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Wednesday, January 18 2006 - Research/Evidence
Explosive Testimony: Revelations about the Twin Towers in the 9/11 Oral Histories
by David Ray Griffin
"[T]here was just an explosion [in the south tower]. It seemed like on television [when] they blow up these buildings. It seemed like it was going all the way around like a belt, all these explosions."--Firefighter Richard Banaciski
The above quotations come from a collection of 9/11 oral histories that, although recorded by the Fire Department of New York (FDNY) at the end of 2001, were publicly released only on August 12, 2005. Prior to that date, very few Americans knew the content of these accounts or even the fact that they existed.
Why have we not known about them until recently? Part of the answer is that the city of New York would not release them until it was forced to do so. Early in 2002, the New York Times requested copies under the freedom of information act, but Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration refused. So the Times, joined by several families of 9/11 victims, filed suit. After a long process, the city was finally ordered by the New York Court of Appeals to release the records (with some exceptions and redactions allowed). Included were oral histories, in interview form, provided by 503 firefighters and medical workers.1 (Emergency Medical Services had become a division within the Fire Department.2) The Times then made these oral histories publicly available.3
Once the content of these testimonies is examined, it is easy to see why persons concerned to protect the official story about 9/11 would try to keep them hidden. By suggesting that explosions were occurring in the World Trade Center's Twin Towers, they pose a challenge to the official account of 9/11, according to which the towers were caused to collapse solely by the impact of the airplanes and the resulting fires.
In any case, now that the oral histories have finally been released, it is time for Americans and the world in general to see what these brave men and women reported about that fateful day. If this information forces a reevaluation of the official story about 9/11, better now than later.
That said, it must be added that although these oral histories are of great significance, they do not contain the first reports of explosions in the Twin Towers. Such reports--from firefighters, reporters, and people who had worked in the towers---started becoming available right after 9/11.
These reports, however, were not widely publicized by the mainstream press and, as a result, have for the most part been known only within the "9/11 truth movement," which has focused on evidence that seems inconsistent with the official story.
I will begin by summarizing some of those previously available reports. Readers will then be able to see that although in some respects the newly released oral histories simply add reinforcement, they also are revelatory documents: Some of the testimonies are quite stunning, even to people familiar with the earlier reports; and there are now so many testimonies that even the most skeptical reader is likely to find the cumulative effect impressive.
Previously Available Testimony Suggestive of Explosions in the Twin Towers
The day after 9/11, a story in the Los Angeles Times, referring to the south tower, said: "There were reports of an explosion right before the tower fell, then a strange sucking sound, and finally the sound of floors collapsing."4
A story in the Guardian said that "police and fire officials were carrying out the first wave of evacuations when the first of the World Trade Centre towers collapsed. Some eyewitnesses reported hearing another explosion just before the structure crumbled. Police said that it looked almost like a 'planned implosion.'"5
"Planned implosion" is another term for controlled demolition, in which explosives are placed at crucial places throughout a building so that, when set off in the proper order, they will cause the building to come down in the desired way. When it is close to other buildings, the desired way will be straight down into, or at least close to, the buildings footprint, so that it does not damage the surrounding buildings. This type of controlled demolition is called an "implosion." To induce an implosion in steel-frame buildings, the explosives must be set so as to break the steel columns. Each of the Twin Towers had 47 massive steel columns in its core and 236 steel columns around the periphery.
