Weekend news reports recount the first arrival in Washington state of steel I-beams from the demolished World Trade Center, destined to become part of a


World Trade Center Beams Arrive - or Return - to the State That Helped Build, Destroy Towers

Weekend news reports recount the first arrival in Washington state of steel I-beams from the demolished World Trade Center, destined to become part of a Sept. 11 memorial in Kitsap County. It's likely the beams were actually returning to Washington state - made in Seattle by part of the consortium that created New York's trade center targeted in the 2001 terror attacks.

Seattle was instrumental in both the rise and fall of the WTC: It was here that people helped design and build it, here that people were aware of intelligence that came too late to save it, and here that people assembled the airplanes that destroyed it.

"It makes you feel real sorry," seeing the WTC wreckage, Nick Soldano told Seattle Weekly a few days after the terrorist attacks. In the 1960s and 1970s, Soldano was manager of Pacific Car & Foundry (later 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 seen in the death glow of ground zero. "That's what we built, the last thing standing," said Soldano.

As SW reported in 2006:

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.

As well, the WTC's lead engineering firm 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."

The attacks might never have happened, however, if the intelligence provided by Ahmed Ressam had gone somewhere. The would-be terrorist bomber, caught two years earlier in Port Angeles en route 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 could have snowballed, plots may have unraveled. And Sept. 11 might be just another day in non-history.

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