How Did They Know Building 7 Was Going to Collapse?

9/11 Blogger
Tuesday, February 13, 2007

"That building is never coming down, that didn't get hit by a plane, why isn't somebody in there putting the fire out?"

- Comment by a firefighter, September 11, 2001.

World Trade Center Building 7 was a 47-story skyscraper, located a few hundred feet from the twin towers. No plane hit it, yet at 5:20 p.m. on September 11, 2001 it collapsed entirely to the ground in the space of just 6.6 seconds. No building like it, a modern, steel-framed high-rise, had ever collapsed because of fire before. In fact, photos indicate that the fires it did suffer were relatively minor, particularly when compared to other building fires that have not caused such a total collapse. If the official explanation is correct--that WTC 7's collapse was not due to pre-planted explosives--then this was the biggest scientific anomaly of all time. People must surely have been astonished when this massive building suddenly fell to the ground late in the afternoon of 9/11.

Yet this was not the case.

As the dozens of witness accounts below show, many people were warned in advance to evacuate the area surrounding WTC 7, because of the "imminent" collapse. Indeed, a specific "collapse zone" was set up and, consequently, there were no casualties when WTC 7 eventually fell. Furthermore, a small number of senior firefighters have claimed they could tell beforehand that this building was going to come down, even though such an event would have been totally unprecedented.

So how did they know Building 7 was going to collapse?

WITNESSES WHO WERE WARNED OF THE IMPENDING COLLAPSE

1) Firefighter Thomas Smith: "They backed me off the rig because seven was in dead jeopardy, so they backed everybody off and moved us to the rear end of Vesey Street. We just stood there for a half hour, 40 minutes, because seven was in imminent collapse and finally did come down." (Interview, 12/6/2001)

2) Firefighter Vincent Massa: "At this point Seven World Trade Center was going heavy, and they weren't letting anybody get too close. Everybody was expecting that to come down. ... I remember later on in the day as we were waiting for seven to come down, they kept backing us up Vesey, almost like a full block. They were concerned about seven coming down, and they kept changing us, establishing a collapse zone and backing us up." (Interview, 12/4/2001)

3) Firefighter Tiernach Cassidy: "Then, like I said, building seven was in eminent collapse. They blew the horns. They said everyone clear the area until we got that last civilian out. We tried to give another quick search while we could, but then they wouldn't let us stay anymore. So we cleared the area. ... So yeah, then we just stayed on Vesey until building seven came down." (Interview, 12/30/2001)

4) Indira Singh, a volunteer EMT: "What happened with that particular triage site is that pretty soon after noon, after midday on 9/11, we had to evacuate that because they told us Building 7 was coming down. ... I do believe that they brought Building 7 down because I heard that they were going to bring it down because it was unstable, because of the collateral damage. ... By noon or one o'clock they told us we had to move from that triage site up to Pace University, a little further away, because Building 7 was gonna come down or being brought down. ... There was another panic around four o'clock because they were bringing the building down and people seemed to know this ahead of time, so people were panicking again and running." (KPFA, 4/27/2005)

5) EMT Joseph Fortis: "When the third building came down, we were on that corner in front of the school, and everybody just stood back. They pulled us all back at the time, almost about an hour before it, because they were sure -- they knew it was going to come down, but they weren't sure. So they pulled everyone back, and everybody stood there and we actually just waited and just waited and waited until it went down, because it was unsafe." (Interview, 11/9/2001)

6) Fire Chief Thomas McCarthy: "So when I get to the command post, they just had a flood of guys standing there. They were just waiting for 7 to come down. ... I made it down Vesey Street to just in front of the overpass of 7 World Trade. People were saying don't stand under there, it's going to come down. ... So at that point we were a little leery about how the bridge was tied in, so no one was really going onto it, and then they were also saying 7 was going to come down. They chased everyone off the block." (Interview, 10/11/2001)

