How many died needlessly?
December 10, 2001 3:24 PM   Subscribe

How many died needlessly? If those who jumped from the WTC had parachutes, they probably would live to tell of it.
posted by HoldenCaulfield (61 comments total)
 
um, did you read the article?
posted by centrs at 3:32 PM on December 10, 2001


If this was already posted more than a month ago then please accept my apologies and pass on to Matt this great sin.
posted by HoldenCaulfield at 3:33 PM on December 10, 2001


centrs - yes.
posted by HoldenCaulfield at 3:33 PM on December 10, 2001


Harold Schaitberger, head of the International Firefighters Association, said conditions at a high-rise fire make parachuting nearly impossible.

I'm glad Harold is trying to set the record straight. I could also wear a helmet while walking down the street, but it doesn't make it a practical idea.
posted by jragon at 3:39 PM on December 10, 2001


The chances of surviving when jumping without a parachute are, I don't need to point this out, slimmer than jumping with a parachute. Even if it is almost impossible to land without getting hurt (quite possibly critically) I would still attempt anything, no matter how daring, to try to survive. Had those people parachutes some of them might be alive today to further the cause of this thread.
posted by HoldenCaulfield at 3:46 PM on December 10, 2001


For illustration only. No actual jump from this building took place.

All major credit cards accepted. Don't delay, contact Executive Chutes Corporation today!
posted by dlewis at 3:50 PM on December 10, 2001


BTW, I'm not referring to this exact company. The general idea, which I'm sure you've come across before, should be reconsidered. By jumping with a parachute your chances of living increase and in those situations where you can not hold out any longer and just have to jump a parachute can be your saviour that's all.
posted by HoldenCaulfield at 3:54 PM on December 10, 2001


"At the very last moment if you have no other choice … I'm simply going to climb over the ledge, push my self off and jump," said Rivers. "This cord will automatically open up the chute and everything from there is natural." Rivers has never used the Executive Chute himself.

Oh dear.
posted by raysmj at 3:55 PM on December 10, 2001


I think "How many died needlessly?" is an inappropriate question. Of course, they all died needlessly. And while parachutes might save the lives of future victims, to expect people to have had the foresight to prepare for such an attack was probably too much to ask. Of course, now it is a different story.
posted by SilentSalamander at 3:56 PM on December 10, 2001


SilentSalamander wrote:

...And while parachutes might save the lives of future victims, to expect people to have had the foresight to prepare for such an attack was probably too much to ask. Of course, now it is a different story.


Your comment sums up what was boiling inside of me when I read the article (and was thus compelled to post it). You are write that of course all who perished did so needlessly (surprised that you actually felt it was necessary to be said), but I meant needlessly to a further extent.
posted by HoldenCaulfield at 4:04 PM on December 10, 2001


Have we ruled out balloons yet? I always liked balloons.
posted by holloway at 4:06 PM on December 10, 2001


I agree that jumping with a chute has definite advantages over jumping without one. Of course there will be folks who say it is safer to be in a high rise than a car because of all the car crash deaths, but I'll have to disagree, because I've never seen a car I couldn't jump out of without a parachute. 'Cars good, height bad.'
posted by Mack Twain at 4:09 PM on December 10, 2001


Two serious problems with this idea. First, keeping parachutes in high-rises costs money that could be spent on effective security measures like smoke hoods. Second, if parachutes were available, during a "normal" fire, you'll have people dying who wouldn't otherwise, because instead of taking the stairs they try to jump.
posted by jaek at 4:09 PM on December 10, 2001


I could be wrong, but it seems to me that the people who jumped did so because of the intolerable heat inside the building, not because they felt they had no chance of being rescued. They weren't trying to escape, they were trying to avoid intense pain. If jumping to their death was preferable to remaining in the building, what makes anyone think these people could have endured the heat enough to put a parachute on?

And I'm with jaek, the last thing we need is people jumping out of buildings and making it harder for firemen when they should be relying on sensible safety precautions.
posted by Doug at 4:15 PM on December 10, 2001


er.....substitute "right" for "write" in my last comment and it should make sense if you're the perfectionist that I am.

Back on topic,

jaek - it wouldn't cost as much as you think, and not everyone would get one. Secondly, anyway you put it jumping off a building with or without a chute is very frightening, and I am sure nobody would jump when they could have taken the stairs.
posted by HoldenCaulfield at 4:16 PM on December 10, 2001


Get your Personal Safety Pack (TM) here - makes perfect Christmas gift for modern urban executive. Each pack contains 1 Parachute, 1 Gas Mask and a 1 month's supply of Cipro. Order today!

