Some modest musings

Some modest musings
It was weird how it started to come down. It looked like it was a timed explosion.
WTC Engineer Says Building Would Survive Jumbo Jet Hitting It
Twin Towers Engineered To Withstand Jet Collision: 1993 interview with designer John Skilling

From: robert james parsons
To: ;
Sent: Sunday, October 07, 2001 10:15 PM
Subject: Some modest musings

Those interested in the events of 11 September might want to consult the
response times to the highjackings by the North American Aerospace Defense
Command (NORAD) at:

It is worth noting that the FAA notifications to the North East Air Defense
Sector (NEADS) came so late that interception of the highjacked planes was
impossible, except in the case of United Airlines Flight 175 (Boston - Los
Angeles), which, theoretically, could have been intercepted two mintues
before it hit World Trade Center 2 but wasn't. It is also worth noting that
there was never any formal FAA notification of a highjacking of United
Flight 93 (Newark - San Francisco), although "the FAA and NEADS established
a line of open comnmunication discussing AA Flt 77 and UA Flt 93". There was
a "Fighter Scrambler Order" given ("order to get an aircraft airborne as
soon as possible")  for United Flight 93: "Langley F-16s already airborne
for AA Flt 77". So, what happened to UA Flt 93? Was it intercepted (forced

And why the delay in notification from the FAA, when notification is
supposed to be immediate with a response from NORAD in two minutes at most?

The Washington Post, on 12 September ("White House Said Targeted") and the
New York Times on the next day ("Aides Say Bush Was One Target of Hijacked
Jet") let it be known that the attackers had made phone contact with the
Secret Service (at10:05) and had authenticated themselves by citing the
secret codes giving access to the secure lines for the White House and Air
Force One that would be used to set a nuclear attack in motion. This is what
necessitated moving Bush from his safe haven in Louisiana to Nebraska: since
the secure lines were no longer considered so, he had to be at the control
center of the nuclear arsenal in Nebraska in person. On the thirteenth of
September, Karl Rove confirmed that the attackers had called the Secret
Service, but on the twenty-eighth, Ari Fleischer, the White house spokeman,
denied this, saying that his colleagues had been mistaken about it,
suffering from the intense emotion of the day. Yet former chief of the CIA
Woolsey said that the attackers had secure codes to all the main
intelligence services.

Either the security of codes is hopelessly weak (unlikely), or the attackers
were connected to somebody highly placed in the military.  Either way, there
should have been a major inquest into the question.

If one accepts that the attackers were linked to military top brass, then
the phone call to the Secret Service was most likely a request for
negotitions.Oddly, US air space was not closed until 9:45 a.m., at which
time Bush gave the order to shoot down any suspect aircraft in US air space.
(UA Flt 93 crashed in Pennsyvania at 10:03 -- estimated time, according to
NORAD.) Yet at 12:15 p.m., there were still some 50 civil aircraft still in
US air space, which suggests that at least in certain places the air space
closure was not considered worth taking seriously. Yet, at 12:00 noon, the
border with Mexico was closed, at 12.04 the order was given to evacuate Los
Angeles International Airport, and at 12:15 an evacuation order was given
for San Francisco International Airport. What about the airports on the East
Coast, and the big ones like Chicago and Atlanta?

If, one accepts that there were negotiations going on, then it is reasonable
to assume that they faltered and that the attackers made some sort of threat
that made closing the border with Mexico seem necessary, as well as the
evacuation of the Los Angeles and San Francisco airports. Also, following
the the phone call, there were orders to evacuate the State Department, the
World Bank and the Justice Department (10:22), an order to close all
airports (at 10:39), then an order to evacuate all federal [SIC] buildings i
n Washington (10:45), and one, from Governor George Pataki, to close all
federal buildings in the state of New York (10:57).

Why only federal buildings in Washington? Why federal buildings in New York
but not elsewhere? (The last time a federal building was hit, it was in
Oklahoma.) This suggests that in the course of evaluating the first phone
call from the attackers, certain buildings and places came to be perceived
as in danger, but not others. If there was no communication with the
attackers and everybody was blindly trying to find his way to an
understanding of what was taking place, the air space would have been closed
immediately after the second hit at the World Trade Center, at the latest
(9:02); all airports immediately closed (and possibily evacuated); all of at
least the center of Washington evacuated; and all federal buildings
throughout the country closed, as soon as possible.