7) Firefighter Matthew Long: "And at that point they were worried that 7 was coming down so they were calling for everyone to back out. ... Because they were just adamant about 7 coming down immediately. I think we probably got out of that rubble and 18 minutes later is when 7 came down." (Interview, 10/9/2001)

8) Firefighter Edward Kennedy: "That was the only Mayday that I remember, and to tell you the truth, the only guy that really stands out in my mind that I remember being on the radio was Chief Visconti. ... I remember him screaming about 7, No. 7, that they wanted everybody away from 7 because 7 was definitely going to collapse, they don't know when, but it's definitely going to come down, just get the hell out of the way, everybody get away from it, make sure you're away from it, that's an order, you know, stuff like that." (Interview, 1/17/2002)

9) Paramedic Louis Cook: "We got to Chambers and Greenwich, and the chief turns around and says, 'There's number Seven World Trade. That's the OEM bunker.' We had a snicker about that. We looked over, and it's engulfed in flames and starting to collapse. ... We hear over the fire portable, 'Everybody evacuate the site. It's going to collapse.' Mark Steffens starts yelling, 'Get out of here! Get out of here! Get out of here! We've got to go! We've got to go! It's going to collapse.' ... We pulled the car over, turned around and just watched it pancake." (Interview, 10/17/2001)

10) Battalion Fire Chief John Norman: "After we found Chief Ganci, in addition to recon, I was detailed to make sure the collapse zone for 7 WTC had been set up and was being maintained. The sector commanders were trying to clear out of that area. We expected it to fall to the south, into the areas we were searching." (John Norman, "Search and Rescue Operations," Fire Engineering, 10/2002)

John Norman (in another account): "Now we're still worried about 7. We have guys trying to make their way up into the pile, and they're telling us that 7 is going to fall down - and that was one of the directions from the command post, to make sure we clear the collapse zone from 7 and this is a 600-foot-tall building, so we had to clear a 600-foot radius from that building." ("WTC: This Is Their Story," Firehouse, 5/2002)

11) Deputy Fire Chief Nick Visconti: "Now, World Trade Center 7 was burning and I was thinking to myself, how come they're not trying to put this fire out? ... At some point, Frank Fellini said, now we've got hundreds of guys out there, hundreds and hundreds, and that's on the West Street side alone. He said to me, Nick, you've got to get those people out of there. I thought to myself, out of where? Frank, what do you want, Chief? He answered, 7 World Trade Center, imminent collapse, we've got to get those people out of there. ... There were a couple of chiefs out there who I knew and I called them individually. I said to them, listen, start backing those people out, we need them back up to the command post. While this was going on, I saw individual company officers. I was whistling, Captain, bring your guys this way. I was getting some resistance. The common thing was, hey, we've still got people here, we don't want to leave. I explained to them that we were worried about 7, that it was going to come down and we didn't want to get anybody trapped in the collapse. One comment was, oh, that building is never coming down, that didn't get hit by a plane, why isn't somebody in there putting the fire out? A lot of comments, a bit of resistance, understandable resistance." ("WTC: This Is Their Story," Firehouse, 8/2002)

12) Firefighter James Wallace: "They were saying building seven was going to collapse, so we regrouped and went back to our rig. We went to building four or three; I don't know. We were going to set up our tower ladder there. They said no good because building seven is coming down." (Interview, 12/29/2001)

13) Fire Captain Robert Sohmer: "As the day went on they started worrying about 7 World Trade Center collapsing and they ordered an evacuation from that area so at that time, we left the area with the other companies, went back to the command post on Broadway ... We were about to proceed our operation there and this was in the afternoon, I would say approximately maybe 2:00 roughly, where we started to operate and then they asked us to fall back again due to the potential of 7 World Trade Center collapsing." (Interview, 1/17/2002)

14) Fire Lieutenant William Ryan: "Then we found out, I guess around 3:00 o'clock, that they thought 7 was going to collapse. So, of course, we've got guys all in this pile over here and the main concern was get everybody out, and I guess it took us over an hour and a half, two hours to get everybody out of there. ... So it took us a while and we ended up backing everybody out, and that's when 7 collapsed." (Interview, 10/18/2001)

