Tuesday, May 29, 2007

9/11 blasts still echo in tangled files

Draft 2: Energy estimate revised.
Please write to prconant@gmail.com to report errors or amplifications. Thanks.

Copyright May 2007
A Znewz1 special report

More than five years after the 9/11 attacks, official records offer a mixed bag for those concerned about reports of explosions in the twin towers.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology, which investigated the collapse of the World Trade Center towers, is withholding most of its data concerning the explosions it investigated, and transcripts of police tapes released to the public are largely missing recording times, thus impeding analysis of specific explosion reports.

The issue of explosions has been a long-running area of contention between federal authorities and a number of private inquirers, some of them professors with science degrees.

In 2005, the NIST suggested that the various explosions in both towers recorded on the abundant video and still photos at its disposal were due either to pools of jet fuel going off or to debris falling inside as collapse ensued.

However, the NIST did not publish photos of the explosions, nor did it give a table of blasts by window, floor and time, making it impossible to assess the agency's scientific method.

Internet tapes show a series of bright flashes occurring in one tower fractions of a second ahead of the collapsing exterior, seeming to go off roughly in a downward spiral pattern. Of course, net videos are not necessarily reliable, in that both data compression and possible tampering are issues. However, the video appears to be in some agreement with the recollection of a Port Authority policeman who was in the street below.

The sudden, short-lived bursts of light on the video are not at all reminiscent of the jet-fuel fireballs that burst from upper floors after the jets struck. Unlike the short-lived light bursts from within the building, those fireballs are fiery, irregular and of longer duration.

Though it is possible that pockets of jet fuel escaped the general conflagration initially and caught fire later, perhaps resulting in large blasts, the bursts of light all occurred on widely separated floors within fractions of a second of each other. So it would appear to defy normal odds that these widely dispersed "pools of jet fuel" would all ignite in such a compact manner. Again, however, neither the NIST nor the FBI, which controlled the criminal investigation, has released the data that would tend to clear up questions.

Last month presidential aspirant Rudolph Giuliani, who was in the mayoral disaster command post in Manhattan that day, has said a TV broadcast of one of the tower collapses left him astounded. Though, he said, gradual and partial collapses were expected, he was shocked to witness an "implosion" followed by total, rapid and symmetrical collapse.

Giuliani has been sharply questioned by people who wonder why, if he expected collapse, he didn't order all rescue workers out of the buildings. Fire officials have said the collapses were unexpected.

A review of Port Authority records released to the press in 2004 and recorded at Memoryhole.org has turned up the following facts:

. An explosion reported by William Rodriguez, now a 9/11 activist, in a sub-basement is substantiated by police records, but there is insufficient evidence to warrant the conclusion that that explosion resulted from a bomb.

. Police Officer Sue Keane told of a major explosion while she was rescuing people in Tower 1. She is reported to have radioed the police desk about an explosion long after the jets had struck the towers but well before the collapse of Tower 2, the first to fall. Her overall report tends to be corroborated by other police eyewitnesses.

. In a number of Port Authority police reports, a major explosion experienced from within Tower 1 is attributed to a shockwave from the collapse of Tower 2. The smaller explosions are attributed to the noise of falling bodies striking the pavement or lower parts of the building.

. Except for the case of Keane, the Port Authority police data make it very difficult to pin down specific times of many of the important events, even though transcripts of inconsequential tapes from LaGuardia International Airport give real-time tape times at frequent, regular intervals.

. Though the NIST in 2005 conceded -- if not in its main report -- the numerous explosions prior to collapse, only a few of the various accounts from policemen outside mention explosions, which were loud and caused people to turn around to look.

. No transcripts from John F. Kennedy International Airport were released to Memoryhole, though P.A. police stationed at JFK rushed to the scene. The names and statements of federal officials, possibly military, who took command at Newark International Airport have been deleted from police tape transcripts.

. Aside from time data missing, the bulk of the transcripts appear to have blocks of recorded data missing. Sometimes asterisks are used between blocks, but without explanation. Sometimes no asterisks are used but the continuity makes no sense. A number of conversations are duplicates found at different phones and radio channels. Though sometimes a microphone might pick up office chatter or a someone speaking into another mike, the duplications raise questions as to whether the material was padded to conceal the fact that so much is missing. The Port Authority resisted release of the records, citing privacy concerns. However, since the FBI controlled the investigation, it is quite possible the bureau vetoed the release of much data.

