Empire State Building is no stranger to disaster


Over the course of its 80-year history, the Empire State Building has become no stranger to violence and destruction.


Timothy A. Clary

Sadly, Friday’s shooting near the Empire State Building was not the New York City monument's first brush with gun violence.

In February 1997, Ali Hassan Abu Kamal opened fire with a handgun on the observation deck there, killing one person and injuring six others. He then shot himself in the head, reported CNN.

The motives that drove the 69-year-old killer were decidedly mysterious.

During the shooting, police said that Abu Kamal was muttering something about Egypt, the United States, Great Britain and France. It was initially suspected that he was indeed acting in anger in regard to the Israel–Palestine conflict.

Yet, his wife said otherwise. In her account, she said her husband had shot up the observation deck after being swindled out of $300,000 and facing financial ruin, the Los Angeles Times said at the time.

That theory was debunked many years later after Abu Kamal’s daughter said that her family had lied and that Palestinian nationalism was indeed his motivation for the killing of random tourists, according to the Daily News, as reported by DanielPipes.com.

A big, tall target

In a thick fog on the morning of July 28, 1945, a bomber plane crashed into the Empire State Building, killing 14 people and destroying the offices of the Catholic Welfare Council on the 80th floor.

The destruction spread to a nearby penthouse, upon which the plane landed.

The most bizarre incident during the crash was the survival of the elevator operator who plunged 75 stories inside the elevator, which remains the furthest plummet (and survival) of a person in an elevator — yes, there is a Guinness World Record for that — reported Elevator World.

The upside was that the incident spurred Congress to pass a bill allowing citizens to sue the federal government under certain circumstances.

Long way down

There have been just over 30 suicides at the Empire State Building, according to CNN.

The most famous of then was in 1947, when 23-year-old Evelyn McHale jumped from the 86th floor, in what has been called "The Most Beautiful Suicide," reported the New York Times.

The death was dubbed "beautiful" because of the haunting picture taken just minutes after McHale's landing, which appeared in Life Magazine.

The photo in Life magazine, in which the neatly dressed young woman is sprawled out on top of a car, can be seen here.

McHale took her life after separating from her partner, it seems. In a suicide note left on the observation deck, she wrote: "He is much better off without me ... I wouldn’t make a good wife for anybody."