All major credit cards accepted. Percentage of profits goes to American Red Cross*. Our prayers go out to the victims of September's attacks. God Bless America.

* 0.0000001% after tax. All sales final. The word "safety" is used figuratively and does not refer to any scientifically proven quality of this product.
posted by dlewis at 4:21 PM on December 10, 2001


Lol is always the best medecine, thank you dlewis.
posted by HoldenCaulfield at 4:23 PM on December 10, 2001


I'm ambivalent about this one. I'm not a B.A.S.E. jumper, but if I worked in a famous high-rise I might just keep a BASE rig in my desk drawer these days. At least as a skydiver I know I'd be able to use it if neccessary and significantly improve my chances, though I'd realize that turbulence, updrafts and obstacles might do otherwise.

I'd prefer not to rely on a Sharper-Image-style gizmo designed and marketed by some guy who has never tried the product, but I guess airbag designers don't drive cars into walls to test them either.

"This cord will automatically open up the chute and everything from there is natural."
Well, nothing about hurling yourself out of a plane or off of a building is natural, but flames licking at your heels might make it an easier choice.

I guess I'd liken it to buying a handgun for self-defense. It's your right, but do take it seriously. Buy the best product you can, (at least one used by the manufacturer) and learn how to use it well, so that in an emergency you act automatically and correctly.
posted by Tubes at 4:29 PM on December 10, 2001


I have an idea! I'm going to market a product that underwent no testing but could save "some people" for a high cost. Then I'm going to use a catastrophe to illustrate that just one person might have survived if the whole building full of people bought one.

Anyone want to fathom 2,000 jumping from a building at once - with parachutes?

This story is fubar. Just a bunch of words to fill up a page.
posted by geoff. at 4:30 PM on December 10, 2001


HoldenCaulfield - So you want companies to buy a product that experts agree is dangerous, which they would then be sued out of existence for when they killed people.

"it wouldn't cost as much as you think"

I'm thinking you own stock in one of these companies?
posted by y6y6y6 at 4:30 PM on December 10, 2001


I have this mental picture of five people fighting over one chute......
posted by bunnyfire at 4:32 PM on December 10, 2001


y6y6y6 - now you've really done it! Stay out of my portfolio for chrissakes!

Now, as I've stated earlier I am pushing the idea of chutes in skyscrapers, and not particularly this company. I admit that the clumsiness of executivechute is indeed reminiscent of amateurs.
posted by HoldenCaulfield at 4:40 PM on December 10, 2001


Anyone want to fathom 2,000 jumping from a building at once - with parachutes?

Much less scary than 20 jumping without parachutes. And less scary than a building crashing down with those 2,000 people still in it.

Round canopies are used in these escape system rigs for the same reason they're the standard for mass military drops. No steerability means no skill required and no way to run into each other. Ever seen thousands of troops dropping together in WWII footage? They all come pretty much straight down, or in a breeze they move together like a school of fish.

And I think the theoretical building evacuees would probably not synchronize their exits. ("Hey, everybody, wait until the guy in 2014 is ready... ok, ready... set... go!") They'd come down staggered like leaves from a tree, not en masse like bombs from a B-52.
posted by Tubes at 4:48 PM on December 10, 2001


What he said.
posted by HoldenCaulfield at 4:59 PM on December 10, 2001


Tubes: round canopies are designed to tolerate paratroopers running into one another (by wind gusts, bad drops from the next plane over etc).

Parasail rigs (the steerable parachutes) generally cannot tolerate colision with each other without disastrous consequence, particular in the case of low-altitude drops.
posted by MattD at 5:06 PM on December 10, 2001


round canopies are designed to tolerate paratroopers running into one another

Yup. As the (skydiving & BASE jumping) folks at aerialegress.com explain in their product info:

"The round parachute is much easier for the novice to control because they are docile, slow descending, and tolerate impacts with objects very well. Square parachutes on the other hand must be flown by a pilot with some degree of experience and training. Round parachutes can bring you safely down with no input from the passenger at all. Square parachutes are fast, and in inept hands can spiral into the ground with disastrous results."

