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First-hand Accounts of Underground Explosions In The North Tower

Start Logic | November 28 2004

This article from Chief Engineer magazine presents eyewitness account of the moments after the first plane crash, and describes evidence of large explosions in the lobby, parking garage and subbasement levels of WTC-1 at the time of the crash

It contains some fascinating first-hand accounts of the events of September 11 as recounted by operating engineers on the scene. One of the most remarkable is the story of Mike Pecoraro, who was working in the 6th sub-basement of the North Tower when the first plane hit. Here are some excerpts:

At about 6:45 he went to the mechanical shop in the second subbasement, ate his breakfast and chatted with his co-workers who were also arriving for the normal 8:00 a.m. beginning of their shift. Mike’s assignment that day would be to continue constructing a gantry that would be used to pull the heads from the 2,500 ton chillers, located in the 6th sub- basement level of the tower. 49,000 tons of refrigeration equipment were located in the lower level of the tower. The 2,500 ton units were the smallest in use...

Deep below the tower, Mike Pecoraro was suddenly interrupted in his grinding task by a shake on his shoulder from his co-worker. “Did you see that?” he was asked. Mike told him that he had seen nothing. “You didn’t see the lights flicker?”, his co-worker asked again. “No,” Mike responded, but he knew immediately that if the lights had flickered, it could spell trouble. A power surge or interruption could play havoc with the building’s equipment. If all the pumps trip out or pulse meters trip, it could make for a very long day bringing the entire center’s equipment back on-line.

Mike told his co-worker to call upstairs to their Assistant Chief Engineer and find out if everything was all right. His co-worker made the call and reported back to Mike that he was told that the Assistant Chief did not know what happened but that the whole building seemed to shake and there was a loud explosion. They had been told to stay where they were and “sit tight” until the Assistant Chief got back to them. By this time, however, the room they were working in began to fill with a white smoke. “We smelled kerosene,” Mike recalled, “I was thinking maybe a car fire was upstairs”, referring to the parking garage located below grade in the tower but above the deep space where they were working.

The two decided to ascend the stairs to the C level, to a small machine shop where Vito Deleo and David Williams were supposed to be working. When the two arrived at the C level, they found the machine shop gone.

“There was nothing there but rubble, “Mike said. “We’re talking about a 50 ton hydraulic press – gone!” The two began yelling for their co-workers, but there was no answer. They saw a perfect line of smoke streaming through the air. “You could stand here,” he said, “and two inches over you couldn’t breathe. We couldn’t see through the smoke so we started screaming.” But there was still no answer.

The two made their way to the parking garage, but found that it, too, was gone. “There were no walls, there was rubble on the floor, and you can’t see anything” he said.

They decided to ascend two more levels to the building’s lobby. As they ascended to the B Level, one floor above, they were astonished to see a steel and concrete fire door that weighed about 300 pounds, wrinkled up “like a piece of aluminum foil” and lying on the floor. “They got us again,” Mike told his co-worker, referring to the terrorist attack at the center in 1993. Having been through that bombing, Mike recalled seeing similar things happen to the building’s structure. He was convinced a bomb had gone off in the building.

Consider the implications of what Mr. Pecoraro describes: At this point the only overt damage to the building was the plane crash some 95 floors above, which could not have caused violent explosions underground. Since the towers were anchored at the base to the bedrock the shaking caused by the crash would have been greatest close to the crash site, getting progressively weaker as it approached the rigid attachment at the bottom. Yet the underground damage he describes can not have been the result of a mere shaking - nothing short of an explosion could reduce the contents of a machine shop to rubble.

Damage to the North Tower Lobby

The damage to the parking garage and lobby simultaneous with the first plane impact are also indicative of the effects of high explosives, with widespread blast damage and fine dust covering the entire scene. Below is a link to a video clip of the WTC-1 lobby area just after the first plane crash, as seen in the documentary "9/11" made by Jules and Gedeon Naudet:

The narrator claims that he "later learned" that there had been an explosion caused by fuel pouring down an elevator shaft, but the lobby shows none of the soot or fuel residue we would expect from such an explosion. Instead we see blown-out windows and a fine dry dust covering the entire lobby, very much the signature of high explosives. Similar damage to the parking garages and subbasements can only be explained by pre-placed explosive charges that were detonated at the moment of the plane's impact.

Another account of underground blasts (For video, click here)

Construction worker Phillip Morelli describes being thrown to the ground by two explosions while in the fourth subbasement of the North Tower. The first, which threw him to the ground and seemed to coincide with the plane crash, was followed by a larger blast that again threw him to the ground and this time blew out walls. He then made his way to the South Tower and was in the subbasement there when the second plane hit, again associated with a powerful underground blast. This is one of a series of interviews with WTC survivors done by NY1 News:


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