The 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States Page: 316
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THE 9/11 COMMISSION REPORT
efforts of first responders, assistance from each other, and their own good
instincts and goodwill, the vast majority of civilians below the impact zone
were able to evacuate the towers.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology has provided a prelim=
inary estimation that between 16,400 and 18,800 civilians were in the WTC
complex as of 8:46 A.M. on September 11. At most 2,152 individuals died at
the WTC complex who were not (1) fire or police first responders, (2) secu=
rity or fire safety personnel of the WTC or individual companies, (3) volun=
teer civilians who ran to the WTC after the planes' impact to help others, or
(4) on the two planes that crashed into the Twin Towers. Out of this total num=
ber of fatalities, we can account for the workplace location of 2,052 individu=
als, or 95.35 percent. Of this number, 1,942 or 94.64 percent either worked or
were supposed to attend a meeting at or above the respective impact zones of
the Twin Towers; only 110, or 5.36 percent of those who died, worked below
the impact zone.While a given person's office location at the WTC does not
definitively indicate where that individual died that morning or whether he or
she could have evacuated, these data strongly suggest that the evacuation was
a success for civilians below the impact zone.200
Several factors influenced the evacuation on September 11. It was aided
greatly by changes made by the Port Authority in response to the 1993 bomb=
ing and by the training of both Port Authority personnel and civilians after
that time. Stairwells remained lit near unaffected floors; some tenants relied on
procedures learned in fire drills to help them to safety; others were guided
down the stairs by fire safety officials based in the lobby. Because of damage
caused by the impact of the planes, the capability of the sophisticated building
systems may have been impaired. Rudimentary improvements, however, such
as the addition of glow strips to the handrails and stairs, were credited by some
as the reason for their survival. The general evacuation time for the towers
dropped from more than four hours in 1993 to under one hour on Septem=
ber 11 for most civilians who were not trapped or physically incapable of
enduring a long descent.
First responders also played a significant role in the success of the evacua=
tion. Some specific rescues are quantifiable, such as an FDNY company's res=
cue of civilians trapped on the 22d floor of the North Tower, or the success of
FDNY, PAPD, and NYPD personnel in carrying nonambulatory civilians out
of both the North and South Towers. In other instances, intangibles combined
to reduce what could have been a much higher death total. It is impossible to
measure how many more civilians who descended to the ground floors would
have died but for the NYPD and PAPD personnel directing them-via safe
exit routes that avoided jumpers and debris-to leave the complex urgently
but calmly. It is impossible to measure how many more civilians would have
died but for the determination of many members of the FDNY, PAPD, and
NYPD to continue assisting civilians after the South Tower collapsed. It is
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The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (also known as the 9-11 Commission), an independent, bipartisan commission created by congressional legislation and the signature of President George W. Bush in late 2002, is chartered to prepare a full and complete account of the circumstances surrounding the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, including preparedness for and the immediate response to the attacks. The Commission is also mandated to provide recommendations designed to guard against future attacks.
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National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States. The 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, book, July 22, 2004; Washington, D.C.. (https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc123526/m1/335/?q=315: accessed October 27, 2020), University of North Texas Libraries, UNT Digital Library, https://digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.