The Willis Tower Skydeck Ledge Incident - Could have been worse

The Willis Tower Skydeck Ledge Incident - Could have been worse
My son, Kevin and his girlfriend, Sarah on the Willis Tower Skydeck

First off, no offense to the Willis people, but I can’t stop calling it the Sears Tower!  Secondly, who doesn’t like the idea of standing out on a clear glass box 1,353 feet in the air over the great city of Chicago!

When I had heard the news this morning that the glass bottom of the Ledge as it is called had shattered It brought back memories I had when I was a kid and could see the Sears Tower construction going on through my first grade classroom window at Wilson School in Cicero, IL.

It also brought back rumors that seemed to be flying around in school about workmen falling from the tower and being killed during construction.  I was curious if something like that actually happened or whether the rumors were just urban legends.

I seems that the month of April in 1973 was a particularly bad month in the history of the Sears Tower Construction.

On April 11, 1973 a fire broke out in the elevator shaft of the building at about the 42nd floor.  The cause was speculated to be cleaning solution that had come in contact with live electricity that sent flames shooting through the shaft killing four workers.  One worker was found on the 42nd floor platform, two were found on the 33rd floor level and one was found dangling from a beam just a few feet above the 33rd floor.


Cutout drawing from the Chicago Tribune April 12, 1973 showing the area affected by the deadly fire.

Cutout drawing from the Chicago Tribune April 12, 1973 showing the area affected by the deadly fire.

But what about the story of a worker falling from the top to his death.  I had visions as a kid of a hapless worker falling from the roof and what a horrific experience that had to be.  Of course you also had the other common kid comments like, “Oh he would have died of a heart attack before he hit the ground.” or “Yeah, I heard he hit the ground and buried himself in the street so far that nobody could dig him out and they just left him there!” or “Yeah, I heard that if you drop a penny from the top it would travel so fast that it would completely go through a person and embed itself in the street!”

I don’t know how much of that is true, probably none of it, but I did find that the story that probably fueled all of the talk.

On April 14, 1973, just three days after the fire incident, a 28 year old Hazel Crest man named Jack De Klerk was knocked off a platform on the 109th floor by an iron cable and fell 35 feet to his death.  He didn’t fall completely to the ground because, according to the news reports at the time, “His fall was broken by steel beams that were stored below”

Really?  Broke his fall?  He died!  Usually if something “breaks your fall” it is a small miracle.  Oh well.

Anyway, while I’m sure the visitors to the Willis Tower Skydeck got more of a thrill than they were looking for it could have been much much worse!

Update: According to the Skydeck’s Facebook Page the cracking was actually only on the protective coating of the glass that makes it scratch resistant and there was never any danger to anyone. So don’t panic…DON’T PANIC!

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