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HR: Assessing the Damage [WTC]
By Harun Rashid

15/9/2001 12:28 am Sat

Sep 14, 2001

Assessing the Damage

by Harun Rashid

The loss of life is serious, not just to the fabric of New York City, but to the intricate interweaving of talent and experience that makes a society function. The loss of such resources is significant, and is magnified by the fact that it comes from the mature and productive age group. The real loss to the families, the widows and orphans, is beyond any reasonable calculation. The emotional loss represents a wound to the American nation that will not heal for generations to come.

The loss of emergency crews, police personnel and fire and rescue equipment to the City of New York is serious, and the ability to respond to new demands is impaired. It will be years before new emergency response teams can be as well-trained and organised. New physical equipment can be replaced in a matter of weeks or months, but replacing the human resource may take decades. It is a sad note, but the people can be replaced in time. New firms eventually arrive to take the place of those which are destroyed.

In Washington, the loss of life is again enormous, taking talented and experienced civil servants in the prime if life. Aside from the societal losses must be added the human resources now removed from the national defense system of the US, and from the resources of those societies dedicated to a free and democratic pattern of government.

Four commercial airliners, with crew and passengers, are destroyed. In New York City, Two of the world's tallest and most important buildings are totally demolished, and a third large building in the same complex. A large and successful shopping complex associated with the Twin Towers is also obliterated. In Washington significant damage has been done to the Pentagon, the bastion of the US Defense Department.

The magnificent buildings can be rebuilt, once the rubble has been cleared away. The lesson of WWII in European cities demonstrates that often the replacement is an improvement on the old. Yet the old can be restored, as the recreation of venerated structures attests.

Most of the losses which are irrecoverable are still unknown, and can only be the subject of speculation. One foremost is the loss of information. Amid the ruins and wreckage are thousands of computers, most with their harddrives destroyed, their precious information lost forever. It is a vast library of current information suddenly gone forever. Many were linked to networks in other locations, and the primary database thus survives. Others were linked only to computers also inside the destroyed buildings, and thus all history is erased.

The lost financial records present an enormous problem. Individuals and companies whose assets and accounts were recorded only in electronic form are now forced to find secondary records of trades and other important files. The number of contracts, both completed and still open, presents a task that will take years to unravel. Much will require arbitration, absorbing the time and talents of whole armies of legal soldiers. Many ships are at sea, full of commodities and containers; the records which underwrite many these movements are now in question.

There appears to be a new challenge, a very real one, to the information age. Will it be possible to totally replace paper records? Can the new electronic age survive this test of its vulnerabilities? That is perhaps the question which gnaws at the subconscious. Is it possible to place absolute trust in the technology of the new age? If the mainframe with its memory and database are destroyed, does live go on for those whose fortunes it contains?

Though paper records would also not survive such an event, at least each party had a permanent copy of every transaction. Public consciousness of new vulnerabilities has been aroused by the terrorist attacks, and it is possible that lack of confidence is among the objectives of the attackers.

The World Trade Center was an earlier target. Now it appears the building had a well known weakness, and the major effort was to attack this weakness. Now that it is exposed, one wonders how many other buildings have this same free span concrete floor design, that allows the building to collapse in falling pancake fashion? Are any more of these buildings to be built? One wonders if the concept of the large steel building itself, a product of the 20th century, can survive into the 21st. What effect will the collapse have on occupancy rates for other large structures?

What is less appreciated is that the airliner, with its load of fuel, is a flying bomb. The bomb lacks only guidance. All of the controls are in the c##kpit. A great effect is made to restore passenger confidence after previous incidents, and all passengers and luggage are checked for weapons and bombs. Yet one glaring weakness remains; the door to the c##kpit is not secure.

What can be said to excuse the utter disregard for passenger safety by not protecting the c##kpit of commercial airliners? Incidents of hijacking are certainly known. Yet no airline protected its pilots from a determined man or group intent on taking command of the airplane.

This lack of caution has made the present disaster possible. It need not recur. All commercial airlines should be required to take immediate steps to secure access to c##kpit, protecting the pilot and control of an airplane from passenger interference.

Link Reference : Harun Rashid Worldview: Assessing the Damage

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