Although the devastating day of Sept. 11, 2001 is now 17 years behind us and most high school students were not alive to witness the horrible tragedy that took place on that day, we never fail to remember the events that occurred and the thousands of lives that were lost. Despite the length of time that has passed, several conspiracy theories have perpetuated throughout the years, disrespecting the lives lost and undermining what happened. For this year’s anniversary of 9/11, I’d like to debunk some of these theories.
Incorrect theory #1: The United States government was behind the attack.
Conspiracists claim the Bush government destroyed the towers to give the United States an excuse to wage war in the Middle East for oil. However, this theory doesn’t make sense considering the government holds precedent for intervening when it suits it, meaning the government doesn’t need to justify its foreign policy by killing nearly 3,000 of its own citizens.
Incorrect theory #2: Jet fuel can’t melt steel beams. Therefore, the planes were not the cause of the collapse.
Half of this statement is true. Jet fuel only burns at 800˚ to 1500˚F, while steel’s melting point is at 2750˚F. However, the fires didn’t need to get hot enough to melt steel, the steel frames of the towers just needed to lose some of their structural strength in order to collapse. A fire half the heat of steel’s melting point can cause steel to lose up to 90 percent of its strength. While the jet fuel was the catalyst for the fires, the resulting inferno was kept alive and intensified by the combustible material inside the buildings, such as furniture and paper.
When the steel tried to expand from the heat but ran out of room to do so, it sagged and the surrounding concrete cracked. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) reported some pockets of fire reached 1832˚F, which was more than enough to weaken the integrity of the building. While the towers had major steel columns in the core as most buildings do, the steel exterior was crucial in providing support for the buildings. Therefore, when one floor went, the rest went since the steel bent and pushed out other supports.
Incorrect theory #3: The twin towers were demolished by controlled explosions.
9/11 “truthers,” as 9/11 conspiracy theorists call themselves, believe that the planes were not the cause of the toppling of the towers, but instead that the towers were demolished. These truthers point to the way the towers bend prior to collapse. They also claim explosions can be seen and heard as the windows blow out from the top down.
In a controlled explosion demolition experts collapse a building from the bottom, not the top. As for the windows blowing out, that occurred as each floor collapsed onto the one below. Finally, the most obvious rebuttal is that it would take considerable work to rig buildings of such a size with enough explosives, work which would not go unnoticed.
Incorrect theory #4: The government demolished World Trade Center 7 (WTC 7) using pre-planned explosions.
Seven hours after the collapse of the Twin Towers, World Trade Center 7 tumbled down. Located less than 200 meters away from the towers, the interior of the building began burning after fires from the first tower spread to WTC 7. The fires spread across the floors, superheating offices that burst into flames. The amount of paper materials intensified the fires, while the water supply for the sprinkler system was eliminated by the collapse of the Twin Towers.
According to NIST, the primary reason for the building’s collapse was its unusual design: the columns carried roughly 2000 square feet of floor area per story. NIST’s analysis showed that if even one column was removed from a lower floor, it could cause a vertical collapse so the entire 47-story building would come down. The blazing infernos caused the building’s steel beams to buckle and the building to come down.
Incorrect theory #5: The United States government commanded the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) to stand down for the attack.
NORAD wasn’t given the order to scramble fighter jets until it was too late, prompting conspiracy theorists to believe the government deliberately allowed the plot to unfold. However, what really happened was that the hijackers turned off the plane transponders so Air Traffic Control couldn’t track them, and NORAD required an alert from Air Traffic Control to act.