I have watched the Freefall: Explosive Evidence -- Experts Speak Out DVD, a presentation of arguments for why the investigation of the 911 collapse of three buildings should be re-opened, and why what the official investigation said could not have been true. It is well produced. I agree with the first part but not with the second. I will explain this and why I think so many do not accept the official version of those events. Then I will conclude with my own thoughts on why there is so much controversy over the events.
First I need to say that as the “911 truth” movement grew, I tended to agree with them. I signed petitions asking for further or re-opened investigations because I thought Giuliani and the Bush administration blew it. I am counted among the large number of people who doubt or have questions about 911. But –
911 was a unique and tragic event. It was another event like the JFK assassination. Almost no one could have believed beforehand that these things could happen as they were explained. These events shook us up. In these events we learned to distrust our military, intelligence and police agencies, officials and experts of all sorts, and the media that reported them. Someone on the DVD says “We know we’ve been lied to about other things, so we must have been lied to about this.” I understand this feeling, but it is not a logical, scientific conclusion.
Immediately after 911, I think that not only the public, but government officials and experts were shaken. At first we thought maybe 10-20,000 people must have died. It was weeks later that the actual number of ~2,744 became known. The attitude of officials was: We must look like we know what we are doing, like we know everything that has happened and how and why. We must respond quickly with decisiveness and purpose to serve the public good (and preserve our political positions). Therefore, a massive hunt for survivors and then bodies or body parts was launched. A plan for removal of debris was set in motion. Even the piles of girders and other debris in NJ were offensive to the public. (I saw numerous stories about this on TV news.) There may be body parts in the debris, so let’s get rid of it. Sell it off to China. People are upset, so let’s launch a huge program to sell people cars at unheard of bargain prices. (Throughout the fall and winter, car sales surged.) Let’s get those who done it, so a massive bombing program against the Taliban in Afghanistan was planned and (literally) executed. This made sense even to many if not most liberals and Democrats. (It was easy to make war on a primitive country like Afghanistan without seriously weighing the morality of it.) What I am saying is that many of the mistakes made in the initial investigation are understandable in the context of the events and the aftermath.
A conspiracy is a secret plot. There are many such plots in business, government, churches, and all manner of organizations. They usually involve only a few people, otherwise they are easily uncovered. There usually is a paper trail and phone and email records. When the assassin(s) or perpetrators die in the event, suspicions increase greatly, because there is no one to question or confess. There is not necessarily a conspiracy behind every botched investigation and every complicated evil deed. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.
“There is no satisfying scientific study” someone says on the DVD. I understand and accept how that could come to be. There is a lot of science to consider. The means to conduct such investigations are difficult after the fact. There will be disagreements among experts. A full investigation would cost many billions of dollars, and still would likely be judged incomplete or inconclusive by many.
I had trouble last month with the drain for my washing machine. It began to back up. The drain had been problematic before. It is a gray water drain system only for the kitchen sink and the laundry. It used to gurgle in the kitchen when the laundry was being done. A plumber installed a simple PVC “vent” on the drain pipe into which the washing machine drains. Now it seemed not to be working. So I went online to read about plumbing codes and practices and solutions re laundry drains and vents. Wow. There are multiple forums on the web on which hundreds of plumbers argue about such things. Many plumbers with opposing viewpoints claimed “It is just a matter of simple physics! Here is what you do and how you do it!” Only they disagreed. On one extreme are plumbers who require a vent on every drain in the house; on the other are those who argue that in Europe and Australia there are no such vents and no problems. Others argued over how long the vent pipe had to be and where in the line it should be installed. No agreement. I concluded that science isn’t exactly science or what I thought it to be. There is a lot that is not settled.
This experience comes to mind when I hear the experts who argue about whether the buildings came down in freefall or not, and whether a jet fuel fire can be hot enough to melt steel, etc. I think that no one was there who can tell us. There is no video showing what needs to be seen to make the necessary conclusions. It may be that no building has collapsed from a fire, but it is also true that no buildings like the twin tower ever were targeted by 767's loaded with fuel. So we cannot know. There will always be in such events “evidence omitted.” There will never be “unbiased scientific evidence and witnesses” considered to satisfy everyone. Yes, there was evidence not considered, and evidence too quickly destroyed. This is more likely because of incompetence in responding to a huge and unique event, than it is because of a conspiracy to withhold evidence.
Building 7 has always puzzled me. The questions are many about this, but now there are websites and videos showing pictures of the back side of the building that were not much seen in the years immediately after the event. A great deal of material from the towers landed on this building and tore into the back side. Also, the pulverized concrete and metal that blew out sideways at street level directly tore into building 7. There are recordings and testimony from many firemen and others on the scene that make it clear that they knew the building would fall sometime that day. There are at least as many engineers and architects who accept the way they fell as there are who don’t. I watched another video on a website that shows calculations that do not show free fall as if there were nothing to impede the falling. I for one do not expect “hesitation” when 40 and more upper falls are landing on floors below. The normal course of the buildings falling looks to me as it should, once one considers the damage.
A logical jump to quickly state a conclusion is repeated. What we saw “could only have been a controlled demolition.” From this the supposition is made that someone could get access to the core of each building unseen, and set demolitions. One statement got my attention: “I’ve never seen anything like it. Had to have been explosives.” Several witnesses concluded that it must have been what they thought it looked or sounded like: explosives. At the end of the video one witness considers many claims and concludes: “To me it means explosion.”
In the last third of the DVD, there is a lot said about psychology and emotion that explains much to me:
“It is difficult for us to come to terms with the official conclusions.”
“We were secure and then we weren’t.”
“We respond to such events with fear and anxiety.”
“There are a lot of things that are not as we think or thought they were.”
“It had a traumatic impact on all of us.”
These things are exactly true. What we conclude as a result is another matter. A narrator says “If we open Pandora’s box it challenges all the things we believe about the world.” Definitely. I think our view of the world was changed forever that day. But not in the direction of not believing that 19 extremist Muslims, mostly Saudi, trained in Afghanistan, pulled it off.
I have great respect for David Ray Griffin. I read and used some of his work about process theology. He is right about empire and American exceptionalism. Sadly, he contradicts many things about which he wrote in the decades before 911. He used to be suspicious of notions that science could solve all problems. Now he thinks he knows how buildings do or do not fall.
One person says “We couldn’t believe it (both the event itself and the official report) Why do people have so much trouble hearing our challenges - our truths?” Another says “We need to educate other people about this!” They are upset that everyone doesn’t agree with them and contradict their newly adopted worldview. As a trained Biblical student and theologian, I thought of great Biblical and other historical events and how they have been seen by different folks after the fact. I saw the church fill up with people in the days after 911 and then empty out. The rise of the “nones” and of atheists in the decade following are a direct response to the event. As a nation we are living most visibly within what Bellah called “the Broken Covenant.” I preached about how our implicit sacred contract had been broken: America was great. We had an agreement with God. We would fight to defend Jesus and the American Way (our version of the Kingdom of God or the Beloved Community), and God would protect us. After 911 it was easy to see that no one protected us from all the potential evils in the world. And we were blind to see that we created or set up the event by how we had treated Muslim, middle-eastern peoples in the last century.
The pleas are made in the DVD: “There is no trace of 1000 victims; why don’t we know? There needs to be identification!” Yes, 1,000 were pulverized or vaporized. Their remains will never be identified. What about our identification? Who are we now? This is a deep, existential problem that we are doing nothing to answer! O yes, we are. We are challenging the official narrative of what happened, and this is something.
“We need to heal; we need justice; we will never forget!” Yes. “Science can solve this!” No. “We have to have a new investigation; we have to know what happened!” We know enough but we will never know it all. We are very bad at living with ambiguity and uncertainty.
Ed Asner narrates a 15 minute documentary on this DVD in which the following logic is given:
The fall of the buildings looks like controlled demolition.
Controlled demolition requires months of planning.
Therefore, the 911 events (not the hijacking of airplanes, but the fall of the buildings) were planned and carried out after much planning and preparation.
I've seen the theories here about thermite and I am not convinced.