15) Fire Captain Brenda Berkman: "We no sooner got going on something there when a chief came along and said, 'Everybody's got to leave the area. We're afraid that Seven World Trade is going to fall down.' The whole south side of Seven World Trade had been hit by the collapse of the second Tower, and there was fire on every floor." (Susan Hagen and Mary Carouba, Women at Ground Zero, 2002, p. 213)

FireWork newsletter (adding to Berkman's account): "After being ordered back because of the fear that yet another building was about to collapse (7 World Trade Center, 40+ stories), Brenda [Berkman] and her crew went to find other firefighters who might have some tools or a radio. ... That afternoon, 7 World Trade Center came down. 'We had cleared an enormous collapse zone for that, and it still wasn't big enough. When the thing came down, the rubble and the dust came across the West Side Highway, over and past the rubble from the towers that was there.'" (Linda Willing, "Report from Ground Zero: The World Trade Center Collapse," FireWork, 9/2001)

16) Firefighter Maureen McArdle-Schulman: "At that point, Seven World Trade had 12 stories of fire in it. They were afraid it was going to collapse on us, so they pulled everybody out. We couldn't do anything." (Susan Hagen and Mary Carouba, Women at Ground Zero, 2002, p. 17)

17) Firefighter Pete Castellano: "We were ordered down from the tower ladder because of a possible collapse at Tower 7." (Interview, 12/28/2001)

18) Firefighter Brian Fitzpatrick: "We were then positioned on Vesey Street between North End and the West Side Highway because there was an imminent collapse on 7 World Trade, and it did collapse." (Interview, 12/6/2001)

19) Firefighter Christopher Patrick Murray: "Probably about 4:00 o'clock, 5:00 o'clock, our radios went dead, because we heard reports all day long of 7 World Trade possibly coming down and I think at 5:30 that came down." (Interview, 12/12/2001)

20) Firefighter Kevin McGovern: "Actually I think at that point just as we were leaving, guys -- I don't know who it was. I guess it was a chief was saying clear the area, because they were worried about number Seven World Trade Center coming down and burying guys who were digging. So we basically went back to the rig, because they were clearing that area out. It took about three hours for Seven World Trade Center to actually come down." (Interview, 12/11/2001)

21) Firefighter George Holzman: "We stayed there for quite sometime when I don't even know who, I think it was someone, Lieutenant Lowney spoke to, asked us to leave the area, they were concerned about 7 World Trade Center collapsing." (Interview, 1/17/2002)

22) Byron Pitts, CBS News correspondent: "About an hour ago, World Trade Center building number 7 collapsed. ... It was the one calamity that was not a surprise. Police had evacuated the area hours ago, fearful building number 7 would indeed fall down." (CBS News, 9/11/2001)

23) Kansas City Star: "About 4:30 p.m., word went out to evacuate the area. Officials were worried that Building 7 of the Trade Center complex would collapse." (David Hayes, "Amid despair, photographer's work brought hope," Kansas City Star, 3/28/2004)

24) Tom Franklin, photographer: "It was about 4 p.m., and they were anticipating Seven World Trade Center collapsing. The firemen were leaving en masse." (Newseum, Running Toward Danger, 2002, p. 204)

Tom Franklin (in another account): "It was 4:45 p.m., and all the firemen and rescue workers were evacuating Ground Zero after word came that a third building -- WTC 7 -- was ready to fall." (Tom Franklin, "The After-Life of a Photo that Touched a Nation," Columbia Journalism Review, 3/1/2002)

25) Mark Jacobson, reporter, New York Magazine: "Hours later, I sat down beside another, impossibly weary firefighter. ... Then, almost as a non sequitur, the fireman indicated the building in front of us, maybe 400 yards away. 'That building is coming down,' he said with a drained casualness. 'Really?' I asked. At 47 stories, it would be a skyscraper in most cities, centerpiece of the horizon. But in New York, it was nothing but a nondescript box with fire coming out of the windows. 'When?' 'Tonight ... Maybe tomorrow morning.' This was around 5:15 p.m. I know because five minutes later, at 5:20, the building, 7 World Trade Center, crumbled." (Mark Jacobson, "The Ground Zero Grassy Knoll," New York Magazine, 3/27/2006)

