The following was a term paper presented for Government Documents, a graduate level course offered by the School of Library and Information Science at Kent State University.
The initial interest in research into government documents about and relating to the World Trade Center buildings in New York City came with the publication of the World Trade Center Building Performance Study (McAllister, 2002). The insights that this publication provided into the collapse of the World Trade Center were many. McAllister provides both textual and visual explanations as to the cause of the collapse as well as understanding as to how this sort of structural failure might be prevented in the future. It was realized that there must be many other similarly interesting government documents.
The World Trade Center (WTC) seemed to be the obvious choice - given the sheer size and cost of the structure, as well as the number of prominent government documents published relating to the WTC, it seemed that there must be many interesting documents that were not so prominent. The hope, when the research was started, was to show some sort of knowledge of the possibility that these buildings might be attacked and that people in the appropriate positions did not follow through as they should have.
No "smoking gun" was found. Nor was much material found pertaining to the Trade Center itself prior to the 1993 bombing. Rather, there is a considerable volume of documents, mostly state and regional governmental publications, beginning about 15 years prior to the completion of the towers, then the publications that are created during the course of business and the running of the World Trade Center. The 1993 bombing caused federal investigation, as well as follow up materials five years after that bombing. Then, with the airplane attacks of September 11, 2001, the volume of federal government publications increases considerably, though not from the expected departments. The last documents to be discussed will be those created at a local and regional level since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, mostly pertaining to the reconstruction of Lower Manhattan. The focus will be on the World Trade Center building itself and not on the terrorist attacks. In addition, this paper will not attempt to address all the documents published, as that would require far more space and time than is available, but to address the most important, most representative, and most available documents, to draw a general picture of the available government documents dealing with the World Trade Center. In addition, it will attempt to draw connections between the various publications, and bring to notice any holes that seem to be present.
The earliest government documents pertaining to the site and construction of the World Trade Center in Manhattan were written by the Port of New York Authority (Gilman, 1960) and (Tobin, 1960), later (as of June, 1972) known as the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the Downtown Lower Manhattan Association (1960). The Downtown Lower Manhattan Association's World Trade Center: a Proposal for the Port of New York (1960) may be the only one of these three still extant.
These two titles authored by the Port of New York Authority, as well as many of its later documents may no longer be extant. The sole cataloged copies of many of the titles published by the Port Authority were held (according to WorldCat) by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Library. This library, last mentioned in the 48th edition of the American Library Directory (1996) had 60,000 books, including many on the history of the Port Authority. The library, which was housed in One World Trade Center, was closed in 1996. John Betz, formerly of the National Transportation Library, who had been involved with trying to save the contents of the library, said that he did not know what happened to the collection. The Port Authority also did not seem to know what had happened to the collection. As a result, many of the older documents listed as having been authored by the Port Authority have not been personally inspected. They are described here to give a general overview of the sort of documents created relating to the World Trade Center.
The 1960 Annual Report of the Port of New York Authority (1961) is the first title available to the general public to go into any detail about the World Trade Center. The building complex described is much smaller than what was later constructed. It involved 11 million square feet of building space, with a single tower, 72 stories high. A somewhat changed illustration is given in the 1961 Annual Report (Port of New York Authority, 1962). The 1962 Annual Report notes the selection of Minoru Yamasaki and Associates as the architects for the project, but does not provide any visual update (Port of New York Authority, 1963). The 1963 Annual Report gives the first look at the World Trade Center as constructed (Port of New York Authority, 1964). Annual Reports of 1964 and 1965 continue to show changes and adaptations to the plans for the World Trade Center (Port of New York Authority, 1965, 1966).
The year 1966 marks a change in the documents pertaining to the WTC. Demolition of buildings on the site that was to house the WTC was begun (Port of New York Authority 1967). Prospective tenants were sought and found, helping to ensure financial support of the project (Port of New York Authority, World Trade Department, Development and Rentals Division 1966).
The contents of the Port Authority Annual Reports do not offer any major new content after the 1966 edition. They discuss the progress that has been made in the construction of the towers, and later, their state of occupancy, as tenants moved in. It details the expenses and state of business, as is the nature of annual reports. These reports remain relatively consistent over time.
In 1973, Secretary of Labor Peter J. Brennan made a speech at the dedication of the World Trade Center (Brennan, 1973). Other than this, federal documents relating to the World Trade Center are sparse at best - those mentioning the WTC generally mention it in relation to the other activities of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, those other activities being the ones in discussion.
