Sep. 16th, 2011

The dust expanded in a roiling cloud, sweeping outwards from the collapsing buildings. It quickly engulfed hysterical fugitives who found themselves in a supernatural darkness; they had no choice but to seek refuge wherever they could and wait for the light to return, while the ever-present dust collected on their shoulders and coated their eyeglasses.

The dust spread outwards in two separate ripple patterns, slightly off center from each other and displaced an hour or so in time. When the second tower fell, rescue teams had little choice but to wait for the dust to settle or dissipate; working blindly in that gray cloud would do more harm than good.

But to everybody's surprise, the dust didn't settle. The clouds persisted, odd eddies describing vortices and patterns of convection where none should exist. The air did gradually clear, but not because the particulates fell to the ground; rather, the individual structures of the dust formation gathered themselves, crawling back in the direction of Ground Zero. Those trapped within the artificial night felt the clouds roll back, and found their shoulders unsullied, their eyeglasses clean.

The dust clouds concentrated themselves over the wreckage of the two major towers of the World Trade Center, now heaped piles of twisted iron and broken concrete, hissing and popping with waste heat. They formed themselves into an angry cumulonimbus of sorts, a lowering grey cloud. As policemen watched, they could see thin streams of more dust rising from the buildings' battered corpses and merging with the larger mass.

But eventually the flow of fresh dust petered out, leaving a swollen, almost spherical mass of dense particles bobbing gently above the disaster area. It seemed to rise for a moment, and turn on some unseen inner axis, as if scanning its surroundings. Then, with an immediacy only explainable by the direct influence of intelligent purpose, the dust cloud wafted over the police cordons. It turned north on West Street, taking up all lanes of traffic.

"Clear a path!" shouted the police chief into his radio.

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In the past ten years a great deal of analysis has been performed regarding the attacks on 9/11. By any metric the method used by Al Qaeda to hijack and weaponize commercial aircraft was both effective and horrifying. There is general agreement that such attacks must never be allowed to happen again, and a number of different proposals have been made towards this end. Proposals regarding the operation of airplanes and security prior to boarding have abounded, but when it comes to solutions via engineered redesign, aircraft has remained largely untouched. Engineering professionals have largely only been called on to provide assistance for design efforts related to hardening buildings against attack.

Oh, sure – blame the victim. Putting the onus for preventing aircraft attacks on the targets is an insult to the dignity of architecture. Next you're going to tell me that a building's façade was overly provocative, and that if designers were really sensible they'd know not to tempt fate by putting a skyscraper in a downtown district. For shame!

In this white paper we shall redirect the focus of redesign efforts squarely where they belong: on the aircraft themselves. By redesigning airplanes with the current times in mind, we can not only improve civilian safety, but we can empower high-rise structures to fearlessly reclaim the business district.

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