(I can vouch for that last bit -- seen it several times.)
posted by Tubes at 5:13 PM on December 10, 2001


Its probably more cost effective to just put a few anti-aircarft missiles on top of a few buildings.
posted by skallas at 5:14 PM on December 10, 2001


...er, OK, you were pointing out where I said "no way to run into each other." Better to say that a round canopy limits their ability to steer into each other and tolerates inadvertent collisions.
posted by Tubes at 5:16 PM on December 10, 2001


Let's just close this troll of a thread. (The original poster has even realised). Bottom line : those people could have survived had they jumped with chutes.
posted by HoldenCaulfield at 5:38 PM on December 10, 2001


Holden,

Quite honestly, if you had cited ANY other article I would have been right there on the bandwagon with you. I had heard of things like the executive chute previously and thought them a pretty interesting idea. But given this article's numerous claims to the contrary, I realized for the first time how unlikely your claim that "they probably would live to tell of it" is.

In truth, yes, perhaps some diminimous fraction might have, but the argument that they "died needlessly" suggests that someone is to blame, when this incident surely seemed unlikely and the potential benefits even if it had been anticipated would have been minimal (according to your quoted article).

The purchase would have been, and probably remains a poor economic decision, because it would cost a fortune and is unlikely to actually help anyone. Again, re-read the article, which was profoundly negative.

You could just as easily argue for big mattress-pads to be installed on the ground all over the city. SOMEONE's life would be saved.
posted by Sinner at 6:10 PM on December 10, 2001


Sinner - Did you read the post above yours? (BTW, economically people who work in the WTC have 1000$ to by a parachute to be safer, although not necessarily from that company).
posted by HoldenCaulfield at 6:17 PM on December 10, 2001


How about, instead of life preservers under the seats on airplanes, we put parachutes instead?
posted by Poagao at 6:22 PM on December 10, 2001


Poagao,

Unless plane manuacturers redesign planes, what you say would not be any help since on opening the emergency hatch the plane would be sent into a deep spin and only a few people would have had time to jump out.

Maybe Boeing should make them as military planes where the back slides open and the paratroopers hop out.
posted by HoldenCaulfield at 6:48 PM on December 10, 2001


The Boeing 727 does have a tail hatch and stairway. They are ordinarily inoperable during flight due to the "Cooper Switch" installed after D.B. Coopers famous "escape" from a hijacked plane. (Ordinarily. But a 727 has been a popular attraction at the World Freefall Convention in years past.

Opening a hatch does not equate to sending a plane into a deep spin. Not quite that simple. Even if you could open the inside-seated door of an airliner against the force of cabin pressurization, the sudden decompression at high altitude might lead to massive structural failure. If you managed to get the door open and the aircraft did not shred itself around you, your body would likely get torn in half as you tried to climb out at 400-500mph.
posted by Tubes at 7:02 PM on December 10, 2001


Oh yes, the famous D.B. Coopers and his money. Who could forget. How much cash did he jump with? Oh well hope he's still alive. May my prayers be with him.
posted by HoldenCaulfield at 7:09 PM on December 10, 2001


Holden,

I'm not sure if you're referring to your "end this troll" post or Tubes's above about parachutes. To Tubes, I am more inclined to believe the article, which said

Harold Schaitberger, head of the International Firefighters Association, said conditions at a high-rise fire make parachuting nearly impossible

than any MeFier, and to your point, I am disinclined to abandon what I do consider to have been a troll under the "terms" you offered: "Bottom line : those people could have survived had they jumped with chutes." I disagree completely.
posted by Sinner at 8:13 PM on December 10, 2001


The only thing that is keeping airlines with plausible escape systems, such as perhaps a rear hatch that could be used if it was discovered that the plane could not land without crashing, is cost. (jets are capable of flying slower than 500 mph). The airlines and probably society in general deems the current number of casualties acceptable and just aren't willing to pay for systems, parachute/escape systems, military technologies, crash-resistant fuel tanks, stronger construction materials, etc. that would reduce the number of deaths. Expensive, but by no means impossible.
posted by Poagao at 8:24 PM on December 10, 2001


You disagree with me that "they could have survived"? That seems quite naive. A parachute increases the chances of survival (from a certain 0 to maybe 1/2) when jumping off of a building.
posted by HoldenCaulfield at 8:25 PM on December 10, 2001


The CEO at Boeing would rather not spend billions making planes safer than save a few thousand lives and you can't blame him because as you read this someone you do not know is dying in ... oh how indeed banal it is what I am about to say (but true nevertheless), as you read this someone you do not know is dying in Africa of aids. You care but you are powerless, and so we muse at Matt's.
posted by HoldenCaulfield at 8:35 PM on December 10, 2001


What a loony idea. Whaddyasayin, we're supposed to install roomsful of parachutes in every skyscraper in america, just as a safety precaution? Why not install hand-railings on every sidewalk, while you're at it, in case somebody slips and breaks a hip?