. Though the Port Authority released records that might have an emotional value, it released no extensive official investigative reports, saying that the FBI held the lead. A number of personal memoirs of officers, most submitted months after 9/11, were released but most hard police data are missing. It should be noted that much of the P.A. police command was wiped out that day.

. The records contain very little about police activity in Tower 2, which was struck by the second plane.

It should also be remarked that though the NIST agrees that large explosions preceded the collapses, the blasts do not figure prominently in the agency's collapse scenario because jet fuel explosions would not yield enough energy to do the type of structural damage that would bring about collapse. Hence, the NIST implies that the explosions immediately preceding collapse occurred as coincidental flukes in each tower.

[See How did the twin towers fall? Questions remain, a 2005 Znewz1 report on the NIST's analysis, at http://www.angelfire.com/ult/znewz1/wtc.html. The link to that article has been removed from Wikipedia's 9/11 conspiracy page.]

Following are various accounts of explosions:

Blast in sub-basement

William Rodriguez, then a maintenance worker for ABM Industries, has said publicly that he was in an office on sub-basement level B2 or B3 in Tower 1 when a loud explosion rocked him from below, followed immediately by another explosion from above. The fact of the basement explosion is confirmed by police accounts, but the time element is vague. Later, federal investigators will decide that the explosion occurred in the sub-basement after a fireball from the jet crash dropped down an elevator shaft.

Rodriguez, now a 9/11 truth activist, is convinced that his memory did not play tricks on him. He recalls rescuing two people from an elevator, a recollection that is partly substantiated by records of police activity. If the fireball idea is right, he asks, "Why weren't [the] two people I rescued burned to death?"

Rodriguez' recollection of two explosions is mirrored by that of Detective Michael S. Shuhala, who was on Tower 1's Floor 77 when the first plane struck. Shuhala said he heard two explosions in rapid succession, which he later interpreted as the jet's impact followed by exploding fuel tanks.

Also, various witnesses reported fire erupting on floors well below the impact zone shortly after the jet struck, and Sergeant Alan T. DeVona, racing to the doorway of Building 5, which housed a police station, reported there were "fireballs raining down" onto the trade center plaza.

Ed Calderone of the Operations Command Center reported, "I got word that there's an explosion down on B4. We got people hurt down there, B4."

A police log, which may not always have precise times, says that at
8:53 a.m. an officer with badge number 41 "radios WTC Police Desk reporting an explosion on the lower level" but the dispatcher thinks the caller is referring to the explosion on the upper levels caused, as it turns out, by the jet which struck Tower 1 at 8:46:30 a.m. At 9:01 a.m., Officers Uhuru Houston, Clinton Davis Sr. and Michael T. Wholey -- who were all killed that day -- were dispatched to evacuate level B4. A 9:12 entry says the officers were told of trapped ABM workers on B4.

One transcript has Officer 33 and another cop rushing to the B4 level on report of a cave-in and people trapped.

At some point, Officer 33 radios: "There's also been a cave-in at the platform of the PATH plaza... There's a live electrical and water running. Turn off the power in that area." The PATH subway station was directly under the tower.

A bit later, says an anonymous transcriber, there are "explosions heard over radio." It is the channel used by Officer 33.

A maintenance dispatcher was told, "Yeah, we need the electrician down to the B5 level. We also have a smoke condition down here."

Another transmission: "Do you have another unit to respond to the B4 level...because the water pipes have broken down in that location.

A cop radios in that an EMS rescue worker has suffered minor injuries and burns due to a falling elevator but in general the electrical, maintenance and elevator employees seem to know nothing about crashed elevators in Tower 1, though firemen were unable to use them because of fear they would crash.

On the other hand, Teresa Veliz, a manager for a software firm, thought she heard an elevator cut loose. She is quoted as saying that the jet struck while she was in an upper-floor ladies room, adjacent to a Tower 1 elevator shaft. "I thought it was an earthquake. Then I heard this noise on the other side of the wall. I thought, someone has cut the elevator cables. It just fell and fell."

