Minutes of April 29, 2003, Meeting - Gaithersburg, Maryland Public Comment Period
Five minutes. That's all I ask of this NIST Commission. To hear what I have to say on behalf of people who had less than Three minutes to escape an inferno. My name is Colleen Delaney. I live in New York and Rhode Island. I survived 9/11 in New York City. I have been consumed with grief and have tried to channel my energies after 9/11 to fight for ways to prevent the WTC tragic collapse from ever happening again. My heart sank on 2/20/03. News of my friend being critically burned. After all our diverse coalition lobbying for safer buildings and fire codes after 9/11, we still could not prevent innocent lives being lost. The West Warwick Rhode Island nightclub fire is now my second "Ground Zero." WHY?
Because government at all levels has permitted business interests to supercede the value of human life. Enforcement of building and fire codes in the United States falls to local authorities, leaving safety issues exposed to the whims and priorities of developers and local politicians. What do we need to do? We need NIST to do a thorough investigation and provide concrete solutions to the myriad issues of the WTC and WW Fire incident that caused the loss of so many beautiful souls. We need Americans to say what happened is unacceptable.
The Rhode Island General Assembly has blocked repeated attempts to enact tougher fire-safety measures in the last decade. We know how to prevent such fire tragedies, yet they still occur. I implore NIST to do a complete review of the benefits of adopting a NATIONAL code for building and fire safety. We need public interest checks and balances to ensure that final decisions are being made without the vested interest in the outcome of the code proposals.
Some experts say that at the WTC, mass evacuation was obstructed by debatable design. Two towers of the same footprint, 110 stories high, without setbacks, terraces, or other means of egress other than the standard core. Nonetheless, "engineers" hired by the developer who is embroiled in a lawsuit over insurance proceeds, had the audacity to submit their report to NIST which claimed that there was nothing wrong with the way those buildings were constructed.
Quasi-governmental agencies, like the Port Authority, are able to build these buildings in New York City, yet "magically" circumvent compliance with ANY New York City or New York State Fire Safety and Building Code Compliance required. WHY? I don't think it is sufficient that they can substitute legal compliance with protecting people's lives with a simple promise, off the record in a memorandum of understanding, that they will try to meet or exceed expectations. I have asked this question to numerous New York City and State officials, as well as directly to the Port Authority, and have not received an explanation YET! I implore NIST to look into this matter. I implore NIST to investigate why these buildings collapsed as equal in importance to investigation into evacuation, firefighting, and safety issues. I implore NIST to continue to involve the public in this investigation, protect our due process, and safeguard its findings against the influence of special interest groups.
As the WW Fire showed us, it is not just skyscraper safety that the public is after. It is also one floor nightclubs that need protection, as well as schools, apartment complexes, and homes. We need a central shift in the cultural aspect of what America is willing to accept. NIST has the enormous task of making sense out of these tragedies. I have full confidence that the people involved in this process will continue to fight the good fight and ensure that future lives are spared. We the public will accept no less.