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Why the Towers Fell
NOVA News Minutes
World Trade Center Award

(running time 01:32)

May 10, 2002

NARRATOR: As another month passes since the attacks of 9-11, it has become clear that there are many kinds of victims dealing with the emotion from that day. In this NOVA News Minute, Steve Mirsky reports there's one victim for whom the twin towers are both a source of pain and honor.

LESLIE ROBERTSON (Engineer, World Trade Center): I did a lot of things that I don't think an older engineer would have-- would have bothered to do.

NARRATOR: He would engineer something taller than anything ever built before.

LESLIE ROBERTSON: I was charging down a different highway.

NARRATOR: That highway would take Leslie Robertson 110 stories into the sky, and his plan for the inside of the World Trade Center was just as bold and innovative.

LESLIE ROBERTSON: The buildings of the past had columns spaced roughly 30 feet on center in all directions. And the issue with that is--it worked very well, but you have columns in spaces that you would like to rent.

NARRATOR: As shown by PBS's NOVA, he moved those columns to the outside walls, a design that first proved strong in 1993.

LESLIE ROBERTSON: The bombing I think created a lot of confidence in everyone's mind that the Trade Center was pretty sturdy.

NARRATOR: Engineers who assessed the disaster of 9-11 say the towers did a good job of standing long enough for thousands to escape. His office once had a view of the Twin Towers. But now the view is of Ground Zero.

LESLIE ROBERTSON: Ground Zero is a very disturbing place for me. I mean I probably have more emotional attachment to it than maybe any other person now alive.

NARRATOR: Although Robertson no longer sees his most daring achievement, it has brought him lasting honor. The National Buildings Museum has recognized him with their first ever prize for innovation in construction technology. I'm Steve Mirsky.

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