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Context of 'September 12, 2001-February 2002: Witnesses See Molten Metal in the Remains at Ground Zero'

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A chunk of hot metal being removed from the North Tower rubble about eight weeks after 9/11.
A chunk of hot metal being removed from the North Tower rubble about eight weeks after 9/11. [Source: Frank Silecchia]In the weeks and months after 9/11, numerous individuals report seeing molten metal in the remains of the World Trade Center:
bullet Ken Holden, who is involved with the organizing of demolition, excavation, and debris removal operations at Ground Zero, will later tell the 9/11 Commission, “Underground, it was still so hot that molten metal dripped down the sides of the wall from [WTC] Building 6.” [9/11 Commission, 4/1/2003]
bullet William Langewiesche, the only journalist to have unrestricted access to Ground Zero during the cleanup operation, will describe, “[I]n the early days, the streams of molten metal that leaked from the hot cores and flowed down broken walls inside the foundation hole.” [Langewiesche, 2002, pp. 32]
bullet Leslie Robertson, one of the structural engineers responsible for the design of the WTC, describes fires still burning and molten steel still running 21 days after the attacks. [SEAU News, 10/2001 pdf file]
bullet Alison Geyh, who heads a team of scientists studying the potential health effects of 9/11, reports: “Fires are still actively burning and the smoke is very intense. In some pockets now being uncovered, they are finding molten steel.” [Johns Hopkins Public Health Magazine, 2001]
bullet Ron Burger, a public health advisor who arrives at Ground Zero on September 12, says that “feeling the heat” and “seeing the molten steel” there reminds him of a volcano. [National Environmental Health Association, 9/2003, pp. 40 pdf file]
bullet Paramedic Lee Turner arrives at the World Trade Center site on September 12 as a member of a federal urban search and rescue squad. While at Ground Zero, he goes “down crumpled stairwells to the subway, five levels below ground.” There, he reportedly sees, “in the darkness a distant, pinkish glow—molten metal dripping from a beam.” [US News and World Report, 9/12/2002]
bullet According to a member of New York Air National Guard’s 109th Air Wing, who is at Ground Zero from September 22 to October 6: “One fireman told us that there was still molten steel at the heart of the towers’ remains. Firemen sprayed water to cool the debris down but the heat remained intense enough at the surface to melt their boots.” [National Guard Magazine, 12/2001]
bullet New York firefighters will recall “heat so intense they encountered rivers of molten steel.” [New York Post, 3/3/2004]
bullet As late as five months after the attacks, in February 2002, firefighter Joe O’Toole sees a steel beam being lifted from deep underground at Ground Zero, which, he says, “was dripping from the molten steel.” [Knight Ridder, 5/29/2002]
Steven E. Jones, a physics professor from Utah, will claim this molten metal is “direct evidence for the use of high-temperature explosives, such as thermite,” used to deliberately bring down the WTC towers. [MSNBC, 11/16/2005] He will say that without explosives, a falling building would have “insufficient directed energy to result in melting of large quantities of metal.” [Deseret Morning News, 11/10/2005] There will be no mention whatsoever of the molten metal in the official reports by FEMA, NIST, or the 9/11 Commission. [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 5/1/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004; National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005] But Dr. Frank Gayle, who leads the steel forensics aspects of NIST’s investigation of the WTC collapses, will be quoted as saying: “Your gut reaction would be the jet fuel is what made the fire so very intense, a lot of people figured that’s what melted the steel. Indeed it didn’t, the steel did not melt.” [ABC News 7 (New York), 2/7/2004] As well as the reports of molten metal, data collected by NASA in the days after 9/11 finds dozens of “hot spots” (some over 1,300 degrees) at Ground Zero (see September 16-23, 2001).

