WTC-7: The Improbable Collapse
They began when a small amount of debris falls from the implosion of World Trade Center 1, a block away. Somehow small fires subsequently break out in WTC-7. The fireproofing systems completely fail. The fires burn all day from an unknown fuel.
Eventually, the flames reach tanks of diesel fuel at ground level. Suddenly, the penthouse begins to fall. The entire lower levels immediately experience the same massive failures. About seven seconds later the entire building is gone. It takes a minute for 2 million square feet of office space to become a large pile of rubble.
Satellite photos later confirm that the vast majority of WTC-7's rubble rests in what was the building’s footprint. The neatness of the rubble enables clean-up crews to swiftly remove and recycle the steel after just a cursory examination (See "What went wrong with the investigation" by Eric Hufschmid.)
World Trade Center 7 (WTC-7) was built in 1985. It was located across Vesey Street from the main World Trade Center compound. It was a largely-conventional steel building which had 44 floors. Dark and sleek, it was designed by Emery Roth & Sons. It collapsed at 5:20 p.m. on September 11, 2001. Fortunately, WTC-7 had been evacuated and no one is known to have died when it collapsed.
It fell about seven hours after the strange collapses of the North and South Twin Towers. (WTC-2, the South tower, collapsed around 10:00 a.m. WTC-1, the North, came down about a half-hour later.) The unknown quantity of debris from WTC-1 is said to have caused the fires in WTC-7 that were concentrated on its 11th floor.
Sherlock Holmes once remarked how odd it is that a guard dog did not bark at a midnight intruder. Similarly, it is curious how few people bothered to photograph a building about to collapse when destruction of an inconceivable scale had been released just hours before, only 200 feet away. Apparently, the WTC-7 fires were just not photogenic. Indeed, when viewing the extant documentation, there are only small fires that are localized within the offices of the Securites Exchange Commission (SEC).
Prior to 9/11/01 no steel building had ever even partially collapsed from a fire. Neither has any since.
According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (“World Trade Center Building Performance Study,” FEMA document number 403, May, 2002), 36,000 gallons of diesel fuel was stored in WTC-7 diesel tanks at ground level and just above. The fuel, stored in fire-resistant containers, was there to run backup generators. However, the report does not say whether any of that fuel burned. It also fails to confirm that burning diesel fuel was the source of the building’s collapse. The report even ignores the biggest mystery of all: How this building could have fallen into its own footprint.
FEMA’s report is filled with speculation and hypothetical scenarios. Throughout it are qualifying words such as “appears” and “apparently.” The tone is set in the first paragraph. It says that the “performance of” World Trade Center 7’s collapse is “of significant interest because it appears the collapse was due primarily to fire, rather than any impact damage from the collapsing [Twin] towers.” Overall, very little of this report is stated with conviction.
FEMA's nonchalance about WTC-7’s collapse is stunning. Structural failures of this magnitude are unprecedented. In addition, high-profile, large-budget government agencies were leasing office space in WTC-7. In addition to the SEC, other such tenants included the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Department of Defense (DOD), the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and New York’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM). None of the current heads of these departments has been vocal in demanding to know why WTC-7 collapsed. Further, while some details have been released, a full accounting of what data these agencies lost has not been prominently reported.
Another unanswered question is: What was the NYC Office of Emergency Management (OEM) doing prior to 9/11/01? We know that the OEM took up the entire 23rd floor, serving as some sort of command center for then-Mayor Guiliani. Their activities at that time remain a source of widespread speculation. (Recently they issued “Pet Preparedness” tips on their website.)
The subject of WTC-7's odd disintegration merits further scrutiny. The public and its watchdog journalists, such as they are, cannot do the job without full disclosure by our government. Until then, we can only expect speculation to continue.
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This story was published on September 16, 2003.