by MARK GABRISH CONLAN
Copyright © 2012 by Mark Gabrish Conlan for Zenger’s Newsmagazine • All rights reserved
PHOTO: L to R: Richard Gage, architect; Michelle Little, sister of 9/11 victim; and Casey Pfeiffer, structural engineer; at the “9/11: Explosive Evidence” screening May 21.
Virtually everyone in the U.S. knows — or thinks they know — what happened on September 11, 2001. The TV images of two hijacked giant airliners flying into the North and South Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City are embedded so indelibly in our memories that when we see them again, it’s like reliving a disaster that happened to a personal friend. But a small but determined group of people is intent on making us take a second look at the events of 9/11 and what we think we know about them — and on May 21 they drew a capacity crowd of over 200 to the Joyce Beers Community Center in Hillcrest for a look at the latest in a series of documentary films challenging the conventional wisdom of why and how the Twin Towers went down.
The film has the awkward title 9/11: Explosive Evidence: Experts Speak Out, and its producer and narrator, San Francisco-based architect Richard Gage, was there to introduce it. Sponsored by Activist San Diego and San Diegans for 9/11 Truth, the showing was the first stop in a 30-city tour Gage is making with his movie — though his group, Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth, rushed out a longer first cut of the movie to show it last September for the 10th anniversary of 9/11.
“More than 40 experts in the fields of architecture, structural engineering, firefighting, chemistry, physics and explosives are interviewed in the film,” Gage said when he was introducing it. “They highlight the irrefutable evidence of the destruction of the three World Trade Center skyscrapers” — including the World Financial Center, also known as World Trade Center 7, which came down a few hours after the Twin Towers fell and whose mysterious collapse, since it was not hit by a hijacked plane, is a linchpin of 9/11 rethinking.
“We’ve had quite a lot of consultants and volunteers who have helped put the film together,” Gage said. “Our co-director, Marty McGee, said, ‘You’ve got to interview these guys,’ and now it’s two and one-half years later and the film is finally complete. We are also supported by family members of 9/11 victims, who were the ones who started the 9/11 truth movement.” Before he showed the movie, Gage took on the people who write off 9/11 rethinking as a “conspiracy theory,” stating that that’s “a loaded term to get you to stop thinking about the evidence. Our detractors would not be stooping to such tactics if they had rational evidence against us.”
The standard theory of what happened on 9/11 is that the Twin Towers were brought down by fires started by the impact of the planes and the burning of the jet fuel inside them. The alternative case presented in 9/11: Explosive Evidence is elaborate and difficult to summarize, but the basics are that the buildings “pancaked” — that is, they fell down in a straight line instead of tipping over, each floor crushed the floors below it, parts of the steel beams on the outside of the towers were hurled from the site at great force, the buildings were utterly destroyed and the concrete in them was vaporized into dust.
Had the buildings been destroyed by fire, Gage argued, none of that would have happened. Even if the interiors had been gutted, the overall structure would have survived. To make this point, the film includes footage of large buildings in which fires have been set deliberately to test what would happen — and the outer cores of the buildings have withstood the fires even if the insides were destroyed.
What’s more, Gage said, the way the buildings came down — not only in straight lines but at a so-called “free-fall” rate of speed, the same rate at which gravity would have brought down structures of the weight of one floor of the towers if there had been nothing under it at all — suggested a so-called “controlled demolition” in which the structural supports are removed from one or more floors, and then explosives inside the building are set off. The film includes footage of buildings that have been intentionally destroyed in just this fashion and runs it side by side with the footage not only of the Twin Towers but also the fall of WTC 7.
For the most part, 9/11: Explosive Evidence avoids speculation about who brought down the towers, or what their motives might have been. However, an extended sequence towards the end of the film, presenting interviews with psychologists purportedly explaining why so many people find it difficult to consider alternatives to the official view of 9/11, introduces some of the most heavily criticized elements of 9/11 rethought — including the accusation that the U.S. government or factions in it deliberately staged the 9/11 attacks to justify the USA PATRIOT Act and the other assaults on civil liberties in the last decade in the name of the “war on terror” — which were carefully avoided in the rest of the film.
Gage pulled a rhetorical trick at the opening of the screening — he asked the audience members to raise their hands if they believed the government story of 9/11, then if they were skeptical, then if they were convinced that the government’s version was wrong — that revealed most of the audience members were already convinced believers in the 9/11 rethought movement. Indeed, some people in the audience thought the filmmakers should have cut back on the scientific parts of the movie and used more of the heart-tugging emotional scenes not only with psychologists but with the family members of the victims.
Not surprisingly, virtually the first questions that came up were who did 9/11, why, how did they get away with it and why hasn’t anyone involved come forward and talked. “We don’t answer these questions because we don’t know,” said Gage. “We have the evidence of a controlled demolition. Your responsibility as citizens is to get those other questions answered. We support you in any inquiry with technical and forensic evidence. There’s enough evidence in this film to put people away for mass murder.”
On the question of why nobody involved has talked, Gage referred the audience to a paper called “Where Are the 9/11 Whistleblowers?” by his legal advisor, Greg Roberts — who was also present at the screening. “We don’t know that they haven’t come forward,” Gage said. “The mass media won’t publish the story. In America, 90 percent of the media are owned by six corporations, run through interlocking directorates by the same people who run the arms industry, the oil industry, the banking industry and the insurance industry, all of which made tons of money after 9/11.”