26) Paramedic Joseph Cahill: "The reason we were given for why we were moving was that 7 World Trade Center was going to collapse or was at risk of collapsing. So we must have been somewhere in this area where we would have had a problem with that. ... They wanted us to move the treatment sector because of 7 World Trade Center was imminently to collapse, which, of course, it did." (Interview, 10/15/2001)

27) EMT Mercedes Rivera: "At that point, they said that Seven World Trade had no face and it was ready to collapse." (Susan Hagen and Mary Carouba, Women at Ground Zero, 2002, p. 29)

28) Christine Haughney, reporter, Washington Post: "Then a policeman directed me north. The Solomon Smith Barney building--Building Seven--was about to collapse." (Chris Bull and Sam Erman, At Ground Zero, 2002, p. 17)

29) Peter DeMarco, reporter, New York Daily News: "Seven or eight blocks down Greenwich Street, the No. 7 World Trade building, a smaller, forty-story structure, was on fire. The street was closed; the building was going to collapse." (Chris Bull and Sam Erman, At Ground Zero, 2002, p. 97)

30) Fire Chief Joseph Pfeifer: "Yes, I watched 7. At one point, we were standing on the west side of West Street and Vesey. And I remember Chief Nigro coming back at that point saying I don't want anybody else killed and to take everybody two blocks up virtually to North End and Vesey, which is a good ways up. And we stood there and we watched 7 collapse." ("WTC: This Is Their Story," Firehouse, 4/2002)

31) Battalion Fire Chief Frank Congiusta: "While we were searching the subbasements, they decided that Seven World Trade Center, which was across the street, was going to collapse. So they called us out. ... When I came out, they were calling us on the radio to tell us to get out. Then I reported that the search was negative, and then they wouldn't let anybody near the site pretty much, because Seven World Trade Center was going to come down." (Interview, 1/8/2002)

32) EMT Jason Charles: "So we started heading over to where Building 7 was at and they were like Building 7 is going to collapse, you can't go over there, this and that, and there was another building that they thought was going to collapse that was like right behind the triage center, the building that we were in." (Interview, 1/23/2002)

33) Fire Lieutenant Roy David: "At Pace University we had -- we set up -- I'm sorry, we set up in that lobby of that building, the lobby and the actual whole first floor. There was a threat of collapse of building number seven, so 225, we had to evacuate it." (Interview, 10/12/2001)

34) EMT Decosta Wright: "They said -- we were like, are you guys going to put that fire out? I was like, you know, they are going to wait for it to burn down and it collapsed. ... Yes, so basically they measured out how far the building was going to come, so we knew exactly where we could stand. ... 5 blocks. 5 blocks away. We still could see. Exactly right on point, the cloud just stopped right there. Then when that building was coming down, the same thing, that same rumbling." (Interview, 10/11/2001)

35) Fire Lieutenant Rudolf Weindler: "I ran into Chief Coloe from the 1st Division, Captain Varriale, Engine 24, and Captain Varriale told Chief Coloe and myself that 7 World Trade Center was badly damaged on the south side and definitely in danger of collapse. Chief Coloe said we were going to evacuate the collapse zone around 7 World Trade Center, which we did." (Interview, 1/15/2002)

36) Liz Gonzalez, reporter, Telemundo/Channel 47: "They started evacuating the area because they thought a third building was going to go down. We decided to stay. We saw the third building crash." (Newseum, Running Toward Danger, 2002, p. 209)

37) Sara Kugler, reporter, the Associated Press: "I saw hundreds of firefighters leaning against buildings, sitting on trucks, eating fruit and water that the Red Cross was handing out. 'Where are all the injured?' I asked. 'They are not letting us in. It's not stable,' said the firefighters. ... All of a sudden Seven World Trade Center started to collapse." (Newseum, Running Toward Danger, 2002, p. 210)

