Rosie O'Donnell's 9/11 Question
By Mike Nizza
The debate over the third building that collapsed at ground zero on Sept. 11, 2001, is back.
On the campaign trail, former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and a former senior aide are blaming each other for setting up the city’s emergency command center in a building at the World Trade Center that would be evacuated during its biggest emergency ever, collapsing hours later because of damage sustained in the terrorist attack.
Or was detonated from within? Rosie O’Donnell smells a cover-up, and has been using her seat on her morning talk show, “The View,” to raise questions. Before leaving as a full-time host, she plans to tackle the issue in a special segment.
If her reading list is any guide, the soon-to-be-ex-talk show host is inspired by the prevailing sources for 9/11 conspiracy. Alex Jones, who The Times’s Alan Feuer called the William Jennings Bryan of the movement, covered all of them in a 2006 speech. Mr. Feuer summarized it thusly:
Mr. Jones set forth the central tenets of 9/11 Truth: that the military command that monitors aircraft “stood down” on the day of the attacks; that President Bush addressed children in a Florida classroom instead of being whisked off to the White House; that the hijackers, despite what the authorities say, were trained at American military bases; and that the towers did not collapse because of burning fuel and weakened steel but because of a “controlled demolition” caused by pre-set bombs.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology has been charged with leading the federal investigation into the collapse of buildings at the World Trade Center, but it has yet to issue a final report on Building 7. One is expected before the summer.
Glenn P. Corbett, a fire expert who is part of the inquiry, explained the working theory in 2004 (A technical explanation is explained in question 14 on a page of the inquiry’s site):
The reason 7 World Trade Center collapsed straight down, he said, was most likely the large amounts of diesel fuel stored in the building’s lower levels. The fuel was meant to power emergency generators.
‘’The conspiracy theorists fail to recognize that there was structural damage in Building 7 caused by flying debris after the first two towers collapsed,'’ Mr. Corbett said. ‘’This led to fires that burned for several hours which eventually collapsed Building 7, too.'’
Ms. O’Donnell is not convinced by Mr. Corbett, or her co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck, who echoed the explanation. “I do believe that it’s the first time in history that fire has ever melted steel,” Ms. O’Donnell said during a show available on YouTube.
Popular Mechanics, which published a book called “Debunking 9/11 Myths,” backed up Ms. Hasslebeck on its Web site, but without the courtesy: “Ms. O’Donnell fundamentally misstates the case with her use of the word ‘melted.’”
As the fire raged for hours, it was probably fed by the emergency command center’s fuel tanks in the basement, the head of the investigation told the magazine. Under those conditions, it is possible to reach temperatures that “ultimately weakened — not melted — the steel structures,” it said, before tossing out some factoids:
Steel melts at about 2,750 degrees Fahrenheit—but it loses strength at temperatures as low as 400 F. When temperatures break 1000 degrees F, steel loses nearly 50 percent of its strength. It is unknown what temperatures were reached inside WTC7, but fires in the building raged for seven hours before the collapse.
Two other points brought up by Ms. O’Donnell were also addressed, but almost 1,000 comments showed how unconvinced some remain. For those people, her report will be a huge step forward. But if she’s not reporting anything new, the debate will continue to stand exactly where it is.
Until, of course, the federal investigation dismisses all the conspiracy theories with its final report. Just like that fella Warren and his commission did in the 1960’s…