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Background Attack Aftermath Evidence Misinformation Analysis Memorial

Explaining the Collapses

An Abundance of Explanations Unfettered by History or Science

The CBS anchor told us what to see. "I mean when you look at it the building has collapsed, that tower just came down."
[full size image]

When the South Tower and then the North Tower exploded into dust and shredded steel, the news anchors used the words "collapsed" and "fell down". Neither "exploded" nor "imploded" were part of the vocabulary. When the North Tower was converted to rubble in mid-air, 29 minutes after the South Tower, it was made to seem inevitable.

In the hours and days following the attack, explanations of the collapses flourished. These explanations invoked myths about the damage from impacts and fires, and entirely avoided issues like the rapid collapse speed, the huge energy imbalances, and the thorough pulverization of the buildings. The myths include the following:

  • No one had anticipated the Towers being hit by jumbo jets.
    IN FACT: The 767-222s that impacted the Towers were similar in size to the 707-340s whose impact the Towers were designed to survive.
  • The jets spilled 24,000 gallons of jet fuel into each Tower.
    IN FACT: The 767-222s had no more than 10,000 gallons of fuel when they hit the Towers, and the impact fireballs consumed much of that in seconds.
  • Engineers failed to anticipate the fires following the impacts.
    IN FACT: It's the job of an engineer to consider all such possibilities. They would have considered fuel loads based on a 707-340's capacity of 23,900 gallons.
  • Damage to insulation was fatal to the steel structure.
    IN FACT: Fires have never damaged a vertical column in a steel-framed high-rise, with or without insulation.
  • We are fortunate the Towers stood as long as they did.
    IN FACT: Since the Towers withstood the crashes they should have stood indefinitely. The structural steel -- an excellent conductor of heat -- would have regained most of any strength lost once the jet fuel burned out in about five minutes.

These myths were as common in articles in scientific journals as in popular media. Dressed up with phrases like "progressive collapse" , "creep buckling" and "catastrophic failure", the fanciful explanations were elevated to theories with an air of legitimacy provided by endorsements by professors and science television programs such as NOVA.

Some of the individuals most connected to the official investigations of the "collapses" have claimed, since the attack, that they anticipated the collapses. Gene Corley, claimed that he knew the collapses would happen, he "just didn't know when it was going to happen." 1  


1. Engineer: Impact showed World Trade Center's strength, St. Petersburg Times, 9/14/01 [cached]

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