Noteworthy was George W. Bush's first response in Sarasota, where he spoke
of "getting those folks". Thereafter, in all the briefings given by the
various government actors, terrorism was never mentioned. When George W.
Bush finally spoke of it, in his speach to the nation at 8:30 p.m., it was
not in order to speak of getting the attackers but to speak of launching a
vague "crusade" against all terrorism, without any definition of what this
might mean.

It is further noteworthy that the four highjacked planes took off over a
period of sixteen minutes, evidently anticipating a closure of US air
space -- which came too late to bother them.

Also, during the trail of those accused of bombing the World Trade Center in
1993, one of the accused spoke of how the bombers' evaluation of their act
resulted in the conclusion that to topple to the buildings (the goal of the
1993 bombing: the builidng hit was expected to fall on the other), they
would need to hit them each with a jumbo jet airliner, since the buildings
had been designed to resist the impact of a Boeing 707. But nobody seems to
remember that now...

Finally, none of the intelligence services (the National Security Agency,
the CIA, the FBI, the Defense Intelligence Services (Army, Navy, Marines,
Air Force), the Energy Department Security Service, etc.) saw anything
coming, despite hundreds of billions of dollars worth of resources over the
years. Either it's all defective (highly unlikely: US intelligence
capacities are the envy of every other country in the world, so I'm told
here in Geneva, over and over), or the people were lax and incompetent
(highly unlikely also, although there's probably quite a bit of room for
improvement). Either way, there should be a blue ribbon inquiry into what's
amiss. The government doesn't seem to think that this is necessary, which
again suggests that insiders were involved, which allowed for circumventing
the world's best intelligence services.

Comment   (Midgie, if you're still with us, don't read any further: you'll
only get upset):

If the people of the United States spent as much time following pulbic
affairs, as behooves citizens of a democracy, as they spend following soap
operas and sit coms and the lives of those who act in them, they would've
pieced this together a long time ago and demanded the explanations they
deserve concerning what was and is really going on.

Robert James Parsons

rue de la Flèche 17
CH - 1207 Geneva, Switzerland
Telephone: +41 22 736-59-55
Geneva United Nations Office
Press Room No 1
CH - 1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland
Telephone: +41 22 917-20-18


9:59 a.m. September 11, 2001: Some Witnesses Hear Explosions as South Tower Collapses

Numerous witnesses, including firefighters and other rescue workers, hear explosions at the start of, and during, the collapse of the south WTC tower. Some of them report hearing a single explosion:
bullet Jeff Birnbaum: “There was an explosion and the whole top leaned toward us and started coming down.” [Electrical Wholesaling, 2/1/2002]
bulletBattalion Chief John Sudnik: “[W]e heard a loud explosion or what sounded like a loud explosion and looked up and I saw Tower Two start coming down.” [City of New York, 11/7/2001]
bullet Firefighter Edward Kennedy hears “a tremendous boom, explosion… and the top of the building was coming down at us.” [City of New York, 1/17/2002]
bullet Firefighter Edward Sheehey hears “an explosion, looked up, and the building started to collapse.” [City of New York, 12/4/2001]
bulletBattalion Chief Thomas Vallebuona: “I heard ‘boom,’ an exploding sound, a real loud bang. I looked up, and I could see the Trade Center starting to come down.” [City of New York, 1/2/2002]
bullet EMT Julio Marrero: “I heard a loud bang. We looked up, and we just saw the building starting to collapse.” [City of New York, 10/25/2001] Other witnesses report hearing multiple explosions:
bulletJournalist Pete Hamill: “We heard snapping sounds, pops, little explosions, and then the walls bulged out, and we heard a sound like an avalanche.” [New York Daily News, 9/11/2001]
bulletPolice officer Sue Keane, who is an Army veteran, is located in the north WTC tower: “[I]t sounded like bombs going off. That’s when the explosions happened.… It started to get dark, then all of a sudden there was this massive explosion.” [Hagen and Carouba, 2002, pp. 65]
bulletFirefighter Keith Murphy, who is in the lobby of the North Tower: “[T]he first thing that happened, which I still think is strange to me, the lights went out.… I had heard right before the lights went out, I had heard a distant boom boom boom, sounded like three explosions.… At the time, I would have said they sounded like bombs, but it was boom boom boom and then the lights all go out.… I would say about 3, 4 seconds, all of a sudden this tremendous roar.” [City of New York, 12/5/2001]
bulletFirefighter Craig Carlsen hears “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.” [City of New York, 1/25/2002]
bulletFirefighter Thomas Turilli, who is in the lobby of the North Tower: “[A]ll of a sudden you just heard like it almost actually that day sounded like bombs going off, like boom, boom, boom, like seven or eight, and then just a huge wind gust just came… It just seemed like a huge explosion.” [City of New York, 1/17/2002]
bulletFirefighter Stephen Viola: “[T]hat’s when the South Tower collapsed, and it sounded like a bunch of explosions. You heard like loud booms.” [City of New York, 1/10/2002]
bullet Firefighter Lance Lizzul: “[W]e heard some bangs. That made us look up, and that’s when the first Trade Center came down.” [City of New York, 12/10/2001]
bulletParamedic Kevin Darnowski: “I heard three explosions, and then we heard like groaning and grinding, and Tower Two started to come down.” [City of New York, 11/9/2001] However, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, which conducts a three-year study of the WTC collapses, will subsequently claim it found “no corroborating evidence for alternative hypotheses suggesting that the WTC towers were brought down by controlled demolition using explosives” (see October 26, 2005). [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 146 pdf file]

