While someone once said “Do the thing you fear the most and the death of fear is certain,” there are just some things of which I’m okay being afraid. I’ve never watched the show “Fear Factor,” but I can tell you this, I don’t care how much money I could win, there is no way I’d ever get into a tank with a bunch of snakes or spiders. Thanks, but no way. But for those looking for cures from certain fears, such as acrophobia (the fear of heights) or pyrophobia (the fear of fire), remedies are available and they both involve glass.

Looking to cure your fear of heights? One sure-fire way might just be to pay a visit to The Ledge at Chicago’s Willis Tower. The Ledge is a series of glass boxes that

103 floors above the streets of Chicago.
103 floors above the streets of Chicago.

cantilever off the 103rd floor of the tower. I had the chance to see them for myself recently when Vetrotech Saint-Gobain hosted a new product launch there.

I started out extremely excited to set foot on The Ledge and had no fear whatsoever. After all, I know how strong this glass is. I’ve seen tests and I know this is one tough building material. But the moment I began inching my way toward the box and took that first look down, I will admit, it was a bit unnerving. I wasn’t afraid, mind you, and I wasn’t going to back out, but there is something about standing on glass 103 floors above the streets of Chicago that just might be cause for a brief hesitation. Brief it was. I did make my way fully onto the center of The Ledge, looked straight down, paused, saw all the cars below and that was enough. Now I can check that one off my to-do list.

Only moments into the test, the glass became cloudy.
Only moments into the test, the glass became cloudy.

After we conquered our fear of heights, the next day it was time to face our fear of fire. Vetrotech Saint-Gobain’s primary focus is fire-rated glass, and as part of the launch the company organized a tour of Underwriter Laboratories, which included a two-hour fire test of the company’s Contraflam product. While we did not watch the test for the whole two hours, I can tell you within minutes the first lite of glass popped; moments later the intumescent interlayer became cloudy. Less than 20 minutes into the test the heat from the fire on the inside had reached 1600 degrees. At that point I placed my hand on the outside of the glazing frame; was it hot? It was just warm. Wow! It was an amazing feat to stand so close to fire and not be burned. As Kirk Ratzel, who serves as the director of marketing and sales for Vetrotech, commented, often, “a good fire test is a boring fire test.”

Temps reached 1600 degrees, yet you could still place your hand on the glass.
Temps reached 1600 degrees, yet you could still place your hand on the glass.

I’ve never thought of myself as having a fear of heights, same goes for fire. But to put myself in those two situations, which could have been incredibly frightening for others, and to realize the strength in the matter for both was in the glass, well, that was pretty cool.

 

3 Comments

  1. […] it wouldn’t be too bad; I thought that it wouldn’t be as frightening as stepping out on the Ledge, but let me tell you: I was scared. I think the fact that it moved is what frightened me most. […]

  2. […] No way. Not me. Forget it. This one is out of the question. Sure, I stepped out onto The Ledge at the Willis Tower. And ok, I tried out The Tilt at the Hancock Center. But this one is a no-go—at least for […]

  3. […] the years since the Skywalk was completed, there’s been The Ledge at the Willis Tower in Chicago, a glass floor at the Eiffel Tower and that super scary looking […]

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