Reflections on the Twin Towers

August 11, 2010

While there can be no equivalent to the human suffering that resulted from the destruction of the World Trade Center, the loss of the towers as physical objects was also poignant.

Lynn Beedle is among those who most keenly experience this sense of loss. Beedle was associated with the civil engineering department at Lehigh University for 54 years and was director of the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat until his retirement Sept. 30. Since the tragedy he has shared his reminiscences in e-mails sent to family members, friends and colleagues.

Beedle's ties to the World Trade Center are a result partly of his acquaintance with former students who were involved with its design. Lehigh's Fritz Laboratory tested the floor system used in the towers before the construction began. A faculty/student group visited what is now "Ground Zero" when construction preparations were starting. "When those towers came down, I felt it personally," Beedle says.

A former student who returned to his native Europe asked what he could contribute. Beedle replied: "Continue your solid support of democracy. Speak positively of America. As a structural engineer, make clear what happened and that it was not a failure on the part of structural engineers. Mostly, do all you can to encourage international support against terrorism."

Beedle is emphatic that the destruction of the World Trade Center should not deter the construction of tall buildings. "They are absolutely essential to the industrialized way of life. The Information Age hasn't lessened the need for high-rise buildings."

"The buildings did what they were supposed to do. They took the impact of the aircraft and held up long enough to let many people escape," he adds.

Opinion about future development of the 16-acre site varies widely. Some argue that it should remain undeveloped because it is a burial ground. Beedle believes the wall section of the South Tower seen so frequently in photos of Ground Zero should be retained as a memorial. And construction of the world's tallest building on the site, he maintains, would have greater drawing power, more fully justify the economic value of the land and "show the terrorists that they didn't make their point."


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