!! History Commons Alert, Exciting News

Results Overview


You can also use the advanced search page or the new context search page (beta) to find what you are looking for.


Molten metal pouring out of the side of the World Trade Center.Molten metal pouring out of the side of the World Trade Center. [Source: Cameraplanet]Video footage later reveals that in the minutes immediately before the collapse of the WTC’s South Tower, a stream of molten metal starts pouring out of a window opening around the northeast corner of its 80th floor. FEMA later suggests that this is “possibly aluminum from the airliner,” and comments, “This is of particular interest because, although the building collapse appears to have initiated at this floor level, the initiation seems to have occurred at the southeast rather than the northeast corner.” [Civil Engineering, 5/2002; Federal Emergency Management Agency, 5/1/2002, pp. 2-34; Dwyer and Flynn, 2005, pp. 207] According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology, “The composition of the flowing material can only be the subject of speculation, but its behavior suggests it could have been molten aluminum.” [Pitts, Butler, and Junker, 9/2005, pp. 375] However physics professor Steven E. Jones will in 2006 dispute this, saying that molten aluminum is silvery and never turns yellow, like what is in the video footage. He will instead claim the presence of this molten metal supports the theory that explosives, specifically thermite, are what caused the Twin Towers to collapse. He says thermite can cause steel to melt and become yellowish. [Deseret Morning News, 4/10/2006]

Entity Tags: World Trade Center

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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

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

Explosives on a chipExplosives on a chip [Source: Gary Meek/Georgia Institute of Technology]According to an article published in The Environmentalist, a peer-reviewed scientific journal published by Springer Netherlands, air quality data collected by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) at Ground Zero support the hypothesis that cutting charges made with thermite were used to demolish the World Trade Center. The article by authors (and 9/11 truth activists) Kevin Ryan, James Gourley, and Steven Jones says the presence of thermite would best explain three major documented anomalies: [Ryan, Gourley, and Jones, 8/4/2008]
1) The Persistence of Fires at Ground Zero - As has been extensively reported, the rubble at Ground Zero continued to burn for months after 9/11, despite rain as well as firefighters’ use of large quantities of water and of the chemical fire suppressant Pyrocool. [New York Times, 11/19/2001] There is also eyewitness and photographic evidence of molten metal (see September 12, 2001-February 2002) and of explosions accompanied by white dust clouds. The book Aftermath: World Trade Center Archive by photographer Joel Meyerowitz shows a picture of such an explosion taking place on November 8, 2001. [Meyerowitz, 2006, pp. 178] Another photography books by NYPD officer John Botte also shows a picture of smoke emerging from the pile at Ground Zero and explains: “Occasionally, a huge flame would shoot out from the middle of the pile, sounding like a blow torch, as it did here.” [Botte, 2006, pp. 48-49]
2) Spikes of Certain Chemicals in the Air - EPA data shows that several spikes of chemical products of combustion, called volatile organic chemicals (VOC), occurred in October and November 2001, and in February 2002. According to the authors, these spikes indicate “abrupt, violent fires.”
3) The Presence of 1,3-Diphenylpropane - A third anomaly was the presence of large quantities of 1,3-diphenylpropane (1,3-DPP) in the air, a chemical that had not been found in previous structure fires. An EPA scientist told Newsday, “We’ve never observed it in any sampling we’ve ever done.” [Newsday, 9/14/2003]
A possible explanation would be the presence of novel “energetic nanocomposites” which include 1,3-DPP, according to scientific articles reviewed by Ryan et al. Such materials are “amenable to spray-on applications.” A 2002 report said: “The energetic coating dries to give a nice adherent film. Preliminary experiments indicate that films of the hybrid material are self-propagating when ignited by thermal stimulus.” [Ryan, Gourley, and Jones, 8/4/2008] The main center for nanocomposites research is Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). An October 2000 article in a LLNL publication provided an introduction to the research conducted there: “Energetic nanocomposites have a fuel component and an oxidizer component mixed together. […] In one such material (termed a thermite pyrotechnic), iron oxide gel reacts with metallic aluminum particles to release an enormous amount of heat. ‘These reactions typically produce temperatures in excess of 3,500 degrees Celsius’ says [LLNL researcher Randy] Simpson.” [Science & Technology Review, 10/2000] The authors conclude that “[t]he presence of energetic materials, specifically energetic nanocomposites, at [Ground Zero], has the potential to explain much of the unusual environmental data seen at the WTC. Thermite […] is such a pyrotechnic mixture that cannot be easily extinguished and is a common component of energetic nanocomposites.… [T]he detection of 1,3-DPP at the WTC supports this hypothesis. Finally, the spikes in VOCs, detected by EPA on specific dates, are more readily explained as a result of short-lived, violent fires caused by energetic materials.” [Ryan, Gourley, and Jones, 8/4/2008]

