Systems Sinister LO27353

From: John Dicus (
Date: 10/06/01

I confess -- I'm a recovering engineer.

Though I'll be talking about the events of 09/11 in an "engineering"
manner, in no way do I mean to be insensitive.

A few days ago, my wife and I went to visit our daughter in Manhattan.
It was spooky -- not only to actually see the site, but also to see how it
has effected the people that live there. Smoking piles of rubble, taller
than most of the buildings where I live. Fires that won't quit. You
still have a hard time breathing near the site. We were standing in front
of a shoe store a few blocks from the site. It was frozen in time. The
window had been blown out by the debris, and subsequently reglazed. The
inside of the store looked like the underwater scenes from the titanic
movie. Everything was covered by about 4-5 inches of crud. Stuff, but no
people. The computer was still on -- blinking away in the rear of the

A few years ago, I was in the American Cemetery at Normandy. The very
same kind of silence and respect I experienced in France was evident in
NY. Everyone was careful as they walked about. They spoke softly. We saw
a couple of the firehouses near the site. Only one or two vehicles
remained in each. Flowers and messages of condolence everywhere. Silent
visitors. Whiteboards showing the times and places of funerals.

Our daughter was not hurt physically. But the cascading effects are
unbelievable. A week after the incident, my daughter was going to lunch
with her friend, and as they went out of their building, a person jumped
to his/her death, literally landing in front of them.

I've been thinking about how diabolically systemic the 09/11 architects

The right aircraft (size, fuel load, navigation & flight control systems).
Planning and training. Hitting a tower in the sky at high speed is like
finding the ol' needle in the haystack. It's difficult at best to land a
plane on a carrier deck. Not much easier to land a plane on the Pentagon.

When I saw those WTC towers drop, I knew the perpetrators were either very
lucky (in an evil sort of way), or very clever (in the same evil sort of
way). I think they were systems thinkers. I believe that the planners,
supporters, and perpetrators of the disaster should pay the consequences,
not only in proportion to the magnitude of the death, suffering and
destruction they wrought, but also in proportion to the architectural evil
they manifested.

Hit the towers too high and the plan won't work. Hit them too low and you
have another scenario. But hit them just right and you create an
abominable disaster.

Each aircraft laid a burning pool of jet fuel into each tower, causing the
structure to cook. When the steel spanning about 4-5 floors became too
weak to support the intact portion of tower above the crash, the top
portion dropped and became a jack-hammer that pounded the tower to dust in
a rapid floor-by-floor cascade. Each tower weighed about 2.25 trillion
pounds and stood a quarter mile tall. The stored gravitational potential
energy was converted into kinetic energy as it fell. And converted once
again -- into destruction -- as it hit the ground. 2.25 trillion pounds
falling an average of 660 feet (1/8 mile) to the earth.

The energy stored (and released in the collapse) in both towers and in
building #7 was equivalent to a 1.1 kiloton (1,100 tons of TNT) explosion.
(That's 2.2 million pounds of TNT)

Compared to the energy stored in the buildings, the energy of two fast
moving aircraft was small. Two 135 ton aircraft moving at 250 mph account
for about 0.0004 tons of TNT equivalent.

But the fuel is another story altogether. 12,500 gallons per aircraft,
when combined, have the energy equivalent of 0.7 kilotons (700 tons TNT)

Add it all up and you get about 1.8 kilotons. When you consider that the
Hiroshima explosion is estimated at 10-12 kT (some estimate higher), that
small area in Manhattan suffered the equivalent of a bomb 1/5 to 1/6 the
"power" of the Hiroshima explosion.

And it came, not from the speed of the planes, but from the enormous
quantity of fuel, and the systematic dropping of the tall, heavy towers.

Systems Thinking at its worst.

I suppose this is why so much of the conversation on lists such as this
deal with our values, morals, and dreams. ST is a powerful way to create
a future of your choice. What do we choose?

(Does anyone else feel very tired?)



John Dicus  |  CornerStone Consulting Associates
- Leadership - Systems Thinking - Teamwork - Open Space - Electric Maze -
2761 Stiegler Road, Valley City, OH 44280
800-773-8017  |  330-725-2728 (2729 fax)  |

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