Sunday, September 13, 2015


On September 11, 2001, World Trade Center buildings 1, 2 and 7 in New York City, collapsed as a result of terrorist attacks and the subsequent fires that followed. After a 3-year investigation by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, it was concluded that fire weakened the steel structure until the long bridge-like floor sections (called trusses) began to progressively sag. This sagging converted the downwards pull of the trusses into an inwards pull. This intensifying inwards pull on the walls eventually caused the outer columns of Tower 2, and later the inner columns of Tower 1, to buckle and fold, thus initiating the collapses.  2,752 people died in the buildings, including 157 passengers and crew members who were aboard two hijacked airplanes that struck buildings 1 and 2, initiating fires in both, with debris initiating fires in building 7 upon the collapse of buildings 1 and 2. The buildings were a steel-frame design. This structural failure should not to be confused with a progressive failure of the floor systems, or so-called "pancake theory" which was ruled out as a cause.  (Wiki)

Some want this report re-opened.

Early in September, 2001, my father’s cousin, a man past retirement age, called to ask whether he could come to look through my father’s photo albums.  Gene Strachan was trying to complete a family genealogy and sent me copies of what he had so far, hand-written, photocopied and comb-bound into a book.  He remembered a house my great-grandfather had built and wanted a photo.  It had a mansard roof with tall second-story windows set into it as gables.

This is the house Gene was remembering.

I tried to discourage him.  I told him my house was a shack, underfurnished, no television; that I’m a terrible cook; that I had cats who were very spoiled, and so on.  All true, but I couldn’t talk him out of coming.  It just happened that he showed up the day before the attack on the World Trade Center.  

Gene had served in WWII as an airplane mechanic in New Guinea, one of those indelible life passages that shapes people.  When a neighbor came over breathless with the news, Gene was ready to re-enlist.  He was also desperate to see what had happened but too shy to go over to the neighbors’ at such a powerful time.  So I set him up at the computer and showed him how to repeat and search.  He was there for an hour. 

An unwelcome bedmate.

Much to the relief of his girlfriend, a Cheyenne grandmother who was a CNA and had envisioned all white people as having color TV, recliners, and a shower that was scrubbed with bleach daily -- that’s motel standard but not mine.   Crackers thought she was wonderful and decided to sleep with her, which caused her to scream for Gene to get the monster off her.  I just didn’t live up to her standards at all.  She had a tough few days.

But Gene  didn’t care.  His life had been solitary and restless and the albums comforted him.  I was surprised -- Uncle Thomas, his father, had always been the fair-haired child when the past was discussed.  But now Gene told us about poverty, having no shoes or lunch, and his father’s temper outbursts.  Only later when his father finally found a role as a county agent,  becoming an expert on grasses and forbes, did the family stabilize.  But the resentment in Gene never went away.  His attempt at marriage had failed, no children.  I had met him long ago but that was all.

I didn’t think about 9-11 much until they had left.  Then I was the one who sat at the computer and watched the event over and over.  I never did get hysterical about it.  I was just curious.  Plenty of catastrophic disasters happen all the time around the world -- this one was simply vertical and in the city.  I did NOT understand some of the claims, and I couldn’t figure out Building 7, which was not hit by airplanes but collapsed anyway.  Many claimed there were demolition explosives planted there.  A minister friend of mine lost his pulpit because he claimed that and his congregation thought it was unpatriotic of him.

Portlandia Building

Before I moved back to Montana, I had been working at the Bureau of Buildings in Portland.  The office was in the Portlandia Building, a notorious Michael Graves structure which is basically a big square warehouse with tiny windows that was decorated with fancy painting and a big statue on the front.  It was miserable to work in -- never enough light or air -- and the building inspectors had so many criticisms and complaints and made so many threats to sue that they were finally moved to another building.  Our motto:  "Don't get rid of the complaint -- get rid of the complainants."

At one point the geologists were worrying about earthquakes  (Portland is in the “ring of fire” that is volcanically active) and gave us all some education on what to do.  They warned us about buildings that “pancake,” meaning that if they are weakened somehow, they will drop each story onto the one beneath until the whole thing had gone straight down into rubble.