9:59 a.m. September 11, 2001: Some Witnesses Think South Tower Collapse Resembles a Controlled Demolition

Numerous witnesses to the collapse of the south WTC tower think it resembles a demolition using explosives. Some initially believe this is what is occurring:
bulletReporter John Bussey watches the collapse from the Wall Street Journal’s offices across the street from the WTC. He says, “I… looked up out of the office window to see what seemed like perfectly synchronized explosions coming from each floor, spewing glass and metal outward. One after the other, from top to bottom, with a fraction of a second between, the floors blew to pieces.” [Wall Street Journal, 9/12/2001]
bulletDeputy Fire Commissioner Thomas Fitzpatrick: “I remember seeing, it looked like sparkling around one specific layer of the building.… Then the building started to come down. My initial reaction was that this was exactly the way it looks when they show you those implosions on TV.” [City of New York, 10/1/2001]
bulletAssistant Fire Commissioner Stephen Gregory: “I saw low-level flashes. In my conversation with Lieutenant Evangelista… he questioned me and asked me if I saw low-level flashes in front of the building, and I agreed with him… I saw a flash flash flash and then it looked like the building came down.… 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.” [City of New York, 10/3/2001]
bulletFirefighter Richard Banaciski: “It seemed like on television they blow up these buildings. It seemed like it was going all the way around like a belt, all these explosions.” [City of New York, 12/6/2001]
bulletFirefighter Joseph Meola: “As we are looking up at the building, what I saw was, it looked like the building was blowing out on all four sides. We actually heard the pops.… You thought it was just blowing out.” [City of New York, 12/11/2001]
bulletFire Chief Frank Cruthers: “[T]here 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.” [City of New York, 10/31/2001]
bulletBattalion Chief Brian Dixon: “I was watching the fire… the lowest floor of fire in the South Tower actually looked like someone had planted explosives around it because the whole bottom I could see—I could see two sides of it and the other side—it just looked like that floor blew out.… I thought, geez, this looks like an explosion up there, it blew out.” [City of New York, 10/25/2001]
bulletFirefighter Timothy Burke: “Then the building popped, lower than the fire… I was going oh, my god, there is secondary device because the way the building popped I thought it was an explosion.” [City of New York, 1/22/2002]
bulletFirefighter Edward Cachia: “It actually gave at a lower floor, not the floor where the plane hit, because we 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.” [City of New York, 12/6/2001]
bulletFirefighter Kenneth Rogers: “[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.” [City of New York, 12/10/2001]
bulletReporter Beth Fertig: “The tower went down perfectly straight, as if a demolition crew had imploded it. I wondered if it was being brought down deliberately.” [Gilbert et al., 2002, pp. 78]
bulletParamedic Daniel Rivera: “[D]o you ever see professional demolition where they set the charges on certain floors and then you hear ‘Pop, pop, pop, pop, pop’? That’s exactly what—because I thought it was that.” [City of New York, 10/10/2001]
bullet Battalion Chief Dominick DeRubbio: “It was weird how it started to come down. It looked like it was a timed explosion.” [City of New York, 10/12/2001]
bulletThe Guardian will report that police on the scene said the collapse “looked almost like a ‘planned implosion’ designed to catch bystanders watching from the street.” [Guardian, 9/12/2001] However, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, which conducts a three-year study of the WTC collapses, will reject suggestions that the WTC towers were brought down with explosives (see August 30, 2006). CTV will assert, “[F]lashes of light that seemed to indicate bombs detonating were not explosions. They were pockets of airs being forced out of windows as the sagging floors pushed downward.” [CTV, 9/12/2006]