To return now to testimonies about explosions: There were many reports about an explosion in the basement of the north tower. For example, janitor William Rodriguez reported that he and others felt an explosion below the first sub-level office at 9 AM, after which co-worker Felipe David, who had been in front of a nearby freight elevator, came into the office with severe burns on his face and arms yelling "explosion! explosion! explosion!"6
Rodriguez's account has been corroborated by Jose Sanchez, who was in the workshop on the fourth sub-level. Sanchez said that he and a co-worker heard a big blast that "sounded like a bomb," after which "a huge ball of fire went through the freight elevator."7
Engineer Mike Pecoraro, who was working in the sixth sub-basement of the north tower, said that after an explosion he and a co-worker went up to the C level, where there was a small machine shop. "There was nothing there but rubble," said Pecoraro. "We're talking about a 50 ton hydraulic press--gone!" They then went to the parking garage, but found that it was also gone. Then on the B level, they found that a steel-and-concrete fire door, which weighed about 300 pounds, was wrinkled up "like a piece of aluminum foil." Having seen similar things after the terrorist attack in 1993, Pecoraro was convinced that a bomb had gone off.8
Given these testimonies to explosions in the basement levels of the towers, it is interesting that Mark Loizeaux, head of Controlled Demolition, Inc., has been quoted as saying: "If I were to bring the towers down, I would put explosives in the basement to get the weight of the building to help collapse the structure."9
Some of the testimonies suggested that more than one explosion occurred in one tower or the other. FDNY Captain Dennis Tardio, speaking of the south tower, said: "I hear an explosion and I look up. It is as if the building is being imploded, from the top floor down, one after another, boom, boom, boom."10
In June of 2002, NBC television played segments from tapes recorded on 9/11. One segment contained the following exchange, which involved firefighters in the south tower:
Firefighter Louie Cacchioli, after entering the north tower lobby and seeing elevator doors completely blown out and people being hit with debris, asked himself, "how could this be happening so quickly if a plane hit way above"? After he reached the 24th floor, he and another fireman "heard this huge explosion that sounded like a bomb [and] knocked off the lights and stalled the elevator." After they pried themselves out of the elevator, "another huge explosion like the first one hits. This one hits about two minutes later . . . [and] I'm thinking, "Oh. My God, these bastards put bombs in here like they did in 1993!"12
Multiple explosions were also reported by Teresa Veliz, who worked for a software development company in the north tower. She was on the 47th floor, she reported, when suddenly "the whole building shook. . . . [Shortly thereafter] the building shook again, this time even more violently." Then, while Veliz was making her way downstairs and outside: "There were explosions going off everywhere. I was convinced that there were bombs planted all over the place and someone was sitting at a control panel pushing detonator buttons. . . . There was another explosion. And another. I didn't know where to run."13
Steve Evans, a New York-based correspondent for the BBC, said: "I was at the base of the second tower . . . that was hit. . . . There was an explosion. . . . The base of the building shook. . . . [T]hen there was a series of explosions."14
Sue Keane, an officer in the New Jersey Fire Police Department who was previously a sergeant in the U.S. Army, said in her account of the onset of the collapse of the south tower: "[I]t sounded like bombs going off. That's when the explosions happened. . . . I knew something was going to happen. . . . It started to get dark, then all of a sudden there was this massive explosion." Then, discussing her experiences during the collapse of the north tower, she said: "[There was] another explosion. That sent me and the two firefighters down the stairs. . . . I can't tell you how many times I got banged around. Each one of those explosions picked me up and threw me. . . . There was another explosion, and I got thrown with two firefighters out onto the street."15
Wall Street Journal reporter John Bussey, describing his observation of the collapse of the south tower from the ninth floor of the WSJ office building, said: "I . . . looked up out of the office window to see what seemed like perfectly synchronized explosions coming from each floor. . . . One after the other, from top to bottom, with a fraction of a second between, the floors blew to pieces."16
Another Wall Street Journal reporter said that after seeing what appeared to be "individual floors, one after the other exploding outward," he thought: "'My God, they're going to bring the building down.' And they, whoever they are, HAD SET CHARGES. . . . I saw the explosions."17
A similar perception was reported by Beth Fertig of WNYC Radio, who said: "It just descended like a timed explosion--like when they are deliberately bringing a building down. . . . It was coming down so perfectly that in one part of my brain I was thinking, 'They got everyone out, and they're bringing the building down because they have to.'"18
A more graphic testimony to this perception was provided on the film made by the Naudet brothers. In a clip from that film, one can watch two firemen describing their experiences to other firemen.
As these illustrations show, quite impressive testimony to the occurrence of explosions in the Twin Towers existed even prior to the release of the oral histories. As we will see, however, these oral histories have made the testimony much more impressive, qualitatively as well as quantitatively. The cumulative testimony now points even more clearly than before not simply to explosions but to controlled demolition.