Many of the government documents from the beginning of the habitation of the World Trade Center to the 1993 bombings have to do only with the basic operations of the Trade Center. They summarize the financial expenses involved with the operation of the center, advertise classes, encourage companies to become tenants, and so forth. One example of this is the 1981 Analysis of World Trade Center Occupancy and Rentals, an audit report (New York State Division of Audits, 1981). Another is a fact-sheet of sorts, The Observation Deck at the World Trade Center, providing details for tourists and other seekers of trivia (Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, 1992).
The many government documents that mention the World Trade Center in their titles or bibliographic information, almost always do so because they are records of testimony or hearings that were held at the WTC. Both the state and federal governments held hearings in the buildings of the trade center. These hearings covered a wide variety of subjects, though primarily those relating to international trade or pertaining to the residents of the New York City metropolitan area.
One of the more surprising trends in the government documents pertaining to the World Trade Center is that prior to 1993, there appears to have been but one government document regarding building security, published in 1972: Devising a Security Program For the World's Tallest Building Complex (Simons, 1972). The author, John Simons, head of the Port Authority Police, appears to have detailed building security from the view of traditional threats. It seems possible that there were plenty of other documents addressing security of the WTC, and that they were simply not the sorts of things that were available to the public. Still, it would seem that after the fact, these documents might have been made available through a FOIA request, had not the Port Authority's archives, which were housed in the WTC, been destroyed in the September 11th attacks.
Equally surprising is the small quantity of government document material published after the February 26, 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, both immediately following the events and in the years that followed. Due to the significance of these attacks and the relatively small number of government documents available to the public with regard to the attacks, all of the documents will be discussed.
A single House hearing was held on the bombing, titled World Trade Center Bombing: Terror Hits Home, twelve days after the attack (1993). This included witnesses to the actual events, with descriptions of the reactions of emergency personnel, as FBI and other analysis of the bombing. The hearing also included considerable material about terrorist attacks that had been prevented in the United States in recent years.
This was followed by a Senate hearing, five years later, Foreign Terrorists in America: Five Years After the World Trade Center (1998). This addressed the manner in which terrorism had been prevented in the United States in the five years since the World Trade Center bombing.
The only other publicly available federal document appears to be an Army Corps of Engineers technical publication, Observations of World Trade Center Damage, which describes the details as to structurally, what happened in the bombing (Woodson).
The other two publications government publications created specifically or largely due to the 1993 bombing were published by the State of New York. The first, The World Trade Center Bombing: a Tragic Wake-Up Call, addresses the issue of terrorism in New York City, focusing on the World Trade Center bombing, but not dealing with it exclusively (Committee on Investigations, Taxation, and Government Operations, 1993). The other publication, After Action Report: Nor'easter '92, World Trade Center Explosion, Blizzard '93, Flooding '93, addresses the way the state dealt with various disasters (New York State Disaster Preparedness Commission,1993). The bombing was, of course, addressed in the 1993 annual report of the Port Authority. This detailed the full financial costs of the bombing (Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, 1994).
Of perhaps greater security interest, at least in the analysis of government knowledge of possible terrorist actions, is the image on page 45 of the 1999 edition of the Airman's Manual (Department of the Air Force, 1999). The image shows a target (apparently the crosshairs of some sort of gun) on one of the two towers of what seems, reasonably, to be the World Trade Center. The reasons for the WTC being a terrorist target are many and obvious. However, the lack of public knowledge or action regarding this problem prior to the September 11th attacks makes this image more suspicious. This is not to say in any way that the government had reasonable knowledge that the attacks were going to occur and could therefore do something about them, it is rather to suggest that the World Trade Center was, of all possible targets, more likely to be attacked, and therefore perhaps more worthy of continued study in the area of protection.
The volume of government documents addressing and dealing with the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001 is so great that they cannot possibly all be addressed in any significant detail. For the sake of clarity, only those documents that actually deal with the building, building site, or physical components of the building will be addressed in detail. Others will be cited as necessary.
The documents used in this part of this paper address the September 11th attacks: health and environmental issues and technical issues relating to building design. Following this part of the paper will be a section discussing the documents created by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to address the future of the World Trade Center site.
The area with the greatest quantity of material is that of the air quality in New York City, as affected by the falling debris from the World Trade Center - such a large portion of Manhattan was affected by the debris - so many people were concerned. As many of the publications are dated only by year, it is impossible to put them in precise chronological order. Various agencies researched the potential negative health effects of the dust.
