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102 minutes vs. 140 minutes

Posted April. 24, 2014 04:28,   


At 8:46:31 a.m., an American Airlines passenger jet struck the North Tower (No. 1) of the World Trade Center in New York at the speed of 720 kilometers per hour. The fuselage of the airplane, which penetrated the skyscraper between the 94th and 99th floors, was completely shattered, and flames ignited by jet fuel soared into the sky. This is the beginning of the nightmarish 9/11 terrorist attacks that took place at the heart of New York in the U.S. on September 11, 2001. Some 102 minutes later at 10:28 a.m., the North Tower collapsed.

What were people at the South Tower (No. 2), 40 meters off the North Tower, doing at the moment when the first plane hit the North Tower? Alarmed by banging sound and shockwave from the next building, they also immediately stood up from the seat. Instinctually, they rushed to elevators and stairways to evacuate the building. However, some people turned on TV and watched news. Upon learning from news reports that the accident was clearly restricted to the North Tower, they judged that they don’t need to escape. Many of them were stock brokers who earned money by moving fast on the phone and in front of PC monitors. Even people who escaped to the first floor lobby returned to their offices, as security guards told them to return to your office since the building is safe.

Inundated with a flurry of calls asking whether they must evacuate or not, police officers who had yet to find the situation could not answer what the people should do. People, who were hesitant to evacuate, followed the instruction to wait at where they are. At 8:55 a.m., the deputy chief in charge of fire safety at the World Trade Center made the announcement that since there is no need to evacuate, people may come back, take the elevator and return to your office, adding that the South Tower is safe. But four minutes later, announcement was made again to instruct people to evacuate by considering situation on different floors at the South Tower as well, but those who had already returned to their office no longer displayed sense of urgency. They had wasted 16 minutes and 28 seconds. It was 9:02:59 a.m. when a United Airlines passenger jet rammed into the South Tower at the speed of 872 kilometers per hour, and diagonally penetrated the building between the 77th to 85th floors. About 57 minutes later at 9:59 a.m., the South Tower collapsed before the North Tower.

The New York City government announced that the attacks left 2,749 people dead. Of this number, 147 were passengers and crewmembers of the two airplanes, and 412 were rescue workers. When the North Tower fell, more than 200 firefighters were working inside the building. There were 29 minutes after the collapse of the South Tower, but firefighters in the North Tower failed to evacuate while continuing rescue operation before perishing.

More than 600 people who were staying on the floors where the planes struck died instantly, while some 1,500 people died while being stranded in the buildings. Let’s try and change how to describe the situation here. There were 102 minutes for people in the North Tower, and 57 minutes for those in the South Tower. If they had properly spent these timespans, a considerable number of the 1,500 people would have survived.

Waiting and watching the first seven days after the Sewol’s sinking, this writer revisited the book “102 Minutes,” written by New York Times reporters Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn. The two reporters reinstated the tragic incident that occurred on that morning like a puzzle by interviewing survivors and witnesses at the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and collecting all different data, including radio communications, telephone messages, vocal testimonies, and emails. Then, they got outraged. The masterminds of the attacks were terrorists, but they claimed that defects of the buildings, and hostility and divide among government agencies might have combined to cause bigger damage. The 140 minutes involved in the Sewol’s sinking should be recorded in the same way. Recording, remembering and reflecting upon what happened in Jindo, South Jeolla Province, is the task that grown-ups who feel guilty for surviving should do.