Sounds more like somebody had a lot of parachutes to sell, and a creative marketing plan to get 'em out the door...
posted by ook at 8:48 PM on December 10, 2001


Holden,

You are utterly insistent on a purely semantic point. There is no way whatsoever that the possibility becomes "maybe 1/2." Is it greater than zero? Yes. But the implication in your statement "did they die needlessly" is unnecessarily combative and suggests negligence of a likelihood rather than a remote possibility (per the article linked).

If there were jetpacks which would likely kill 99% of users, but might save the lives of a few, could you reasonably expect a company to stock them? Especially given the absolute unprecedented nature of this attack, you absolutely could not. But by your logic, if such a jetpack - with those acknowledged flaws - were to exist, CEOs would have been obligated to have them or would have been subject to the same criticism of being responsible for people's "needless deaths."

Your argument in this thread is incredibly childish. Your only defense is "well, nothing's 'impossible.'" And once your argument was demonstrated to be flawed your response was "OK, fine, I don't want to argue. Let's just leave it at 'I'm right.'" Uh, thanks, I'll pass.
posted by Sinner at 9:01 PM on December 10, 2001


'Sinner" -- re. "conditions at a high-rise fire make parachuting nearly impossible"

I've admitted that this may well be true but that if I were parachute-equipped in a burning building with no exits, I'd give 'er a go anyway.
posted by Tubes at 9:58 PM on December 10, 2001


As far as equipping commercial airliners with tailgates and parachutes... imagine jaded travelers reading an entire issue of Barron's while the plane idles on the tarmac and the flight attendants recite the new litany: "... your seat cushion may also be used as a skydiving device. In the unlikely event of an aircraft emergency simply orient the container vertically, place your arms through the harness, fasten the cheststrap, buckle the leg straps making sure not to twist them at the thigh. Pull this handle to arm the auto-activator and GPS unit. Gear up your child first... etc. etc." Of course each passenger would have 6 square feet of cabin space to manuever while donning their gear...

If you think about it, there haven't been many scenarios where bailing out of a doomed airliner would have been a viable option. They usually fall into one of these categories:
a.) sudden destruction at altitude - no time to react.
b.) damage at altitude resulting in wild plunge to impact - no way to react in wildly gyrating cabin. (Try putting on a backpack while riding a roller coaster.)
c.) accident at takeoff or landing - no altitude to bail out, and no time anyway.

Military folks sometimes get out of a doomed plane, but they are geared up and ready, not sipping coffee in a business suit.
posted by Tubes at 10:11 PM on December 10, 2001


The typical protocol was, to anyone that could hear it, stay where you are. So, those people not being burnt alive by jet-fuel fed fires would probably not have jumped if their parachutes only had a 50% chance or so of landing them safely. That's completely ignoring the fact that windows in buildings that high don't even open.
So if you were on a floor that was on fire...well, you're screwed because it's too hot to try to get to the, I dunno, parachute closet. If you were on a random floor, the windows don't open, and of course, you have no idea that the building is going to collapse. Had the building not collapsed, most people would have gotten out ok, so it would have been silly for them to have jumped, unless the parachutes offered a near perfect chance of survival. Had their been parachutes in the bulding, I doubt many lives would have been saved at all.
posted by Doug at 10:14 PM on December 10, 2001


Sinner,

I pray for thee to stop putting words into my mouth. I'll agree to disagree. If you want to present a paper on why the chances of survival would be less than 1/2 then I'll wait for you to do that, but as it stands now the fact remains that a chute augments your chances of living from a certain 0 to X, if you feel it is necessary to debate what X represents, by all means I encourage you.
posted by HoldenCaulfield at 4:10 AM on December 11, 2001


i'll keep a parachute by my desk, a defribulator in my car, a plastic hip joint in my locker, a fire extinguisher in my briefcase, an oxygen tank on my back, carry a bucket of water. emergency rations hidden in various locations near my house, a fallout shelter in my bathroom and a bangkok hooker in a gimp mask next to my bed.