The EPA collected data regarding the air quality, which was published in two reports: Environmental Data Trend Report World Trade Center Disaster Final Update - Trends for Data Collected 9/11/01 to 4/24/02 from Lower Manhattan (Reynolds, 2003) and Environmental Data Trend Report World Trade Center Disaster Final Update - Trends for Data Collected 9/11/01 to 7/31/02 from Lower Manhattan (Nebelsick, 2003). The EPA commissioned Toxicological Effects of Fine Particulate Matter Derived from the Destruction of the World Trade Center (Gavett, 2002). They later published a survey of the air quality data (United State Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Inspector General). They have since published a draft of a sampling program to determine the extent that the World Trade Center affected indoor air quality (World Trade Center Expert Technical Review Panel). The Office of the Inspector General, Environmental Protection Agency published an account of how the EPA responded to the WTC collapse and what areas might be improved (2003).
The Office of Science and Technology also published a title on the environmental impacts of the WTC collapse: A Preliminary Survey of Air Quality and Related Health Studies Conducted in the Vicinity of Ground Zero (Marburger, 2002). The Senate Subcomittee on Clean Air, Wetlands, and Climate Change published perhaps the most massive work on this subject, two large volumes of hearings, Air Quality in New York City after the September 11, 2001 Attacks (Air Quality in New York City, 2003). The GAO also investigated the health effects in: September 11 Health Effects in the Aftermath of the World Trade Center Attack (Heinrich, 2004). The effects of the dust were further described in World Trade Center Fine Particulate Matter - Chemistry and Toxic Respiratory Effects: An Overview (Gavett, 2003).
The various sources for the data and analysis show different approaches to the research, sources of data, and conclusions. The specificity of the some of the reports indicates the strengths and foci of the authoring agencies, from specific issues to broad oversight. They can also be slightly confusing for the individual who just wants simple information as to the potential health hazards caused by the particulate matter.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) published health related material, addressing the safety of rescue and salvage workers on the World Trade Center site. OSHA's publications detailed the risks that workers on the sites faced, including the hazards that exist in such conditions normally, as well as things specific to the site, like the massive underground coolant tank. OSHA's most useful publication, both in terms of content and ease of use, is Inside the Green Line: OSHA Responds to Disaster (OSHA, 2003), the "green line" referring to the perimeter marking of the WTC site.
The structural failure and collapse of the World Trade Center towers, as well as the effects on the surrounding buildings, were investigated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). These were presented in hearings held by the House Committee on Science, as Learning From 9/11 - Understanding the Collapse of the World Trade Center and The Investigation of the World Trade Center Collapse: Findings, Recommendations, and Next Steps (2002). These findings, with additional information, are published, well illustrated, in World Trade Center Building Performance Study (McAllister, 2002). Additional research on the steel used in the WTC is published in New Instrument tests the Metal of WTC Steel (National Institute of Standards and Technology, 2003).
Further research will clearly be needed into the collapse of the World Trade Towers. Buildings of this size had not been built before, nor had they been attacked in this manner. The sort of forces that they were subjected to did not exist at the time that the buildings were built and it is unlikely that a building could be attacked in the same way again.
The most widely read government document on this subject, the 9/11 Commission Report (2004) also provides considerable insight into the events and the fate of the towers. It helps explain the events clearly, and in understandable language.
This last part of the paper addresses the future of the World Trade Center Site. The documents, written by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation address the site as a building and a memorial. In 2002 came the Preliminary Urban Design Study for the Future of the World Trade Center Site and Adjacent Areas (Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, 2002), as well as the LMDC's plan for The Future of Lower Manhattan: Remember, Rebuild, Renew (Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, 2002). The plans for the WTC site are more thoroughly described in a design study (Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, 2002). Environmental studies and work have already begun, with the environmental impact statement drafts for the World Trade Center PATH terminal (Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, 2003) and the World Trade Center Memorial and redevelopment. (Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, 2004).
The future of the World Trade Center site is still not completely known. Though a skyscraper will be built on the site, it is difficult to know if it will ever have the same impact as the buildings it replaced. The documents discovered while researching this building have been of a far wider scope than previously expected, far greater in number, and far more revealing about the way the government works than had been expected.
The documents, as a whole, reveal a focus, in more recent times, on the environment, even if the president or the elected officials do not necessarily reflect that. This focus on environmental conditions does seem, at times, a bit self-serving, focusing more on individual health than on the environment as a whole. It is still a change from how public health was seen when the World Trade Center was built.
It is curious to see, in the Port Authority annual reports, the change to a more conservation oriented body, if only for the sake of saving costs, during the energy crisis. It is curious to see the other changes in the organization, to see the changes in the design of the buildings over time.
The documents found were not at all what was expected. Rather than extraordinary, they reveal life and things as they are. Overall, this massive collection of documents is quite revealing about the history of its time and the people who built the World Trade Center. It is a symbol of America in the late 20th century.
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