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Context of '(September 12, 2001-May 2002): Recovery Workers Find WTC Pulverized to Dust from Collapses'

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Scientists who work for the US Geological Survey watch the World Trade Center towers collapse on their television sets. “We sat at home, watched that gray-white cloud roll over Lower Manhattan, and knew damned well that the dust was going to hurt a lot of people,” Gregg Swayze, a USGS geophysicist, will later tell the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “I knew we had the best technology in the world to determine precisely what was in that dust.” [St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 2/10/2002] Swayze and other USGS scientists quickly get to work making arrangements to use USGS and NASA equipment to determine the composition of the dust clouds (see September 12, 2001).

Entity Tags: Gregg Swayze

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

Workers involved in the cleanup at Ground Zero find that much of the World Trade Center towers and their contents have been pulverized to dust. Charlie Vitchers, a construction superintendent who oversees the operation, says, “Apart from recoveries, we didn’t find one thing. Nothing. Not even a file cabinet.… As we were working on the pile, people were saying, ‘We’re not finding anything.’” He adds, “We weren’t going to find anything that was made out of wood. But you think we would have found a computer.… We found cell phones. We found shoes. But with regard to furniture, nothing, not a thing, not a desk, not a wall panel.… [F]or the most part there was nothing in the pile of debris that was recognizable.” Crane operator Bobby Gray says, “I don’t remember seeing carpeting or furniture. You’d think a metal file cabinet would make it, but I don’t remember seeing any, or phones, computers, none of that stuff. There were areas where there were no fires, which is not to say that they didn’t experience tremendous heat anyway. But even in areas that never burned we didn’t find anything.” He comments, “It was just so hard to comprehend that everything could have been pulverized to that extent. How do you pulverize carpet or filing cabinets?” [Stout, Vitchers, and Gray, 2006, pp. 143-144] According to Greg Meeker of the US Geological Survey, “Six million sq ft of masonry, 5 million sq ft of painted surfaces, 7 million sq ft of flooring, 600,000 sq ft of window glass, 200 elevators, and everything inside came down as dust” when the towers collapsed. “The only thing that didn’t get pulverized was the WTC towers’ 200,000 tons of structural steel.” [Chemical and Engineering News, 10/20/2003] Some people will later claim that this complete pulverization of the WTC is evidence of the towers having been brought down deliberately, using explosives. [Griffin, 2004, pp. 26; Griffin and Scott, 2006, pp. 46-47]

Entity Tags: Gregory Meeker, World Trade Center, Bobby Gray, Charlie Vitchers

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

An optical microscopy image of a particle in the WTC dust formed by high temperature.An optical microscopy image of a particle in the WTC dust formed by high temperature. [Source: RJ Lee Group]A laboratory releases two reports focusing on the unique properties of the dust from the World Trade Center collapses, and finds evidence of extremely high temperatures involved in these collapses. The laboratory, RJ Lee Group of Pennsylvania, is the largest commercial electron microscope laboratory in the world. [RJ LeeGroup, Inc., 5/2004, pp. 1 pdf file] In April 2002, it was retained on behalf of Deutsche Bank Trust Company Americas to investigate environmental contaminants in this company’s building at 130 Liberty Street, New York. [RJ LeeGroup, Inc., 12/2003, pp. 1 pdf file] The building, located next to the World Trade Center, was heavily damaged on September 11, suffering a 24-story gash when the South Tower collapsed. [New York Times, 6/20/2003; Real Estate Weekly, 9/14/2005] RJ Lee collected samples from it, which it then analyzed “using industry standard analytical laboratory methods.” [RJ LeeGroup, Inc., 12/2003, pp. 3-4 pdf file] In December 2003 and May 2004, it releases two reports that evaluate the features of the dust from the WTC that was deposited in 130 Liberty Street. It calls this evaluation “the most extensive microscopic investigation related to WTC dust ever performed.” [RJ LeeGroup, Inc., 12/2003, pp. 1-2 pdf file; RJ LeeGroup, Inc., 5/2004, pp. 4 pdf file] The reports describe phenomena that indicate extremely high temperatures were involved in the WTC collapses:
bullet “Various metals (most notably iron and lead) were melted during the WTC event, producing spherical metallic particles. Exposure of phases to high heat results in the formation of spherical particles due to surface tension.” [RJ LeeGroup, Inc., 12/2003, pp. 17 pdf file]
bullet “The amount of energy introduced during the generation of the WTC dust and the ensuing conflagration caused various components to vaporize.… Many of the materials, such as lead, cadmium, mercury, and various organic compounds, vaporized and then condensed during the WTC event.” [RJ LeeGroup, Inc., 12/2003, pp. 21 pdf file]
bullet “An additional characteristic of WTC dust is the presence of coated particles and fibers.… The presence of lead oxide on the surface of mineral wool indicate the existence of extremely high temperatures during the collapse which caused metallic lead to volatilize, oxidize, and finally condense on the surface of the mineral wool.” [RJ LeeGroup, Inc., 5/2004, pp. 12 pdf file]
bullet “WTC dust markers exhibit characteristics of particles that have undergone high stress and high temperature. Asbestos in the WTC dust was reduced to thin bundles and fibrils as opposed to the complex particles found in a building having asbestos-containing surfacing materials. Gypsum in the WTC dust is finely pulverized to a degree not seen in other building debris. Mineral wool fibers have a short and fractured nature that can be attributed to the catastrophic collapse. Lead was present as ultra fine spherical particles. Some particles show evidence of being exposed to a conflagration such as spherical metals and silicates, and vesicular particles (round open porous structure having a Swiss cheese appearance as a result of boiling and evaporation).” [RJ LeeGroup, Inc., 5/2004, pp. 17-18 pdf file]
The reports offer no explanation for the origins of the extremely high temperatures that are indicated. But physics professor Steven E. Jones (see November 8, 2005) will later claim that molten metal found in the debris of the WTC is evidence that the towers were brought down deliberately and involving the use of an incendiary substance called thermite, which can melt steel. [Deseret Morning News, 11/10/2005; Deseret Morning News, 4/10/2006]

Entity Tags: World Trade Center, RJ Lee Group

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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