The widely held belief that the Twin Towers collapsed as a result of the airplane impacts and the resulting fires is, unbeknownst to most people, a revisionist theory. Among individuals who witnessed the event firsthand, the more prevalent hypothesis was that the Twin Towers had been brought down by massive explosions.
- Ted Walter and Graeme MacQueen
This observation was first made 14 years ago in the article, “118 Witnesses: The Firefighters’ Testimony to Explosions in the Twin Towers.” A review of interviews conducted with 503 members of the New York Fire Department (FDNY) in the weeks and months after 9/11 revealed that 118 of them described witnessing what they interpreted that day to be explosions. Only 10 FDNY members were found describing the destruction in ways supportive of the fire-induced collapse hypothesis.
The interviews of fire marshal John Coyle and firefighter Christopher Fenyo explicitly support this finding. Coyle remarked in his interview, “I thought it was exploding, actually. That’s what I thought for hours afterwards. . . . Everybody I think at that point still thought these things were blown up.” Similarly, Fenyo recalled in his interview, “At that point, a debate began to rage [about whether to continue rescue operations in the other, still-standing tower] because the perception was that the building looked like it had been taken out with charges.”
News reporters constitute another group of individuals who witnessed the event firsthand and whose accounts were publicly documented. While many people have seen a smattering of news clips on the internet in which reporters describe explosions, there has never been, as far as we know, a systematic attempt to collect these news clips and analyze them.
We decided to take on this task for two reasons. First, we wanted to know just how prevalent the explosion hypothesis was among reporters. Second, anticipating that this would be the more prevalent hypothesis, we wanted to determine exactly how it was supplanted by the hypothesis of fire-induced collapse.
In this article, we present our findings related to the first question. In a subsequent article, we will examine how the hypothesis of fire-induced collapse so quickly supplanted the originally dominant explosion hypothesis.
Television Coverage Compiled
To determine how prevalent the explosion hypothesis was among reporters, we set out to review as much continuous news coverage as we could find from the major television networks, cable news channels, and local network affiliates covering the events in New York.
Through internet searches, we found continuous news coverage from 11 different television networks, cable news channels, and local network affiliates. These included the networks ABC, CBS, and NBC; cable news channels CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and CNBC; and local network affiliates WABC, WCBS, and WNBC. We also incorporated coverage from New York One (NY1), a New York-based cable news channel owned by Time Warner (now Spectrum), which we grouped with the local network affiliates into a local channel category.
Unfortunately, we were not able to find coverage spanning most of the day for every channel. Thus, while the collection of news coverage we compiled is extensive, it is not comprehensive. To fill in the gaps where possible, we included excerpts of coverage that aired later in the day if we found that coverage to be relevant. We also included one excerpt from USA Today’s coverage that we found to be relevant and three excerpts from an afternoon press conference with Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Governor George Pataki that aired on almost every channel. In general, the times at which these excerpts aired are unknown, though in some cases we were able to identify an approximate time.
The news coverage we compiled and reviewed totaled approximately 70 hours. …