By Barry Benepe
In May 2018, the New York Times published a report by Elizabeth Williamson in which she told readers how Alex Jones, “an online conspiracy theorist,” claimed that the Sandy Hook gun massacre of 20 first graders and six adults never happened but was a “hoax” invented by “government gun-grabbers.” As a founder of “Info Wars,” he claimed that the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center was an “inside job.”
Some hoaxes never die. A theory similar to Mr. Jones’ conspiracy theory was published in a letter to WestView last year in which the “Lawyers Committee” presented a long-winded bagful of convoluted speculations as “evidence” that a secret cabal had planted bombs to go off simultaneously on all floors of Buildings 1, 2 and 7 when each of the planes hit. They actually believe that the planes did not bring the buildings down. They believe the previously placed secret bombs did. Their conclusion ranks with the second shooter behind the grassy knoll that shot President John Kennedy in Dallas and the fervid belief that inoculations for chicken pox cause autism.
While killing far fewer civilians than the bombings of Hiroshima, London, Stalingrad, Bremen and Hamburg, just to name a few of the murders from the air, this act was powerfully destructive to both the infrastructure of the city and its inhabitants. It is eminently clear that the killer pilots who had taken over the controls were bent on bringing these two buildings down. The corollary destruction of Building 7 was an unexpected bonus caused by the collapse of the towers. The “Lawyers Committee” believes the Building 7 owner set bombs there as well to collect an insurance payout.
None of these buildings was fireproof. Only reinforced concrete buildings are fireproof. I once watched a third floor fire in a fireproof building off Gramercy Park where I was attending a meeting. Flames shot out horizontally through the windows like blow torches, fed by furnishings, wiring, decorative woodwork and other combustibles. No adjacent apartments caught fire and the fire was soon brought under control and we went back to our meeting.
Fire is a hugely unpredictable destructive force which has painfully destroyed much of our civilization. The bearing frames of steel buildings are not fireproof, but fire resistant to the extent of their cross sections, placement and coverings. These were designed to resist normal predictable fires, not ones brought by air pirates loaded with tons of volatile fuel. Steel melts at high temperatures, a property used by welders and riveters in constructing these buildings.The two towers were struck separately in a one-two punch that brought them down in a relatively short time. Firemen were heroically able to evacuate many survivors nevertheless.
The towers were unique in that their exterior skin provided weather protection, view, daylight and support for the heavy concrete floor slabs and their utilities, furnishings, supplies, equipment, conduits and other paraphernalia, some highly flammable. Tower One, the first hit as workers were getting to their desks, was struck so high that Greenmarket farmers alongside their trucks on the plaza below were not even aware that anything other than some remote accident had happened, of no danger to them. They continued serving their equally undisturbed customers. No debris rained down. No explosions were heard. It was not until 20 minutes later when Tower Two was hit that they were aware of the gravity of the situation and walked away from their trucks uptown to Federal Plaza where there was another market taking place.
Tower Two was struck with such force and so much combustible fuel that it reignited Tower One as well in total conflagration that enveloped both buildings. No signs of secondary explosions either above or below this all engulfing blast are visible. Molten steel streamed through the narrow window openings emptying deadly rivulets onto the floors below. As the unsupported concrete slabs received the ones collapsing on them from above, the entire building collapsed all at once in a manner similar to the destruction when controlled demolition takes place.This lead the lawyers, who were inexperienced in this sort of phenomena, with the conviction that it must have been an inside job, though Osama Bin Laden must have thrust his arms to the sky, screaming “God is Great.” I find it hard to imagine any agent of the US government wanting to deliver this prize to him.
So why do I bother to respond? Many reasons. First, there must be a basic respect for truth. Second, I am pained when otherwise intelligent minds distort events to reflect their false beliefs. Third, we all owe it to ourselves to seek the truth, not just pamper our preconceptions. When I stand at the edge of the sea to look at the dead level horizon I see the sun rising over the flat plane of the sea. Buckminster Fuller once told me how he took his school class to the edge of the ocean at sunrise to help them feel the truth of the round earth rotating toward the light of the distant sun. The “Lawyers Committee” should be renamed “the Flat Earth People.” They must seek truth, not just confirmation of their beliefs.
When one or a few Hindus in India spread a false allegation that a Muslim man had raped a nine-year-old Hindu girl the pent-up anger grew into widespread deadly rioting. These speculations by the “Lawyers Committee” are probably not going to cause a riot, but they hurt our trust in each other and common sense. It is true that the greatest advances in medicine and social development require challenges to standing shibboleths, but what useful advance in our knowledge is this committee seeking?
Barry Benepe has a Bachelor of Architecture from MIT, is a New York State licensed architect, a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects and a member of the American Planning Association. He has served as a professional planning consultant for 50 years in the New York City Region and in Newcastle upon Tyne, England.