Entity Tags: Frank Gayle, Joe O’Toole, Ken Holden, Leslie Robertson, Alison Geyh, Lee Turner, William Langewiesche, Ron Burger, World Trade Center, Steven E. Jones

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Dr. Abolhassan Astaneh-Asl examines steel from the World Trade Center.Dr. Abolhassan Astaneh-Asl examines steel from the World Trade Center. [Source: University of California, Berkeley]An engineer investigating the remains of the World Trade Center sees melted girders and other evidence that the towers experienced extreme temperatures on 9/11. Dr. Abolhassan Astaneh-Asl is a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of California, Berkeley. He specializes in studying structural damage done by earthquakes and terrorist bombings. [Chronicle of Higher Education, 12/7/2001; CBS News, 3/11/2002] He arrives in New York on September 19 to conduct a two-week scientific reconnaissance of the collapsed towers, hoping to gain an understanding of how they had come down. His project is one of eight financed by the National Science Foundation to study the WTC disaster. [New York Times, 10/2/2001; Berkeleyan, 10/3/2001; US Congress. House. Committee on Science, 3/6/2002] He examines numerous pieces of steel taken from Ground Zero. [Chronicle of Higher Education, 12/7/2001] Astaneh-Asl will describe the WTC as “the best-designed building I have ever seen.” [San Francisco Chronicle, 10/22/2001] Yet he notices unusual warping and other damage in its remaining steel:
bullet At a recycling center in New Jersey, he sees 10-ton steel beams from the towers that look “like giant sticks of twisted licorice.” [Chronicle of Higher Education, 12/7/2001] He shows the San Francisco Chronicle a “banana-shaped, rust-colored piece of steel” that has “twisted like toffee during the terrorist attack.” [San Francisco Chronicle, 10/22/2001]
bullet He later recalls, “I saw melting of girders in [the] World Trade Center.” [PBS, 5/10/2007]
bullet He notes that steel has bent at several connection points that had joined the floors of the WTC to the vertical columns. He describes the connections as being smoothly warped, saying, “If you remember the Salvador Dali paintings with the clocks that are kind of melted—it’s kind of like that.” He adds, “That could only happen if you get steel yellow hot or white hot—perhaps around 2,000 degrees.” [Chronicle of Higher Education, 12/7/2001]
bullet Astaneh-Asl says that steel flanges have been reduced “from an inch thick to paper thin.” [Berkeleyan, 10/3/2001]
bullet He finds a foot-long twisted shard of steel that is “like a piece of bread, but it was high-strength steel.” He comments, “I haven’t seen anything like this [before].” [Berkeley Daily Planet, 10/20/2001]
bullet He finds “severely scorched [steel] members from 40 or so floors below the points of impact [by the planes].” He believes this is the result of the planes having destroyed the elevator walls, thereby allowing burning jet fuel to pour down into the building, igniting fires hundreds of feet below the impact floors. [CBS News, 3/12/2002]
bullet He says that, in some places, the fireproofing used to protect the WTC steel has “melted into a glassy residue.” [New York Times, 10/2/2001]
bullet Astaneh-Asl sees a charred I-beam from WTC Building 7, which collapsed late in the afternoon of 9/11. “The beam, so named because its cross-section looks like a capital I, had clearly endured searing temperatures. Parts of the flat top of the I, once five-eighths of an inch thick, had vaporized.” [New York Times, 10/2/2001]
Other individuals will report seeing molten metal in the remains of the World Trade Center in the weeks and months after 9/11 (see September 12, 2001-February 2002), and data collected by NASA reveals dozens of “hot spots” (some over 1,300 degrees Fahrenheit) at Ground Zero (see September 16-23, 2001). But Thomas Eagar—an engineering professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology—later comments that the “temperature of the fire at the WTC [on 9/11] was not unusual, and it was most definitely not capable of melting steel.” [Eagar and Musso, 12/2001] Yet Astaneh-Asl will later put forward the “tentative” conclusion, “The collapse of the [Twin Towers] was most likely due to the intense fire initiated by the jet fuel of the planes and continued due to burning of the building contents.” [Astaneh-Asl, 11/30/2003 pdf file] Astaneh-Asl is a member of the team assembled by the American Society of Civil Engineers to investigate the World Trade Center site after 9/11 (see September 12, 2001), though he will resign from this because he disagrees with its decision to keep findings secret until the initial inquiry has been completed. [New York Times, 10/2/2001; Associated Press, 9/6/2002]

Entity Tags: World Trade Center, Thomas Eagar, Abolhassan Astaneh-Asl

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline


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