A. airport, provided extensive information to the FBI and prosecutors, including knowledge of Zacarias Moussaoui, the "19th hijacker" arrested before the WTC attacks and now doing life in prison. According to the 9/11 Commission's report, if the FBI had run a photo of Moussaoui - who was in custody at the time - past Ressam at his SeaTac detention cell, he would have ID'd Moussaoui (as he in fact did post-Sept. 11) and, aided also by some similar British intelligence, WTC might have turned out different. "Either the British information," concludes the 9/11 Commission, "or the Ressam identification would have broken the [intelligence] logjam." Events would have snowballed, plots may have unraveled. And this might be just another day in history.