door with a brass opening to insert mail into
(Photo by Gemma Evans on Unsplash)

Memories of Sept. 11, 2001

In response to your invitation to share our personal memories of the events of Sept. 11, 2001, I offer my own recollection:

On that day my wife’s sister called us to ask us to turn on the television because New York was facing “a disaster.” We turned on the TV and saw the collapse of the twin towers and many surrounding buildings and the attack on the Pentagon.

Near the twin towers stood the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine, administered by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. It totally collapsed. At that time, the archbishop of the archdiocese was a personal friend of mine, and I remember him making special efforts to not only redefine the area but to obtain a permit to rebuild the church. I also remember the U.S. government’s assistance to all those afflicted by the disaster.

The event shocked not only those who live in the United States but all of us in all parts of the world. It made us recognize that all types of fanaticism can result in unbelievable examples of inhuman savagery. That is a pitiful recognition indeed.

Leonidas C. Stylianopoulos, P.E., M.ASCE, Chalandri, Greece

Praise for code red and infrastructure funding

I just finished reading the two articles “Responding to Code Red” and “A Boost for Infrastructure” (in the January/February issue) and have gained a wealth of information on the steps to be taken to achieve infrastructure resiliency and sustainability to rapid climate change.

Civil engineers’ work motto is to keep the safety and welfare of future generations in the forefront, and the steps discussed in the former article are absolutely necessary.

And the information on the distribution of funds from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act in the latter article will help improve the reliability and sustainability of existing and new infrastructure and also help the U.S. economy by providing more jobs for the next five to 10 years.

Kirit Parekh, P.E., F.ASCE, Naperville, Illinois

Inclusion must be included in the future

I read with interest the Editor’s Note (“The Future Is Now” in the March/April issue). There was no reference to social equity, the topic of the November/December 2021 feature article “Social Justice, Equity, and Infrastructure.” I was so intrigued with that article that I used it as a primary resource for the term project for my master’s degree program course Spirituality and Social Justice.

My intrigue (and disappointment) stems from the absence of any mention of inclusion and social equity in the description of the processes under which the future will be planned, designed, and built. In the feature article, a panel of younger civil engineers concurs that there has been an absence of consideration of social justice and equity issues in many of the projects they have been a part of. And although efforts have been made by many of them to raise these issues, those efforts seem to have been brushed aside.

In my term paper I contrasted the predations of Robert Moses on New York City and its environs in the absence of any meaningful oversight, supervision, restraint, or public input with the various regulatory processes that were applied in seeking and gaining the necessary permits to build the Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant in New Hampshire. The contrast couldn’t be more dramatic or telling. And although many people did not agree with the outcome (the licensing of the power plant), by virtue of the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1972, it can be reasonably argued that no one was denied an opportunity to participate in that permitting process with respect to environmental impacts.

I propose that social equity and justice issues be given the same level of consideration as is given to environmental concerns on large, planned infrastructure projects such as those called for in ASCE’s Future World Vision. I suggest that the current environmental impact statement protocol be amended to define environmental to include the physical and social aspects of the environment, generating what I call an equity impact statement.

In this era of global warming with its significant environmental impacts, particularly in the coastal zones of the United States, it is clear that significant social disruptions will occur, and equitable disposition mechanisms and processes will be required to move forward into our brave new future world.

Paul A. Nason, P.E., M.ASCE, Hampton Falls, New Hampshire

The IIJA moves infrastructure forward

I would like to comment on the letter by Mr. (Steven P.) Scalici, P.E., M.ASCE, published in the March/April issue that takes issue with the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. He claims it expands the federal government into private ventures that should be left to evolve on their own and pays for infrastructure items that should be addressed by state and local governments. If the private sector prioritized public health and safety and if state and local governments had adequate funding and the appropriate priorities, the country’s infrastructure would not have degraded into its current mediocre condition.

In the engineering profession, our highest priority is the safety, health, and welfare of the public. However, our system of government decision-making and profit-based business models often does not have these same priorities. The poor condition of our infrastructure, environmental pollution such as rivers and lakes degraded by sewer overflows and industrial releases, high levels of air pollution causing air quality alerts and health problems in numerous cities, and climate change causing record droughts, wildfires, and flooding are all well-known, well-documented issues. Yet as a country, we have let these problems escalate and have failed to address them in a responsible, proactive manner.

While I share Mr. Scalici’s concern that there may be waste in the law and that the federal government has often not been the best steward of public expenditures, we need to move forward to address the critical issues outlined in the law while advocating for close financial oversight and accountability.

Peter R. Karasik, P.E., M.ASCE, Philadelphia

This article first appeared in the May/June 2022 issue of Civil Engineering.