Crane collapse at Mecca's Grand Mosque

They say that Osama bin Laden, who was an engineer, had expected/hoped the World Trade Towers would tip over sideways and smash adjacent buildings -- something like the big construction crane that just now tipped over when hit by lightning and wind, smashing into the Grand Mosque of the Kaaba.  The crane belonged to bin Laden’s father’s business.  What a gift to conspiracy theorists!  There is video of it happening, lightning and all.

During the Nineties time period when I was in Portland a crane had tipped over and smashed into the City Hall.  The building inspectors said that people had no idea how much risk there was in the many projects of expansion and that inspection had little “impact” on the problem.  Very small problems could cause catastrophic consequences.  We don’t know enough and supervisors didn’t have enough power.  The architects were in experimental mode.  The engineers were influenced by money.  And since my group was soils engineers, they knew how shifty land can be.

We were told that if a bad earthquake hit, the Portlandia building was likely to “pancake” (the pop term for progressive collapse), so if we felt trembling we should immediately get under our steel desks.  And we probably ought to keep some bottles of water there in case we were trapped for a few days.  Then management took away our steel desks and gave us composite cubicles.

There were boxes in the clerical storeroom marked for earthquake response.  The rumor went around that they were full of candy bars for emergency rations and someone couldn’t resist breaking open a box to see.  The contents were paper forms for recording damage for insurance claims.  Somewhere in there I formed the intention of coming back to Montana.

Building 7

By now I’ve watched Building 7 fall a dozen times.  There’s plainly fire in one whole floor.  It clearly pancakes, though the narrative calls it “progressive collapse.”  The distinction is lost on me.  Putting that alongside the newly released photos of the stricken Cheney and his watchdog wife, and suddenly it becomes clear that bin Laden was one lucky poker player. This coming election is going to be very "interesting".   The stakes keep going up.   I’m thinking about houses built on sand, how image overwhelms the words of experts, and how dangerous the implanting of fear can be.  How easy it is. What a great way to claim power.  But it can boomerang.

Gene and his friend weren’t really expecting to visit the rez, but I guided them out to Heart Butte and back, because I thought they ought to see scenery and hear a little history.  Every time we passed a ranch, the Cheyenne grandmother wanted to know whether whites owned it.  Mostly they were Indian owned,  which surprised her.  When we got back to town, we drove along adjacent Lake Francis.  The road was unpaved, just a trail, pretty rough.  Gene almost groaned in pain from the jolts.  He said his back was giving him a lot of trouble but he wouldn’t take even aspirin.

Within months he was in hospice, dying of stomach cancer.  Knowing death was coming must have been the reason for him being so anxious to understand the family web.  He'd been a bookkeeper for a uranium company for much of his life and this was his own bookkeeping.  I don’t know whether the girl friend knew or whether she would have told me anything anyway.   Knowledge is power.  Esp, when it's secret.

Cheney on 9-11

1 comment:

aad de gids said...

[corrected now Mary]
this clear account shows "conspiracy theories" are somehow important and,were so in the past also. we've had the deaths of marilyn monroe,the kennedy brothers,the laughing pope who only ruled for a couple of months,etc. even bob marley would have been allegedly killed by the CIA (now the CIA has a long curriculum of involvement in much stranger things). but it was said a copper nail was fabricated upside down in marleys shoe,poisoning him even in one "picque",perhaps laced with riicine or different hemlock fares. and so 9/11 (which in europe means "9 november" so we needed some time to adjust) was,as much as the horrific event it really was,also at once the beginning of the postironic complexisized way news would from now on spill over us,just as the burning debris spilled over WTC building 7. the (later,or fairly soon which in itself could be cause for a contraconspiratists movement by way of pointing to the swiftness with which they called names,which in itself was suspect) conspiracists vented their suspicion about systemic "puffs" coming out of the sides of building 7 indicating,according to them,man-inserted explosives. but if that building,also with,as Mary says,one whole floor under fire,burning,in much the same manner although structurally different,"pancaked",then we would have seen that systemic puffs as were also seen in the towers. steel acquired a melting point (if i am correct 1700°C = 3,092°F). the strange intricacies in Mary's house and with the unwarranted bedguest in Crackers to the wife of the nephew make this a veritable "petite histoire" in the bigger one that encircled it.