Entity Tags: Steven E. Jones, James R. Gourley, Environmental Protection Agency, Kevin Ryan

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

After the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) announces the results of its investigation into the collapse of World Trade Center Building 7, some critics dispute its explanation for the collapse and question its apparent debunking of claims that explosives were used to demolish the building. The 47-story tower collapsed late in the afternoon of 9/11, even though no plane hit it (see (5:20 p.m.) September 11, 2001). Some have argued that fire and the falling debris from the Twin Towers’ collapses should not have brought down such a large steel and concrete structure. [Associated Press, 8/21/2008]
NIST Lacks 'the Expertise on Explosives' - James Quintiere, a professor of fire protection engineering at the University of Maryland who previously worked as the chief of NIST’s fire science and engineering division, says that NIST does not “have the expertise on explosives, so I don’t know how they came to that conclusion,” that explosives did not cause the collapse. However, Quintiere says he never personally believed explosives were involved. [Los Angeles Times, 8/22/2008] Richard Gage, a California architect and leader of a group called Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth, complains, “How much longer do we have to endure the cover-up of how Building 7 was destroyed?” The New York Times points out that “the collapse of 7 World Trade Center—home at the time to branch offices of the Central Intelligence Agency, the Secret Service, and the Giuliani administration’s emergency operations center—is cited in hundreds of Web sites and books as perhaps the most compelling evidence that an insider secretly planted explosives, intentionally destroying the tower.” [New York Times, 8/21/2008]
NIST Presentation - At a presentation of its findings earlier in the day, NIST announced that, in its three-year study of the collapse, it found no evidence showing explosives were used to bring the building down. [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 8/21/2008; National Institute of Standards and Technology, 8/21/2008] During his summary of the findings of NIST’s WTC 7 investigation (see August 21, 2008), lead investigator Shyam Sunder said, “We did not find any evidence that explosives were used to bring the building down.” [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 8/21/2008]
'No Witness Reports' of Loud Explosions - In the draft version of its final report on the collapse, which is released on this day (see August 21, 2008), NIST explains: “Blast from the smallest charge capable of failing a critical column… would have resulted in a sound level of 130 dB to 140 dB at a distance of at least half a mile if unobstructed by surrounding buildings.… This sound level is consistent with standing next to a jet plane engine and more than ten times louder than being in front of the speakers at a rock concert. There were no witness reports of such a loud noise, nor was such a noise heard on the audio tracks of video recordings of the WTC 7 collapse.” [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 8/2008, pp. 44-45 pdf file]
NIST Rules out Thermite - Skeptics have argued that an incendiary material called thermite was used to bring down WTC 7 (see August 4, 2008), and this would not necessarily have created such a loud explosive boom. [New York Times, 8/21/2008] But in a fact sheet published on this day, NIST responds: “To apply thermite to a large steel column, approximately 0.13 lb of thermite would be needed to heat and melt each pound of steel. For a steel column that weighs approximately 1,000 lbs. per foot, at least 100 lbs. of thermite would need to be placed around the column, ignited, and remain in contact with the vertical steel surface as the thermite reaction took place. This is for one column… presumably, more than one column would have been prepared with thermite, if this approach were to be used. It is unlikely that 100 lbs. of thermite, or more, could have been carried into WTC 7 and placed around columns without being detected, either prior to Sept. 11 or during that day.” [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 8/21/2008] Sunder says that investigators therefore decided not to use their computer model to evaluate whether a thermite-fueled fire might have brought down WTC 7. Pointing to the omission, one skeptic says, “It is very difficult to find what you are not looking for.” [New York Times, 8/21/2008] In a 2006 fact sheet, NIST in fact admitted it “did not test for the residue” of explosives or thermite in the remaining structural steel from the WTC collapses (see August 30, 2006). [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 8/30/2006] And, as the New York Times notes, “Adding to the suspicion is the fact that in the rush to clean up the site, almost all of the steel remains of the tower were disposed of, leaving investigators in later years with little forensic evidence” (see Shortly After September 11, 2001 and September 12-October 2001). [New York Times, 8/21/2008]
Extensive Preparations for Demolition - NIST’s new fact sheet also points out: “For [WTC 7] to have been prepared for intentional demolition, walls and/or column enclosures and fireproofing would have to be removed and replaced without being detected. Preparing a column includes steps such as cutting sections with torches, which produces noxious and odorous fumes. Intentional demolition usually requires applying explosive charges to most, if not all, interior columns, not just one or a limited set of columns in a building.” [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 8/21/2008]