 

WITNESSES WHO APPARENTLY KNEW IN ADVANCE OF THE COLLAPSE

1) Fire Chief Frank Fellini: "The major concern at that time at that particular location was number Seven, building number seven, which had taken a big hit from the north tower. ... We were concerned that the fires on several floors and the missing steel would result in the building collapsing. So for the next five or six hours we kept firefighters from working anywhere near that building, which included the whole north side of the World Trade Center complex. Eventually around 5:00 or a little after, building number seven came down." (Interview, 12/3/2001)

2) Fire Chief Daniel Nigro: "The biggest decision we had to make on the first day was to clear the area and create a collapse zone around the severely damaged 7 World Trade Center, a 47-story building heavily involved in fire. A number of fire officers and companies assessed the damage to the building. The appraisals indicated that the building's integrity was in serious doubt. I issued the orders to pull back the firefighters and define the collapse zone. It was a critical decision; we could not lose any more firefighters. It took a lot of time to pull everyone out, given the emotionalism of the day, communications difficulties, and the collapse terrain." (Daniel Nigro, "Report from the Chief of Department," Fire Engineering, 9/2002)

Daniel Nigro (in another account): "I ordered the evacuation of an area sufficient around to protect our members, so we had to give up some rescue operations that were going on at the time and back the people away far enough so that if 7 World Trade did collapse, we wouldn't lose any more people. We continued to operate on what we could from that distance and approximately an hour and a half after that order was given, at 5:30 in the afternoon, 7 World Trade Center collapsed completely." (Interview, 10/24/2001)

3) Fire Chief Frank Cruthers: "Early on, there was concern that 7 World Trade Center might have been both impacted by the collapsing tower and had several fires in it and there was a concern that it might collapse. So we instructed that a collapse area ... be set up and maintained so that when the expected collapse of 7 happened, we wouldn't have people working in it." (Interview, 10/31/2001)

Frank Cruthers (in another account): "Of primary importance early on in the operation was the structural condition of 7 World Trade Center. Assistant Chief Frank Fellini had been approached by several chiefs who were concerned about its stability. It had been heavily damaged in the collapse and was well-involved in fire. Chief Fellini had looked at it and described to us some damage to its south side; he felt that structural components of the building had been comprised. So when Chief Dan Nigro arrived at the command post, he convened a meeting of staff chiefs, and this was a major subject of the meeting. We were all in accord about the danger of 7 WTC, and we all agreed that it was not too conservative of a decision to establish a collapse zone for that building, move the firefighters out of the collapse area, and maintain that strategy." (Frank Cruthers, "Postcollapse Command," Fire Engineering, 9/2002)

4) Fire Captain Ray Goldbach: "There was a big discussion going on at that point about pulling all of our units out of 7 World Trade Center. Chief Nigro didn't feel it was worth taking the slightest chance of somebody else getting injured. So at that point we made a decision to take all of our units out of 7 World Trade Center because there was a potential for collapse. ... Made the decision to back everybody away, took all the units and moved them all the way back toward North End Avenue, which is as far I guess west as you could get on Vesey Street, to keep them out of the way." (Interview, 10/24/2001)

5) Fire Engineering magazine: "FDNY chief officers surveyed 7 WTC and determined that it was in danger of collapse. Chief Frank Cruthers, now the incident commander, and Chief Frank Fellini, the operations commander, both agreed that a collapse zone had to be established. That meant firefighters in the area of the North Tower had to be evacuated. This took some time to accomplish because of terrain, communications, and the fierce determination with which the firefighters were searching. At 5:30 p.m., about 20 minutes after the last firefighters evacuated the collapse zone, 7 WTC collapsed. It was the third steel-frame high-rise in history to collapse from fire--the other two had collapsed earlier that day." ("World Trade Center Disaster: Initial Response," Fire Engineering, 9/2002)

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