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The Cretan who designs the tallest buildings of the world

It was said of the great English builder and designer Sir Christopher Wrenn, “If you seek his monument, look around you.” One can find monuments to the engineering contributions of Emmanuel Velivasakis in places far and near to this City: 

Manolis Velivasakis - a Cretan that designs the tallest buildings in the world

From the Continental Tower in lower Manhattan, to the restoration of the United States Capitol Dome in Washington, D.C. to the World’s tallest buildings, the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to his work at the ruins of the 1999 Istanbul earthquake in Turkey, and those of the World Trade Center disaster site after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack.One can also find monuments less physically tangible, but no less important, in his work to bring and educate young people into the engineering, architectural and construction fields. As notable as his contributions to creation of structures and the development of careers, Mr. Velivasakis has led many of the nation’s major forensic investigations, adding to the sum of the professional knowledge and assuring continued progress in the prevention of disaster. Among the investigations to which he contributed his insight and expertise were those of the collapse if the Hartford Coliseum space truss roof, the L’Ambiance Plaza construction collapse, and the Times Square scaffold collapse. In addition, in the aftermath of the September 11th terrorist attack of the World Trade Center , Mr. Velivasakis actively participated in organizing and providing technical assistance to the search and rescue teams.

Read the full article and interview (in Greek) in STIGMES issue no 69


Face to Face with 'Ground Zero'

 By: Emmanuel E. Velivasakis, P.E.

 It began as an ordinary morning….

September 11, 2001 begun just as any other ordinary morning.  Up at 5:30 am , I was rushing to New York ’s LaGuardia airport to catch an 8:00 am United Airlines flight to Vancouver Canada , where I was scheduled to attend a kick-off meeting with a fabricator for a project concerning the Athens 2004 Olympics.

Nothing seemed unusual, nothing seemed unordinary, at the airport or at the coffee stand near the gate, where with drawings under one arm, and my briefcase and a newspaper under the other, I was trying to balance my coffee and to run at the same time, in order to make it to my plane in time! The usual hectic pace of New York , nothing more, nothing less! Once on the air, and after a brief delay, our pilot took a western route, which took us practically over Manhattan and the Twin towers of the World Trade Center . I distinctly remember looking down at them, (one last time as it turned out) and for a moment remembering that I still had to finish some work on a proposal for an engineering study, that a client from the Port Authority of NY &NJ, (which was housed in the WTC), had asked me to do only a week earlier!

The flight to Vancouver that never quite made it….

As we quickly settled en route to Vancouver , I got deeply involved with paperwork, trying to catch up with my work for the meeting I was about to attend.  All of a sudden, the pilot comes on the intercom with the most startling announcement! “Ladies and Gentlemen, I am afraid that I don’t have good news to report! We have been ordered by Air Traffic Control to land as soon as possible to the nearest airport, due to a National Emergency”! We are headed for Minneapolis ”! This kind of an announcement is enough to get just about everyone’s attention! What in the World has happened! I ask a man siting next to me? Do you think the Russians, or perhaps the Iraqis sent a missile our way? Now that we all thought that the cold war was long over! Speculations run amok! People, including myself, were generating theories, as fast as our imagination allowed!

All of a sudden, it dawned on me that perhaps I could try to call someone! Immediately, I tried to use the plane-phone, but for some reason it was not working! In my desperation I tried my cell! And to my amazement, not only I had a signal, (we were probably near the ground by then!), but I actually got a line! My wife was on the other end was crying uncontrollably! “Thank God you are OK”, she said, once she recognized my voice! “Thank God! Because I thought that your United Airlines plane might have been the one hijacked! Then she said something to the extent that “…both of the WTC towers are down”! “They run two planes onto them! They both came down! She said to me. I remember saying to her that she should calm down, try to compose herself and tell me what in the World had happened! Saying to her that after all, I knew the World Trade twin towers, and that I did not think that it was quite possible to bring them down, even if you hit them with a plane!

A few minutes later, I found myself into the Minneapolis airport terminal, where one could see clusters of people around television monitors. They were all watching in horror, the unprecedented and unimaginable destruction of the once proud symbols of American might, that we knew as the WTC Twin Towers and the beginnings of an unprecedented emergency response effort, that had already started to take place at what we later came to know as “Ground Zero”.

One of the first people that approached to talk to me was a reporter from the Minnesota Public Radio. She pointed her microphone my direction and asked for my reaction on the situation! I remember saying to her that “…..in my professional opinion, it was so highly unlikely that this sort of could have happened! That besides the visual images on CNN, I still did not want to believe my eyes! Well designed, modern steel buildings shouldn’t collapse just like that”, I told her! “But then again, who would ever think of such a catastrophic attack”! (...)

Read the full article and interview (in Greek) in STIGMES issue no 69

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