The tragic events of September 11, 2001 focused attention on the safety of skyscrapers and their vulnerability to airplane collisions. Yet the issue was by no means a new one: for more than half a century, architects, engineers, politicians, and the general public had been concerned about the possibility of a plane crashing into a New York high-rise building. Several such collisions, or near-misses, actually occurred. Fears about the fire safety of skyscrapers date back even further, to the early 1900’s. Much of this concern was chronicled in newspaper accounts: from New York Times coverage of a devastating army bomber crash into the Empire State Building in 1945, to an eerie full-page newspaper ad from 1968 speculating that a jet could collide with the (as yet unbuilt) World Trade Center, to a 1993 article in the Seattle Times contemplating the prospect of an aerial attack on the twin towers. Although the circumstances of these incidents are obviously very different, each of these articles offers important insights and historical context to events that would happen much later. Most of this material is available in our databases or on microfilm (on Level 6 of the Central Library).
1912 – New York’s chief building inspector warns of a “Skyscraper Disaster That Will Stagger Humanity“