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Context of 'Shortly After 9:59 a.m. September 11, 2001: Fire Department Expert on Building Collapses Thinks Bombs Caused South Tower to Come Down'

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In the lobby of the north WTC tower, just after the South Tower is hit, Fire Commissioner Thomas Von Essen speaks briefly to Fire Chief Ray Downey. According to Von Essen, Downey—who is a highly respected expert on building collapses—says to him, “You know, these buildings can collapse.” Von Essen later recalls, “He just said it in passing, not that these buildings will collapse in 40 minutes and we have to get everybody out of here, or not that they’ll collapse by tomorrow, or not that they necessarily will collapse at all. Just that they can collapse.” [Fink and Mathias, 2002, pp. 229; 9/11 Commission, 5/18/2004] But other firefighters do not appear to have shared this concern. According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the Fire Department command officers who are planning for operations inside the Twin Towers expect that there will “be localized collapse conditions on the damaged fire floors,” but do “not expect that there [will] be any massive collapse conditions or complete building collapse.” At the end of its three-year investigation of the WTC collapses, NIST will report, “No one interviewed indicated that they thought that the buildings would completely collapse.” [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 72 and 75-76] In fact, Deputy Fire Commissioner Lynn Tierney will meet up with Downey and others—including Von Essen—slightly later, on the south lawn of the WTC complex, where a new command center is set up. At that time, according to Tierney, Downey will only be concerned that the 360-foot antenna atop the North Tower will fall, and “No one ever thought the towers were going to come down.” [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 9/11/2006] However, shortly before the first tower comes down, EMT Richard Zarrillo will be asked to relay a message to some senior firefighters that the mayor’s Office of Emergency Management “says the buildings are going to collapse” (see (Before 9:59 a.m.) September 11, 2001). And later in the day, Mayor Giuliani will recount that around the same time, he had been told “that the World Trade Center was going to collapse” (see (Before 9:59 a.m.) September 11, 2001). The 9/11 Commission will state, “The best estimate of one senior [fire] chief, provided to the chief of the department sometime between 9:25 and 9:45, was that there might be a danger of collapse [of the South Tower] in a few hours, and therefore units probably should not ascend above floors in the sixties.” The Commission does not state, however, whether this fire chief was referring to a total building collapse or just a localized collapse. [9/11 Commission, 5/19/2004] Ray Downey is killed when the second tower collapses at 10:28 a.m. [New York Times, 9/9/2005]

Entity Tags: Lynn Tierney, New York City Fire Department, Ray Downey, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Thomas Von Essen

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Fire Chief Ray Downey is on the corner of West Street and Vesey Street, where the chiefs in charge of the response at the WTC have gathered to survey the scene. [Downey, 2004, pp. 233] Downey is the head of the New York Fire Department’s Special Operations Command, where he has pioneered techniques for responding to terrorist attacks. [CBS News, 9/11/2006] Reportedly, he had felt certain that a big attack on American soil was due. Worst in his mind had been “a situation in which there was a secondary device timed to explode after rescuers had rushed to the scene” of a terrorist attack. As he now checks in with the fire chiefs who are trying to put together a response plan, he tells them “he is worried about secondary devices in the towers, explosive devices that could hurt the firemen.” [Downey, 2004, pp. 224 and 233] Shortly after the South Tower comes down, Downey will in fact say he thought bombs in the building had caused it to collapse (see Shortly After 9:59 a.m. September 11, 2001). [City of New York, 12/6/2001] He will be killed when the North Tower collapses at 10:28 a.m. [New York Times, 9/9/2005]

Entity Tags: Ray Downey

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Ray Downey.Ray Downey. [Source: Unknown]When the WTC’s South Tower collapses, Father John Delendick—one of New York Fire Department’s chaplains—runs down a ramp to the garages below the nearby World Financial Center, to escape the dust cloud. He speaks there with Fire Chief Ray Downey, and asks him if the jet fuel from the plane had blown up, causing the collapse. [City of New York, 12/6/2001] Downey is in fact a renowned expert on building collapses. Robert Ingram, a battalion chief in the New York Fire Department later refers to him as “the premiere collapse expert in the country.” [US Congress. Senate. Committee on Commerce, 10/11/2001 pdf file] 9/11 Commissioner Timothy Roemer calls Downey a “very, very respected expert on building collapse.” [9/11 Commission, 5/18/2004] And Fire Chief Mike Antonucci, who is a best friend of Downey’s, says he “was probably the most knowledgeable person on building collapses there was. That was his [hobby], to study building collapses—what affected the engineering of buildings, how they [would] weaken and how he could respond and stay safe.” [Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, 9/7/2006] In response to Delendick’s question, Downey replies that, “at that point he thought there were bombs up there because [the collapse] was too even.” [City of New York, 12/6/2001] Earlier on, Downey told other fire chiefs responding at the WTC that he was worried about “explosive devices” in the Twin Towers “that could hurt the firemen” (see (9:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001). He is killed when the North Tower collapses at 10:28 a.m. [New York Times, 9/9/2005]

Entity Tags: Ray Downey, John Delendick

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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