Testimonies in the Oral Histories Suggestive of Controlled Demolition
Several FDNY members reported that they heard an explosion just before the south tower collapsed. For example, Battalion Chief John Sudnik said that while he and others were working at the command post, "we heard a loud explosion or what sounded like a loud explosion and looked up and I saw tower two start coming down."20
Firefighter Timothy Julian said: "First I thought it was an explosion. I thought maybe there was a bomb on the plane, but delayed type of thing, you know secondary device. . . . I just heard like an explosion and then a cracking type of noise, and then it sounded like a freight train, rumbling and picking up speed, and I remember I looked up, and I saw it coming down."21
Emergency medical technician Michael Ober said: "[W]e heard a rumble, some twisting metal, we looked up in the air, and . . . it looked to me just like an explosion. It didn't look like the building was coming down, it looked like just one floor had blown completely outside of it. . . . I didn't think they were coming down. I just froze and stood there looking at it."22 Ober's testimony suggests that he heard and saw the explosion before he saw any sign that the building was coming down.
This point is made even more clearly by Chief Frank Cruthers, who said: "There was what appeared to be at first an explosion. It appeared at the very top, simultaneously from all four sides, materials shot out horizontally. And then there seemed to be a momentary delay before you could see the beginning of the collapse."23
These statements by Ober and Cruthers, indicating that there was a delay between the explosion and the beginning of the collapse, suggest that the sounds and the horizontal ejection of materials could not be attributed simply to the onset of the collapse.
Shaking Ground before the Collapse
As we saw earlier, some people in the towers reported that there were powerful
explosions in the basements. Such explosions would likely have caused the ground
According to the official account, the vibrations that people felt were produced by material from the collapsing towers hitting the ground. Penn's account, however, indicates that the shaking must have occurred several seconds before the collapse.
Shaking prior to the collapse of the north tower was described by fire patrolman Paul Curran. He was standing near it, he said, when "all of a sudden the ground just started shaking. It felt like a train was running under my feet. . . . The next thing we know, we look up and the tower is collapsing."25
Lieutenant Bradley Mann of the fire department, one of the people to witness
both collapses, described shaking prior to each of them. "Shortly before
the first tower came down," he said, "I remember feeling the ground
shaking. I heard a terrible noise, and then debris just started flying everywhere.
People started running." Then, after they had returned to the area, he
said, "we basically had the same thing: The ground shook again, and we
heard another terrible noise and the next thing we knew the second tower was
The oral histories contain numerous testimonies with reports of more than one explosion. Paramedic Kevin Darnowski, for example, said: "I started walking back up towards Vesey Street. I heard three explosions, and then we heard like groaning and grinding, and tower two started to come down."27
Gregg Brady, an emergency medical technician, reported the same thing about the north tower, saying: "I heard 3 loud explosions. I look up and the north tower is coming down now."28
Somewhat more explosions were reported by firefighter Thomas Turilli, who said, referring to the south tower, that "it almost sounded like bombs going off, like boom, boom, boom, like seven or eight."29
Even more explosions were reported by Craig Carlsen, who said that while he and other firefighters were looking up at the towers, they "heard explosions coming from building two, the south tower. It seemed like it took forever, but there were about ten explosions. . . . We then realized the building started to come down."30
As before, "pops" were reported by some witnesses. "As we are looking up at the [south tower]," said firefighter Joseph Meola, "it looked like the building was blowing out on all four sides. We actually heard the pops. Didn't realize it was the falling--you know, you heard the pops of the building. You thought it was just blowing out."31
"Pops" were also reported by paramedic Daniel Rivera in the following
Q. How did you know that it [the south tower] was coming down"
Collapse Beginning below the Strike Zone and Fire
According to the official account, the "pancaking" of the floors began when the floors above the strike zone, where the supports were weakened by the impact of the airplanes and the resulting fires, fell on the floors below. Some witnesses reported, however, that the collapse of the south tower began lower than the floors that were struck by the airliner and hence lower than the fires.