Entity Tags: Richard Gage, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Shyam Sunder, World Trade Center, James Quintiere

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

A bi-layered chip from the World Trade Center dust.A bi-layered chip from the World Trade Center dust. [Source: Open Chemical Physics Journal]Significant amounts of what appears to be a highly explosive material called nano-thermite are found in samples of dust that were collected at Ground Zero shortly after the 9/11 attacks, according to a 25-page scientific study published in the online, peer-reviewed Open Chemical Physics Journal. The paper is written by nine scientists and engineers. Its lead author is Niels Harrit, an associate professor of chemistry at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark.
Four Samples of WTC Dust Examined - The authors obtained four samples of dust from the World Trade Center collapses that had been collected by New York residents near the WTC. One of these samples was collected about 10 minutes after the second tower collapsed, thus eliminating any possibility of contamination by the steel-cutting or clean-up operations at Ground Zero, which began later on.
Red and Grey Chips Found - The paper reports that the authors discovered distinctive red and gray chips in all the dust samples, which showed marked physical and chemical similarities between all samples. Most of the chips measured between 0.2 and 3 mm. The properties of these chips were analyzed using optical microscopy, scanning electron microscopy (SEM), X-ray energy dispersive spectroscopy (XEDS), and differential scanning calorimetry (DSC).
Key Findings - Some of the key findings and conclusions of the authors’ analysis are:
bullet The XEDS analysis found that the red chip materials contained iron oxide (rust), aluminum, silicon, and carbon in tiny plate-like structures. The existence of elemental aluminum and iron oxide together indicated that the material “may contain thermite.” [Harrit et al., 2009; Deseret News, 4/6/2009; Russia Today, 7/9/2009] Thermite is an incendiary material composed of iron oxide and aluminum powder. [Popular Science, 8/19/2004; Deseret Morning News, 4/10/2006; BBC, 7/4/2008]
bullet After igniting several red/gray chips in the DSC at 700°C, numerous iron-rich spheres and spheroids were found in the residue. This indicated that a very high temperature reaction occurred, since the iron-rich product would have to be molten to form these shapes. In several spheres, the iron content significantly exceeded the oxygen content, leading the authors to conclude that a very high-temperature reduction-oxidation reaction had occurred, specifically the thermite reaction.
bullet The spheroids’ chemical signature strikingly matched the chemical signature of spheroids produced by igniting commercial thermite, and also matched the signatures of many of the microspheres previously found in the WTC dust by some of the study’s authors.
bullet As measured using DSC, the chips ignited and reacted vigorously at a temperature of about 430°C, with a narrow exotherm, matching closely an independent observation of a known nano-thermite sample. The low temperature of ignition and the presence of iron oxide grains of less than 120 nanometers showed that the material was not conventional thermite, which ignites at around 900°C, but very likely a form of nano-thermite (which is also called “super-thermite”).
bullet The authors conclude, “[T]he red layer of the red/gray chips we have discovered in the WTC dust is active, unreacted thermitic material, incorporating nanotechnology, and is a highly energetic pyrotechnic or explosive material.” [Harrit et al., 2009]
The study also cites an April 2000 report, which confirms that “the technology to make materials remarkably fitting the characterization of the red chips” that the authors discovered was available at least 17 months before 9/11. [Gash et al., 4/10/2000; Harrit et al., 2009]

Entity Tags: Niels H. Harrit

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline


No entities found for the given parameters. Would you like to change your search?


No topics found for the given parameters. Would you like to change your search?


No timelines found for the given parameters. Would you like to change your search?


No projects found for the given parameters. Would you like to change your search?


Time period

Email Updates

Receive weekly email updates summarizing what contributors have added to the History Commons database


Developing and maintaining this site is very labor intensive. If you find it useful, please give us a hand and donate what you can.
Donate Now


If you would like to help us with this effort, please contact us. We need help with programming (Java, JDO, mysql, and xml), design, networking, and publicity. If you want to contribute information to this site, click the register link at the top of the page, and start contributing.
Contact Us

Creative Commons License Except where otherwise noted, the textual content of each timeline is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike