im not one of those like “9/11 9/11 americahhhh put a boot in the terrorists ass” kind of people but i think its important to remember all the firefighters and rescue workers on the anniversary, who risked their lives and who now live with debilitating illnesses and cancer. its also important to remember that the government has tried to screw them over multiple times when it comes to their healthcare and pensions, despite the fact that they live (and die) with illnesses related to their dedication to save lives. so like, fuck the government and fuck bush but honor the firefighters 

It’s equally important to remember that most of those people died because of greed. In 1968 New York City  gutted the building codes that had been put in place in the 30s after the horrific fires of the early skyscraper era. The Twin Towers could not have been built without this gutting of the building code – which, among other things, created more space for offices, and thus more space to rent out, by – among other things 0 limiting the number of mandatory fire escapes and their placement. The Empire State Building has nine staircases – one in each corner of the bottom half of the building, four more in each corner of the tower, and one right in the centre. This central staircase is also encased in masonry, and at the lobby is properly sealed as an airlock, meaning that in the event of a fire the stair is less likely to become unbreathable or fill with smoke.

The Twin Towers had three staircases each, right in the very central of the tower. The walls of those staircases were not masonry shielded, but were the same plaster and framing you’d find elsewhere in the building. After the planes hit, five of the six staircases were completely sheared through, and the fifth so badly damaged that few people ever discovered there was a line of safe passage.

No amount of bravery would have saved the people above the impact sites in the North Tower or the South even if the towers had never fallen (but they did, partially – again – because the weakened building codes allowed the Port Authority who built the towers to use fireproofing on its superstructure that was never tested, and had been cracking and falling off for years.) Everyone in, say, Windows on the World was doomed to either burn to death or die of smoke inhalation the moment the planes hit, because those centralized staircases meant that escape became literally impossible.

Even with all the bumbling incompetence on display that day – an airforce who couldn’t scramble jets until after the worst had happened, a fire department and a police department that had spent so many years feuding they refused to collaborate, a fire department that had refused to upgrade its equipment to function in high rises, a security staff who told people not to panic and sent them back upstairs to their doom, and the Giuliani administration who ignoring advice of all their security experts) built their multi-million dollar Emergency Command Centre in WTC7 because it was trendy and thus had to spend all of 9/11 running emergency response from the streets after the North Tower fell on it – even leaving all that gross incompetence aside, most people managed to get out of the towers alive, and had the building code not been gutted in 1968, had the greed of developers not been given free reign, thousands more could have escaped to safety.

When you commemorate 9/11, remember it as a day that thousands of Americans were murdered for the sake of filling a developer’s pockets with a little more rent money.

[The best work on this subject was and remains 102 Minutes: the Untold Story of the Fight to Survive inside the Twin Towers. Despite a title that sounds like its heralding a schmaltzy Lifetime movie, the book is, in fact, a searing indictment of institutional malfeasance and ineptitude by two excellent journalists, documenting the numerous failures, big and small, that killed so many. If at all possible, seek out the 10th anniversary edition that’s been updated with the most recent data and follows-up on the stories of some fo the people covered in the original text.

Dwyer, Jim, and Kevin Flynn. 102 Minutes: the Untold Story of the Fight to Survive inside the Twin Towers. New York: Times Books, 2006.