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Background Attack Aftermath Evidence Misinformation Analysis Memorial

Peter Jennings

Famous ABC Anchor Makes Candid Observation, Is Immediately Corrected

On the day of the attack, ABC News anchor Peter Jennings made a candid observation about planned demolition as the cause of the South Tower's collapse. Although Jennings did not retract his statement, his co-anchor, Don Dahler, quickly stepped in to correct him. The following exchange was broadcast live on the ABC network starting 20 seconds after the onset of the South Tower's destruction.

Let's go to the Trade Tower again, because we now have ...
What do we have?  We don't...

Unknown Voice
It looks like a new plume, a new large plume of smoke.

Now it may be that something fell off the building. It may be
that something has fallen, yet we don't know to be perfectly
honest, but that is what you're looking at is the current ..
that's the scene at this moment at the World Trade Center.
Don Dahler, from ABC's Good Morning America, is down in the
general vicinity. Don, can you tell us what just happened?

Yes, Peter, it's Don Dahler here.  I'm down here four blocks
north of the World Trade Center.  The second building that was
hit by the plane has just completely collapsed.  The entire
building has just collapsed, as if a demolition team set off,
when you see the old demolitions of these old buildings, it
folded down on itself, and it is not there any more.

Unknown Voice:
That should be it.
Thanks very much.

It has completely collapsed.

The whole side has collapsed?

The whole building has collapsed.

The whole building has collapsed?

The building has collapsed.

That's the southern tower you're talking about.

Exactly, the second building that we witnessed the airplane
enter, has been .. the top half had been fully involved in
flame;  It just collapsed.  There is panic on the streets.
Thousands of people running up Church Street, which is what
I'm looking out on, trying to get away, but the entire .. at
least as far as I can see .. the top half of the building ..
at least half of it .. I can't see below that .. half of it ..
just started with a gigantic rumble, folded in on itself and
collapsed in a huge plume of smoke and dust.

We are talking about massive casualties here at the moment,
and we have... Whew.


There is panic on the streets.  There are people screaming
and running from the site.  The gigantic plume of smoke has
reached me probably a quarter of a mile north of there.

Now this is what it looked like moments ago.

My gosh.

The southern .. tower ... 10 o'clock eastern time this morning,
just collapsing on itself.
This is a place where thousands of people work.
We have no idea what caused this.  Um ..
If you wish to bring ah .. anybody who ever watched a building
being demolished on purpose knows  .. that if you're going to
do this you have to get at the .. at the under infrastructure
of a building and bring it down.


Yes, Don.

What appeared to happen from my vantage point ..  the top part
of the building was totally involved in fire, and there was ..
there appeared to be no effort possible to put that fire out.
It looked like the top part of the building was so weakened by
the fire that it just .. the weight of it just collapsed the
rest of the building .. that's what appeared to happen.
I did not see anything happening at the base of the building.
It all appeared to to start at the top and then just collapse
the rest of the building by the sheer weight of the top.

There was no explosion or anything at the base part of it,
but I .. I did see that the top part of it started to collapse,
the walls started to bulge out, bricks, glass, things coming
out, and then it collapsed in on itself, and it appeared to
just fold down from there, from the very top.

Thanks, Don, very much.
Um, just looking at that, I don't know why, but I'm .. when was
the last time the United States was attacked in this fashion it
was Pearl Harbor in 1941.


Dahler's correction of Jennings is notable for several reasons.

  • Dahler's confidence about what he saw is curious, given that he has just watched the first collapse of a large skyscraper in history.
  • His contention that "the top part of the building was totally involved in fire" contrasts with photographs of the event.
  • He states that "it looked like the top part of the building was so weakened by the fire ..." but photographs do not show obvious buckling of columns prior to the collapse.
  • His description that "... it collapsed in on itself, and it appeared to just fold down from there," contrasts with what photographs and videos show: that the building exploded outward.


1. ABC Sept. 11, 2001 9:54 am - 10:36 am, archive.org,

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