Veliz is quoted in Sept. 11: an oral history by Dean E. Murphy, according to Memoryhole.

It is not clear that an elevator shaft fireball would have triggered a subway station cave-in but there seems to be little advantage in detonating a bomb so far in advance of the collapse of Tower 1.

Detective Shuhala, who was in the inspector general's office 77 floors up, called in to report that, following an explosion, "the elevator shafts are on fire." Another caller, an Officer Lim, said that jet fuel was burning on the 51st floor, far below where the jet struck.

Soon after the jet hit Tower 1, several employees of the P.A.'s Security Command Center, which oversaw security guards, reported a fire outside their offices on floor 22. The employees were trapped by a door that wouldn't budge.

Roger Fernandez, whose relationship with police seems to have been confidential, reported that after the jet struck he and others fled the 13th floor down Stairwell E but were turned back by a "large cloud of smoke with an odor of fuel" that "rapidly ascended" from below. Later it occurred to him that "the clear liquid that was streaming outside our windows was not water but jet fuel."

He noticed that fire alarms weren't working and that the fire warden phones were dead.

Shuhala, who delayed his departure from Tower 1 to engage in rescue efforts, reported similar experiences. Working his way down Stairway A, he found that the stairwell was choked with smoke at intervals of two or three floors. "It was most surprising that the fire alarms and strobe lights were not activated," he commented.

Violent explosion in Tower 1

A police log records that, at 9:33 a.m., Officer Sue Keane reports from Stairway C, Floor 66, that she has heard an explosion. This explosion can't be from the collapse of Tower 2, which fell at 9:58:59 a.m.

Keane recalled months later that during Tower 1 rescue operations on Floor 6, she heard the second aircraft hit Tower 2, followed by a sequence of explosions "one after another, or like a train coming fast." The second plane struck Tower 2 at 9:02:59.

Keane, who had a hard time pulling her memories together, described "the area" going "completely black." It seems plausible that this blast is the one reported at 9:33.
Keane said debris, concrete dust and human remains were everywhere.

At one point there was an "eerie silence and it was like you knew something was going to happen," she said, adding, "There just seemed to be one explosion after another."

At 9:36 there is a transmission that the trade center police command post is moving from the Tower 1 lobby to the World Financial Center. Whether this shift occurred after a report of a horrific blast in Tower 1's lobby is not clear.

The police log was kept at the Police Desk in Building 5 of the trade center complex. The log records that radio communications went out at 9:53, five minutes ahead of Tower 2's collapse, though the time entry may be in error (on the other hand, the entry recording DeVona's report of Tower 2's collapse is accurate to within one minute). In general, radio and cell phone communications were lost once the aerial from Tower 2 went down.

Other cops in Tower 1 reported experiences similar to Keane's.

Officer Joseph D. Szczepanski said he was in Tower 1's main concourse blocking evacuees from taking escalators to lower levels when he heard a sudden crash and saw electrical flashes and "huge" four-foot sections of steel and concrete coming through the ceiling of the lobby. Several dozen office workers and cops in a stairwell corridor were "instantly crushed," he said.

A furious wind ripped down that corridor into the lobby, tossing people into the air, he recalled.

Upon being struck with debris and body parts, Szczepanski rolled over the escalator wall and dropped onto the stairs. While he was huddled against a wall, "there was another loud crash, and then complete silence."

Like others, Szczepanski later came to believe that this lobby explosion was the shockwave from the collapse of Tower 2. However, it is unclear whether that shockwave was enough to make steel support beams at the base of Tower 1 give out.

A cop near Szczepanski, Officer Eric Bulger, said that "the whole place seemed to cave in." The flashlight-wielding Bulger led some 30 people from the lobby rubble out through a Borders bookstore. Among them was Teresa Veliz, who recalled that during her harrowing escape, "there were explosions going off everywhere."

She told Murphy: "I was convinced that there were bombs planted all over the place and someone was sitting at a control panel hitting detonator buttons."

However, though one officer said the sound of explosions came from bodies hitting the pavement, a number of cops reported on the many bodies landing without mentioning associated explosions. Those who first raced to the scene, well before either tower collapsed, reported that the plaza was hazardous due to falling bodies, but said nothing of explosions.

Adding to the confusion, gunshots rang out just after Tower 2 fell, several cops said. It turned out that one officer in the path of the fast-advancing dust cloud had shot out a window in order to reach cover.

Also, a Post Office worker feverishly drew officers to a group of Postal Service trucks that had been damaged by explosions that blew outward from within the trucks. Police later theorized that the blasts had been caused by fuel tanks exploding during Tower 2's collapse. However, this is the only Port Authority report of fuel tanks exploding, though there were many vehicles in the vicinity.

One transmission made after a jetliner struck Tower 2 includes these words: "There's fucking explosions going off on Vesey Street. There is debris coming down."

Lieutenant Anthony Fitzgerald said he was near Tower 2 taking a quick roll call when he heard "loud explosion type" sounds. He looked about and realized the explosive noises were from bodies hitting the pavement and lower building elements. Shortly thereafter, Tower 2 collapsed with a roar, he said.

Like other survivors of the Tower 1 blast, Bulger says that Tower 2 fell sometime after the escape from Tower 1. However, it is likely that officers were referring to the second tower that fell, which was Tower 1 (sometimes called Tower A).

At about Floor 15, Shuhala recalled, "The building started to vibrate and shake. I heard loud explosions and rumbling in the background."

The stairwell shifted and emitted a groan of tortured metal, but then twisted back into place, the detective recalled. The lights, which at this point were working, went out and the stairwell filled with smoke and dust, he said, noting that firemen dropped their gear and fled downward.

Upon reaching the lobby, Shuhala, who had an elderly woman on his arm, had to instruct her to take her eyes off the gore-splattered, ash-covered lobby and keep moving.

Officer M. Simons similarly reported that he was in Tower 1 when he saw the metal frame of the structural stairwell start to buckle at the top, prompting him to shout: "This building's coming down!"

The twisting was immediately followed by a "tremendous rumble and an extremely high-force wind that pushed me into the stairwell.

Officer Jame E. Hall recalled that what he took to be the collapse of Tower 2 blew in Tower 1's windows and knocked out all electrical power, with smoke rising up the stairwell that he and others were traveling down.

Lieutenant John V. Kassimatis was in the Tower 1 lobby near an escalator "when I started to hear this roar that just became louder and louder." Chandeliers swayed and began breaking up, followed by a rain of debris, he said. "I saw people being picked up and slammed against the concrete wall" along with flying glass, steel and concrete, he remembered. His impression was that debris from Tower 2 had blown into Tower 1's lobby.

Like cops in Tower 1, officers in Building 5 reported that the collapse of Tower 2 knocked out power, but unlike officers in Tower 1, they said nothing about a violent explosion ripping through the building and killing occupants. Detective Richard Paugh, who was in Building 5, said he was "unaware that what we actually felt and heard was the collapse" of Tower 2. Later that morning, however, Building 5 along with Building 4 were reported to have sustained heavy damage from the crash of Tower 2.

According to this writer's calculations, the collapse of a tower would have released at least 550 tera-joules of energy, a number consistent with a massive explosion. However, the energy was released over a period of 10 to 15 seconds, meaning the explosive yield would have been far less than if the energy were released all at once. The blast energy would dissipate rapidly, falling off by the square of the inverse of the distance.

Though the possibility remains that enough force was channeled into Tower 1 to do structural damage, each tower was designed to withstand great lateral stresses and each was much stronger at the base, raising a question of whether the crash of Tower 2 was sufficient to break steel supports and twist stairwells in Tower 1.

Sergeant Conrad W. Kruegen, who was conducting a floor-by-floor search for people who hadn't evacuated, was in a Tower 1 stairwell when "there was a tremendous explosion" that knocked him off his feet and showered him with debris.

Officer Shawn Fitzpatrick was in Tower 1 when he heard some explosions, possibly from Tower 2's collapse. "I got to Banana Republic and felt the whole building start shaking. I also heard a loud noise that I can't even explain." The noise got louder and louder and the shaking got more intense, he said.