just in case
posted by Frasermoo at 5:59 AM on December 11, 2001


Holden, by your logic buying lottery tickets is a good idea, because it augments your chance of recieving millions of dollars from the state from 0 to some non-zero value. You have to consider the costs as well as the benefits, something you have so far refused to do.
posted by jaek at 9:09 AM on December 11, 2001


a bangkok hooker in a gimp mask next to my bed.
I'm sure that the eBay guy from today's post has a gimp mask for sale as well
posted by matteo at 10:03 AM on December 11, 2001


jaek,

Oh boy. First of all winning a million dollars and continuing to live are quite different things. Your comparison does not hold any ground because after buying all those tickets I still perish in a building fire due to the lack of a 1000$ chute. Remember you cannot compare anything with a life or death situation because after you're dead nothing else matters. Your priorities are on keeping yourself alive, and buying lottery tickets will not be of any help.
posted by HoldenCaulfield at 1:14 PM on December 11, 2001


Is no one else concerned with the remark:

jaek - it wouldn't cost as much as you think, and not everyone would get one.

So who decides who gets a chute, and who gets to go down with the ship?
posted by MeetMegan at 1:25 PM on December 11, 2001


Lol Megan,

Those working on the first 10 floors wouldn't really need one, and that's what I mean by that remark. Secondly, if you decide you need one, you get one (pay with your own money, and write off a third of the cost). Simple as that, no one's going to force you to get a chute. It's your choice whether to buy one or not.

There is no one else concerned with my remark, to answer your question.
posted by HoldenCaulfield at 1:37 PM on December 11, 2001


Holden,

*being trolled*

Do you find it at all odd that absolutely no one seems to agree with you and all for roughly the same reasons? I've "agreed to disagree," only because it's apparent that even the most basic logic is essentially wasted on you here.

However, I can't resist noting that you have yet to respond to my hypothetical "jetpack" construct. If there was an absolute guarantee that 99% of users would die by virtue of using the things, but that 1% would likely survive, that is a greater-than-zero chance. So shouldn't a company or individual be obliged to purchase such, since all that matters is increasing peoples' chances of survival?
posted by Sinner at 4:38 PM on December 11, 2001


Sinner wrote

However, I can't resist noting that you have yet to respond to my hypothetical "jetpack" construct. If there was an absolute guarantee that 99% of users would die by virtue of using the things, but that 1% would likely survive, that is a greater-than-zero chance. So shouldn't a company or individual be obliged to purchase such, since all that matters is increasing peoples' chances of survival?

Please do not force me to reply to your hideous "jetpack" comment but do let me reiterate my position one more time.

Those who jumped from the WTC had a 0% chance of survival period. Had they worn parachutes those chances would have inreased dramatically, depending of course on the type of parachute, training etc. One thousand dollars is a small price to pay for knowing you can jump out your 90th floor window without certain death in case of emergency (certain death). Nor you nor I have the adequate knowledge to assess the probability of survival of an untrained or trained person jumping from a skyscraper with a parachute. Please re-read Tubes' posts for further clarification.

I think we shall end this thread now don't you?
posted by HoldenCaulfield at 5:08 PM on December 11, 2001


I nominate this post for most clueless Metafilter post ever.
posted by zeb vance at 6:04 PM on December 11, 2001


You mean yours, or the FPP?
posted by HoldenCaulfield at 6:09 PM on December 11, 2001


Getting shot in the chest with a .45 is certain death too, but I bet you don't own a bulletproof vest. And they're a lot cheaper than a thousand dollars. How do you explain this?
posted by jaek at 6:16 PM on December 11, 2001


There is an infinity of examples such as yours and no explanations. Inhaling anthrax (>10K spores) is certain death. All I know is I have the money to buy a chute and if I ever find a job in a reasonably tall building I will in fact get myself a chute. I think that stems from my desire to skydive which I will take up as soon as I reach the age of majority.
posted by HoldenCaulfield at 6:24 PM on December 11, 2001


Holden,

I look forward to your finally leaving the age of minority.


posted by Sinner at 7:08 PM on December 11, 2001


> ... as soon as I reach the age of majority.

Sort of makes you wish there was a test as well, rather than just the purely age-based criterion, doesn't it?
posted by sylloge at 7:43 PM on December 11, 2001


i'm still going to get my bangkok hooker in a gimp mask.

you never know.
posted by Frasermoo at 1:07 AM on December 12, 2001


I look forward to your finally leaving the age of minority.


~655 days to go.
posted by HoldenCaulfield at 4:26 AM on December 12, 2001


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