Measuring the Impact of the Terrorist Attacks

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By now everyone has been hearing the death toll rise and reports of the destruction from the terrorist attacks on the US.  These were deplorable acts that we will never forget.  But now is a time to look at the other side of the numbers coming out of New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania.

The sad but somewhat uplifting side that the mainstream media has not reported yet involves the number of people that could have but were not killed in these hideous incidents

The Buildings

The World Trade Center -The twin towers of the World Trade Center were places of employment for an estimated 50,000 people not including thousands of visitors during the course of the day.  Just over 5,000 people or less than 10 percent of those that could have been killed in this horrible incident. It was the courage of WTC security staff and New York City firemen and police officers that surely saved countless lives.

The Pentagon - Some 23,000 people were the target of a third plane that slammed into the Pentagon. The latest count shows that123 Pentagon personnel lost their lives.  That is an amazing  99.5% survival rate.  In addition, the plane seems to have come in too low, too early to affect a large portion of the building.  On top of that, the section that was hit was the first of five sections to undergo renovations that would help protect the Pentagon from

terrorist attacks. It had  recently completed straightening and blast-proofing, saving untold lives. This attack was sad but clearly could have been more lethal.

The Planes

  • American Airlines Flight 77: This Boeing 757 that was flown into the outside of the Pentagon could have carried up to 289 people, yet only 64 were aboard.  However, 78% of the seats were empty.
  • American Airlines Flight 11:  This Boeing 767 could have had up to 351 people aboard, but only carried 92.  Thankfully, 74% of the seats were unfilled.
  • United Airlines Flight 175:  Another Boeing 767 that could have sat 351 people only had 65 people on board.  Fortunately it was 81% empty.
  • United Airlines Flight 93 This Boeing 757 was one of the most uplifting stories yet.  The least-populated flight to be hijacked with only 45 people aboard out of a possible 289 had 84% of its capacity unused.  Yet these people stood up to the attackers and thwarted a fourth attempted destruction of a national landmark, saving untold numbers of lives in the process.


If these incidents had achieved their full intended impact, the results would have been far more catastrophic. Out of potentially 74,280 Americans directly targeted by

these cowards, 93% survived or avoided harm.  That's a higher survival rate than heart attacks, breast cancer or kidney transplants or other survivable illnesses.

The Hijacked planes were mostly empty, the Pentagon was hit at its strongest point, the overwhelming majority of people in the World Trade Center buildings escaped, and a handful of passengers gave the ultimate sacrifice to save even more lives.

Perhaps this is the silver lining in the dark cloud of the horror of September 11.


Joseph A. Kinney is a pioneering leader, author, and researcher who has received numerous national awards for contributions to forging a safer and more productive world. Joseph is President of Safe Spaces, Inc. (


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