Entity Tags: Stephen Gregory, World Trade Center, Richard Banaciski, Thomas Fitzpatrick, Kenneth Rogers, Timothy Burke, John Bussey, Joseph Meola, Brian Dixon, Daniel Rivera, Beth Fertig, Edward Cachia, Frank Cruthers, Dominick DeRubbio

Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, WTC Investigation


February 27, 1993: WTC Engineer Says Building Would Survive Jumbo Jet Hitting It

In the wake of the WTC bombing, the Seattle Times interviews John Skilling who was one of the two structural engineers responsible for designing the Trade Center. Skilling recounts his people having carried out an analysis which found the Twin Towers could withstand the impact of a Boeing 707. He says, “Our analysis indicated the biggest problem would be the fact that all the fuel (from the airplane) would dump into the building. There would be a horrendous fire. A lot of people would be killed.” But, he says, “The building structure would still be there.” [Seattle Times, 2/27/1993] The analysis Skilling is referring to is likely one done in early 1964, during the design phase of the towers. A three-page white paper, dated February 3, 1964, described its findings: “The buildings have been investigated and found to be safe in an assumed collision with a large jet airliner (Boeing 707—DC 8) traveling at 600 miles per hour. Analysis indicates that such collision would result in only local damage which could not cause collapse or substantial damage to the building and would not endanger the lives and safety of occupants not in the immediate area of impact.” However, besides this paper, no documents are known detailing how this analysis was made. [Glanz and Lipton, 2004, pp. 131-132; Lew, Bukowski, and Carino, 10/2005, pp. 70-71] The other structural engineer who designed the towers, Leslie Robertson, carried out a second study later in 1964, of how the towers would handle the impact of a 707 (see Between September 3, 2001 and September 7, 2001). However, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), following its three-year investigation into the WTC collapses, will in 2005 state that it has been “unable to locate any evidence to indicate consideration of the extent of impact-induced structural damage or the size of a fire that could be created by thousands of gallons of jet fuel.” [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 13 pdf file]

Entity Tags: World Trade Center, John Skilling

Category Tags: WTC Investigation


Business: Saturday, February 27, 1993

Twin Towers Engineered To Withstand Jet Collision

Engineers had to consider every peril they could imagine when they designed the World Trade Center three decades ago because, at the time, the twin towers were of unprecedented size for structures made of steel and glass.

"We looked at every possible thing we could think of that could happen to the buildings, even to the extent of an airplane hitting the side," said John Skilling, head structural engineer. "However, back in those days people didn't think about terrorists very much."

Skilling, based in Seattle, is among the world's top structural engineers. He is responsible for much of Seattle's downtown skyline and for several of the world's tallest structures, including the Trade Center.

Concerned because of a case where an airplane hit the Empire State Building, Skilling's people did an analysis that showed the towers would withstand the impact of a Boeing 707.

"Our analysis indicated the biggest problem would be the fact that all the fuel (from the airplane) would dump into the building. There would be a horrendous fire. A lot of people would be killed," he said. "The building structure would still be there."

Skilling - a recognized expert in tall buildings - doesn't think a single 200-pound car bomb would topple or do major structural damage to a Trade Center tower. The supporting columns are closely spaced and even if several were disabled, the others would carry the load.

"However," he added, "I'm not saying that properly applied explosives - shaped explosives - of that magnitude could not do a tremendous amount of damage."

He took note of the fact that smoke and fire spread throughout the building yesterday. He said that is possibly because the pressurizing system that stops the spread of smoke didn't work when the electric power went off. Skilling, 72, was not involved in the design of the building mechanics.

Although Skilling is not an explosives expert, he says there are people who do know enough about building demolition to bring a structure like the Trade Center down.

"I would imagine that if you took the top expert in that type of work and gave him the assignment of bringing these buildings down with explosives, I would bet that he could do it."

Copyright (c) 1993 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.