Timothy Burke reported that while he was watching flames coming out of the south tower, "the building popped, lower than the fire." He later heard a rumor that "the aviation fuel fell into the pit, and whatever floor it fell on heated up really bad, and that's why it popped at that floor." At the time, however, he said, "I was going oh, my god, there is a secondary device because the way the building popped. I thought it was an explosion."33
This same twofold observation was made by firefighter Edward Cachia, who said: "As my officer and I were looking at the south tower, it just gave. It actually gave at a lower floor, not the floor where the plane hit. . . . [W]e originally had thought there was like an internal detonation, explosives, because it went in succession, boom, boom, boom, boom, and then the tower came down."34
Other Indications of Controlled Demolition
Some witnesses reported other phenomena, beyond explosions, suggestive of controlled demolition.
The Appearance of Implosion: When a building close to other buildings is brought down by controlled demolition, as mentioned earlier, it typically implodes and hence comes straight down into, or at least close to, its own footprint, so that it does not fall over on surrounding structures.
As we saw above in the accounts that were previously available, both police and fire officials were quoted as saying that the towers seemed to implode. This perception was also stated in the oral history of Lieutenant James Walsh, who said: "The [north tower] didn't fall the way you would think tall buildings would fall. Pretty much it looked like it imploded on itself."35
Flashes: Another common feature of controlled demolitions is that people who are properly situated may see flashes when the explosives go off. Assistant Commissioner Stephen Gregory said: "I thought . . . before . . . No. 2 came down, that I saw low-level flashes. . . . Lieutenant Evangelista . . . asked me if I saw low-level flashes in front of the building, and I agreed with him because I . . . saw a flash flash flash . . . [at] the lower level of the building. You know like when they demolish a building, how when they blow up a building, when it falls down? That's what I thought I saw."36
Flashes were reported in the north tower by Captain Karin Deshore, who said: "Somewhere around the middle of the World Trade Center, there was this orange and red flash coming out. Initially it was just one flash."37
Demolition Rings: At this point, Deshore's account moved to another standard phenomenon seen by those who watch controlled demolitions: explosion rings, in which a series of explosions runs rapidly around a building. Deshore's next words were: "Then this flash just kept popping all the way around the building and that building had started to explode. The popping sound, and with each popping sound it was initially an orange and then a red flash came out of the building and then it would just go all around the building on both sides as far as I could see. These popping sounds and the explosions were getting bigger, going both up and down and then all around the building."38
An explosion ring (or belt) was also described by firefighter Richard Banaciski. Speaking of the south tower, he said: "[T]here was just an explosion. It seemed like on television [when] they blow up these buildings. It seemed like it was going all the way around like a belt, all these explosions."39
A description of what appeared to be a ring of explosions was also given by Deputy Commissioner Thomas Fitzpatrick, who said: "We looked up at the [south tower] . . . . All we saw was a puff of smoke coming from about 2 thirds of the way up . . . . It looked like sparkling around one specific layer of the building. . . . My initial reaction was that this was exactly the way it looks when they show you those implosions on TV."40
Horizontal Ejections: Another feature of controlled demolition, at least when quite powerful explosives are used, is that things are ejected horizontally from the floors on which the explosions occur. Such ejections were mentioned in the testimony of Chief Frank Cruthers above. Similarly, Captain Jay Swithers said: "I took a quick glance at the building and while I didn't see it falling, I saw a large section of it blasting out, which led me to believe it was just an explosion."41
Firefighter James Curran said: "When I got underneath the north bridge I looked back and . . . I heard like every floor went chu-chu-chu. Looked back and from the pressure everything was getting blown out of the floors before it actually collapsed."42
Battalion Chief Brian Dixon said: "I was . . . hearing a noise and looking up. . . . [T]he lowest floor of fire in the south tower actually looked like someone had planted explosives around it because . . . everything blew out on the one floor. I thought, geez, this looks like an explosion up there, it blew out."43
These reports by Curran and Dixon conform to what can be seen by looking at photographs and videos of the collapses, which show that various materials, including sections of steel and aluminum, were blown out hundreds of feet.44 Such powerful ejections of materials are exactly what would be expected from explosions powerful enough to cause such huge buildings to collapse.
Dust Clouds: The most visible material ejected horizontally from buildings during controlled demolition, especially buildings with lots of concrete, is dust, which forms more or less expansive dust clouds. Some of the testimonies about the collapse of the south tower mention that it produced an enormous amount of dust, which formed clouds so big and thick that they blocked out all light.
Firefighter Stephen Viola said: "You heard like loud booms . . . and then we got covered with rubble and dust, and I thought we'd actually fallen through the floor . . . because it was so dark you couldn't see anything."45
Firefighter Angel Rivera said: "That's when hell came down. It was like a huge, enormous explosion. . . . The wind rushed. . . , all the dust. . . and everything went dark."46
Lieutenant William Wall said: "[W]e heard an explosion. We looked up and the building was coming down right on top of us. . . . We ran a little bit and then we were overtaken by the cloud."47
Paramedic Louis Cook said that after the debris started falling, "everything went black" and "you couldn't breathe because [of] all the dust. There was just an incredible amount of dust and smoke." He then found that there was, "without exaggerating, a foot and a half of dust on [his] car."48
The kind of dust clouds typically produced during a controlled demolition can be seen on videos of the demolition of Seattle's Kingdome and the Reading Grain Facility.49 If these videos are then compared with photos and videos of the collapses of the Twin Towers,50 it can be seen that the dust clouds in the latter are even bigger.51
Timed or Synchronized Explosions: Some people said that the collapses had the appearance of timed, synchronized demolitions. Battalion Chief Dominick DeRubbio, speaking of the collapse of the south tower, said: "It was weird how it started to come down. It looked like it was a timed explosion."52
Firefighter Kenneth Rogers said: "[T]here was an explosion in the south tower. . . . I kept watching. Floor after floor after floor. One floor under another after another and when it hit about the fifth floor, I figured it was a bomb, because it looked like a synchronized deliberate kind of thing. I was there in '93."53
Debates about Controlled Demolition
Given so many signs that the buildings had been brought down by controlled demolition, we might expect that debates about this issue would have taken place. And they did.
Firefighter Christopher Fenyo, after describing events that occurred after the first collapse, said: "At that point, a debate began to rage because. . . many people had felt that possibly explosives had taken out 2 World Trade, and officers were gathering companies together and the officers were debating whether or not to go immediately back in or to see what was going to happen with 1 World Trade at that point. The debate ended pretty quickly because 1 World Trade came down."54
Firefighter William Reynolds reported on a conversation he had with a battalion chief: "I said, 'Chief, they're evacuating the other building; right'" He said, 'No.' . . . I said, 'Why not' They blew up the other one.' I thought they blew it up with a bomb. I said, 'If they blew up the one, you know they're gonna blow up the other one.' He said, 'No, they're not.' I said, 'Well, you gotta tell them to evacuate it, because it's gonna fall down and you gotta get the guys out.' . . . He said, 'I'm just the Battalion Chief. I can't order that.' . . . I said, 'You got a fucking radio and you got a fucking mouth. Use the fucking things. Empty this fucking building.' Again he said, 'I'm just a Battalion Chief. I can't do that.' . . . Eventually this other chief came back and said, 'They are evacuating this tower.' . . . And sometime after that . . . I watched the north tower fall."55
As both accounts suggest, the perception that the south tower had been brought down by explosives may have resulted in fewer lives being lost in the north tower collapse than would otherwise have been the case.
If so many witnesses reported effects that seemed to be produced by explosives, with some of them explicitly saying that the collapses appeared to be cases of controlled demolition, why is this testimony not public knowledge? Part of the answer, as I mentioned at the outset, is that the city of New York refused to release it until forced to do so by the highest court of the state of New York
But why did we have to wait for this court-ordered release to learn about these testimonies? Should not they have been discussed in The 9/11 Commission Report, which was issued over a year earlier? This Report, we are told in the preface, sought "to provide the fullest possible account of the events surrounding 9/11." Why does it not include any of the testimony in the 9/11 oral histories suggestive of controlled demolition?
The answer cannot be that the Commission did not know about these oral histories. Although "[t]he city also initially refused access to the records to investigators from . . . the 9/11 Commission," Jim Dwyer of the New York Times tells us, it "relented when legal action was threatened."56 So the Commission could have discussed the testimonies about explosions in the oral histories. It also, in order to help educate the public, could have called some of the firefighters and medical workers to repeat their testimony during one of the Commission's public hearings. But it did not.
Why, we may wonder, have the firefighters and medical workers not been speaking out? At least part of the reason may be suggested by a statement made by Auxiliary Lieutenant Fireman Paul Isaac. Having said that "there were definitely bombs in those buildings," Isaac added that "many other firemen know there were bombs in the buildings, but they're afraid for their jobs to admit it because the 'higher-ups' forbid discussion of this fact."57
Would we not expect, however, that a few courageous members of the fire department would have contacted the 9/11 Commission to tell their story? Indeed. But telling their story to the Commission was no guarantee that it would find its way into the final report---as indicated by the account of one fireman who made the effort.
Firefighter Louie Cacchioli, who was quoted earlier, testified in 2004 to members of the Commission's staff. But, he reported, they were so unreceptive that he ended up walking out in anger. "I felt like I was being put on trial in a court room," said Cacchioli. "They were trying to twist my words and make the story fit only what they wanted to hear. All I wanted to do was tell the truth and when they wouldn't let me do that, I walked out."58
That Cacchioli's experience was not atypical is suggested by janitor William Rodriguez, whose testimony was also quoted earlier. Although Rodriguez was invited to the White House as a National Hero for his rescue efforts on 9/11, he was, he said, treated quite differently by the Commission: "I met with the 9/11 Commission behind closed doors and they essentially discounted everything I said regarding the use of explosives to bring down the north tower."59
When reading The 9/11 Commission Report, one will not find the name of Cacchioli, or Rodriguez, or anyone else reporting explosions in the towers. It would appear that the Commission deliberately withheld this information, as it apparently did with regard to Able Danger60 and many other things that should have been included in "the fullest possible account of the events surrounding 9/11."61
The definitive report about the collapse of the towers was to have been provided by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). According to Rodriguez, however, this investigative body was equally uninterested in his testimony: "I contacted NIST . . . four times without a response. Finally, [at a public hearing] I asked them before they came up with their conclusion . . . if they ever considered my statements or the statements of any of the other survivors who heard the explosions. They just stared at me with blank faces."62
In light of this report of NIST's response, it is not surprising to find that its final report, which in the course of supporting the official story about the collapses ignores many vital issues,63 makes no mention of reports of explosions and other phenomena suggestive of controlled demolition.
It is sometimes said that the mandate of an official commission is, by definition, to support the official story. Insofar as that is true, it is not surprising that neither NIST nor the 9/11 Commission saw fit to discuss testimony suggestive of explosions in the Twin Towers, since this testimony is in strong tension with the official story.
At least most of those who offered this testimony did not, to be sure, mean to challenge the most important element in the official story about 9/11, which is that the attacks were entirely the work of foreign terrorists. For example, firefighter Timothy Julian, after saying that he "thought it was an explosion," added: "I thought maybe there was a bomb on the plane, but delayed type of thing, you know secondary device."64 Assistant Commissioner James Drury said: "I thought the terrorists planted explosives somewhere in the building."65
The problem, however, is that a bomb delivered by a plane, or even a few explosives planted "somewhere in the building," would not explain the many phenomena suggestive of controlled demolition, such as explosion rings and other features indicating that the explosions were "synchronized" and otherwise "timed." As Mark Loizeaux, the head of Controlled Demolition, Inc., has explained, "to bring [a building] down as we want, so no one or no other structure is harmed," the demolition must be "completely planned." One needs "the right explosive [and] the right pattern of laying the charges."66
The 9/11 oral histories, therefore, create a difficult question for those who defend the official story: How could al-Qaeda terrorists have gotten access to the Twin Towers for all the hours required to place all the explosives needed to bring down buildings of that size? It is primarily because they force this question that the testimony about explosions in the towers is itself explosive.
David Ray Griffin is professor emeritus of philosophy of religion and theology at the Claremont School of Theology and Claremont Graduate University, where he taught 31 years. He has published some 30 books, including The New Pearl Harbor: Disturbing Questions about the Bush Administration and 9/11 (Interlink Books, 2004) and The 9/11 Commission Report: Omissions and Distortions (Interlink Books, 2005).
(c) David Ray Griffin.
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