Thank you, Popular Mechanics for “Debunking 9/11 Myths.” Editors David Dunbar and Brad Reagan have put together a fine mass-market book that concludes that conspiracy theories about the 9/11 attacks “can’t stand up to the facts.” They base this on the work of a team of reporters and researchers who analyzed assertions made by conspiracy theorists by interviewing engineers, aviation experts, military officials, eyewitnesses and members of the 9/11 investigative teams—more than 300 sources. The book is an update of the first edition, published in 2006, which was based on a March 2005 report in Popular Mechanics.
Among other myths, the book debunks claims related to the twin 110-story towers’ “melted” steel, free-fall times, puffs of dust and “nano-thermite” in the towers. It delves into myths about the Pentagon hit as well. The chapter on Seven World Trade Center’s collapse trigger says investigators are “now convinced the building failed primarily as a result of the long-burning fires in its interior.”
With the media frenzy surrounding the 10th anniversary of 9/11, the timing of the update could not be better. It is a welcome antidote to all the airtime and ink that the conspiracy theorists are getting.
The book presents “claims,” followed by rebuttals called “facts.” And though the general message and conclusions, in my opinion, are solid, the book does contain some errors.
For example, during a discussion of the B-25 bomber that flew into the Empire State Building, it says the building has reinforced concrete columns and quotes a former deputy fire chief, who is not a structural engineer and has no business speaking about things he knows nothing about, as saying the Empire State Building is “the ultimate concrete high-rise building—the ultimately stable high-rise.”
The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat lists the Empire State Building as having a steel frame. There are also some minor errors regarding the description of the twin towers.
Perhaps the book’s most compelling reading is in the foreword by James B. Meigs, Popular Mechanics’ editor-in-chief, and in the introduction that follows it. The 2005 cover story “unleashed a flood of criticisms and accusations” from those supporting conspiracy theories, says Meigs. He continues: “These attacks ranged from the preposterous (it was said our magazine had published this investigation on orders from a cabal of Masons and Illuminati) to alarming (death threats were referred to our security department).”
Kudos to Popular Mechanics for not just not backing down after that initial story but for publishing not one but two editions of “Debunking Myths.” I wish I could have been part of the editorial team’s courageous enterprise.