Officer Anthony L. Croce was in the Tower 1 mezzanine-lobby when he heard an "incredible" noise. "It was like being in an earthquake or under a thousand L-trains all at once."

As violent vibrations "ran through me," an "incredible force of wind and debris crashed through the mezzanine." Then, he said, all went dark.

Officer P. Lucas on Floor 24 felt Tower 1 shake so violently he thought death was certain.

Explosions seen from street

In the street near Tower 2 was Sergeant Thomas Marter Jr. who, upon hearing a "tremendous explosion," looked up to see Tower 2 "snap at the top and collapse into itself." Videotape of the collapse appears to accord with his recollection, although some have suggested that the initial blast of smoke was ejected by cave-in or possibly by jet fuel. At any rate, the explosion was loud enough to make him look up.

After escaping the bedlam of that collapse, said Marter, "We saw another tremendous explosion and saw Building 1 collapse."

Detective Thomas M. Inman, who was near Tower 2 at West and Vesey streets said the building fell "after a secondary explosion on the west side of the tower that appeared to take place in the high sixties." The block above that explosion then tilted over and collapse ensued, the detective said.

Detective Wilfred Barriere, who was still dazed from the crash of Tower 2, recalled hearing a loud explosion from Tower 1, accompanied by a shout of warning. Moments later a very large chunk of the building crashed to the ground, he said.

Another witness, Officer A. Middleton, said he was about a block from Tower 1, when Tower 2 appeared to explode between the rooftop and one of the upper floors. A fireball shot out the windows and the building collapsed with a roar, he said.

After coping with the blast of dust, he stationed himself to turn people away from Tower 1. During an interval of about 15 minutes "periodically, you would hear a loud boom going off at the top of Tower 1," he said.

"Suddenly there was a loud boom on the upper floors" followed by a "series of smaller explosions which appeared to go completely around the building at the upper floors," Middleton said. A "loud, earth-shattering blast" and huge fireball belching from the tower prompted everyone to flee, he added. His account agrees to some extent with the video showing a fast series of bursts of light twisting around one of the towers.

Detective Rex Nafey was in the Building 5 police station when all power blinked out. Immediately there came a loud rumbling and explosion and the area filled with smoke and debris. Outside, he looked up and saw smoke and flames belching from Tower 2, which at this point had a "huge section of floors missing."

Sometime after Tower 2 crashed, Nafey "heard metal creaking." It was Tower 1 buckling from the top. It appeared that the "north and west ends of the building were twisting and separating like a banana peel."

Similarly, Detective Sergeant Raymond diLena witnessed two corners of Tower 1 "pull away from the building at opposing angles and the building start to come straitght down."

FBI bomb unit en route

An FBI bomb unit is known to have gone to the scene, but the FBI has been relatively closemouthed about its findings. Port Authority police sent a number of cops with dogs to the scene. At least one was a cadaver dog and at least one was a bomb-sniffing dog.

Sergeant Kevin Cottrell said he toured the area with his bomb-sniffing dog but Cottrell did not make public his findings, though one is left to assume that he detected nothing.

The Port Authority police make only a few references to Building 7 which collapsed at 5:20 p.m., reputedly as a result of fire and structural damage sustained in the collapse of the twin towers. The police say they were ordered away from the scene by the Fire Department. A New York Times story of Sept. 12 says CIA agents were scouring the scene that day; Building 7 had housed the CIA's New York station.

At around 11 a.m., after both towers had collapsed, Building 7 was "actively burning," according to Officer Edward K. McQuade. He said a fire chief told him to steer clear of Building 7 because of a danger of collapse.

A curious exchange was picked up between Officer John Kannuzo, who was at Newark airport that morning, and his wife Kim.

Kim: "Yeah, they said another plane went down in Pennsylvania."

Officer: "Yeah, and they shot another one down in Virginia, that they thought was headed for the Pentagon."

The transcript doesn't indicate how Kannuzo learned of a shootdown, though later there were suggestions that Flight 93 had been shot down over Pennsylvania.

Another intriguing detail: Janitor Rodriguez has reported that he was on Floor 33 helping in rescue work when he heard loud, metal-on-metal noises from Floor 34, which was a sealed-off "construction floor." The frightening noises occurred before the crash of Tower 2, he said.