Wednesday, May 30, 2007

A Notion From 9/11 Is Kept Alive

By JIM DWYER
The New York Times
May 30, 2007

The first day of the post-Rosie O’Donnell era on “The View” television show has come and gone, and by any fair accounting, an often useful provocateur has left the building.

In her final months on the air, she mostly dropped her public torment of an attention-starved, orange-haired real estate developer. Instead, she opened debates with others about terrorism, peace and citizenship.

She also recently took up — without quite spelling out — a theory that one of the buildings at the World Trade Center, No. 7, was brought down by bombs late in the afternoon of Sept. 11, 2001. No. 7 was not one of the towers struck by the airplanes, she said, but a separate building “that got hit by nothing — 47 floors and dropped, 5:30, into itself.”

She also said: “I do believe that it’s the first time in history that fire has ever melted steel. I do believe that it defies physics that World Trade Center Tower 7 — Building 7, which collapsed in on itself — it is impossible for a building to fall the way it fell without explosives being involved.”

That conversation has been left dangling by her abrupt departure from the show, but her statements made their way to Queens and the home of Daniel Nigro, retired after a life in the Fire Department. He began the morning of Sept. 11 as second-in-command; by 10:30, he was in charge, when the chief of department, Peter J. Ganci Jr., was killed.

“I feel like I watch the show because it’s replayed so often on the news: ‘I never saw fire melt steel,’ and the studio audience clapping, like this was some great revelation,” Mr. Nigro said. “It’s true that there has never been a skyscraper collapse as a result of just a fire. It’s a natural progression to a conspiracy theory.”

THE world has paid little attention to 7 World Trade Center, which fell seven hours after the north and south towers. It was 47 stories tall, but less than half their height. No one was inside. Since 2,750 people had been mortally injured or died in the attack, hardly anyone cared about the collapse of an empty skyscraper, no matter how novel. Early reports billed it as the first steel skyscraper in the country to collapse solely from uncontrolled fire.

As time went on, the collapse of No. 7 became a focal point for people who suspected that the federal government had a malevolent hand in the Sept. 11 attack, particularly since the building’s tenants included the Central Intelligence Agency, the Department of Defense and the Secret Service, along with the city’s Office of Emergency Management.

By Ms. O’Donnell’s account, only explosives could have brought it down. About 90 minutes before it fell, however, Mr. Nigro said he and other chiefs decided to get out. “We believed from observations inside and out that there was structural damage,” he said. The building had been hit by debris from the collapse of the north tower, 300 feet away. Fires roared.

His account is backed up in two ways. First, in oral histories, firefighters and commanders described retreating from No. 7 because of the expected collapse. Second, photographs taken from a police helicopter show that a large chunk of the bottom of the building had been destroyed by debris from the north tower; a comprehensive study by Popular Mechanics magazine concluded that along the bottom 10 floors, a quarter of the south face was knocked away.

The pictures make clear that 7 World Trade Center was hit not, as Ms. O’Donnell said, “by nothing,” but by tons of falling debris. And although steel does not melt until it reaches 2,700 degrees Fahrenheit, federal investigators say that it loses most of its strength at around 1,800 degrees — a temperature reached in ordinary building fires. A federal scientific investigation into the collapse of No. 7 is scheduled to be released this fall.

Few civic virtues are as useful as skepticism, though it is rarely honored until too late. The citizens who questioned the validity of the case for war in Iraq were widely scorned or ignored in 2002 and 2003 by the government and the news media.

Ms. O’Donnell wasn’t talking yesterday. Mr. Nigro was. “It’s not just silly people who believe in the conspiracy theory,” he said. “Outside this country, I think it might be the predominant view. It’s a lot more of an interesting and juicy story than what I think did happen.”

1 Comments:

Blogger greenpagan said...

Hey Rosie. Loves ya bubby, but…I should think a little self-crit is in order…

6:28 PM  

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