From the reporters' own mouths: the Twin Towers' explosive demolition

On this week's episode of 9/11 Free Fall, Ted Walter and Graeme MacQueen join host Andy Steele to talk about their newly published paper, "How 36 Reporters Brought Us the Twin Towers’ Explosive Demolition on 9/11."

At more than 12,000 words and with 80 separate news clips from 9/11, the paper sheds new light on how the media reported the Twin Towers' destruction before the official narrative set in.

We invite you to listen or to read the interview below.

Andrew Steele:

Welcome to 9/11 Free Fall. I'm the host Andy Steele. Today we're joined by Ted Walter and Graeme MacQueen. Ted is the director of strategy and development at AE911Truth. He holds a master of public policy degree from the University of California, Berkeley. Prior to working with AE911Truth, he was the director of NYC CAN's 2009 ballot initiative and 2014 High-Rise Safety Initiative. He was a volunteer campaign manager for AE's ReThink911 campaign. He's the lead author of Beyond Misinformation: What Science Says about the Destruction of World Trade Center Buildings 1, 2, and 7. Great reference book. Ted, welcome back to the show.

Ted Walter:

Thank you, Andy. It's always good to be on.

Andrew Steele:

And he is joined again by Graeme MacQueen. Graeme is the founder of the McMaster Center of Peace Studies in Canada and its War and Health program. He's been involved in developmental work and peace initiatives in war-affected places such as Sri Lanka, Croatia, Gaza and Afghanistan. He was the author of the paper “118 Witnesses: The Firefighter's Testimony to Explosions in the Twin Towers.” It's great to have him back on. Graeme, welcome back to the show.

Graeme MacQueen:

Thank you, Andy.

Andrew Steele:

So we have these two gentlemen here this week on this show because they just put out a new paper. It's going to be up on by the time this show airs. The name of the paper is “How 36 Reporters Brought Us the Twin Towers’ Explosive Demolition on 9/11.” Ted, tell us what this paper is about.

Ted Walter:

Well, basically this paper is the result of Graeme and I watching about 70 hours of news coverage from September 11, 2001, and presenting the results of what we found. We compiled what we could find on the internet, continuous news coverage from about 11 different channels, ranging from the major networks to cable news to the local channels in New York City — basically, all the news organizations that had reporters on the ground at these various networks. And I guess we went into it looking to see if we approached the footage systematically, what we could find as far as, what were reporters seeing, what were they saying, and what was the collective account that sort of developed as to what took place.

And in the end, we found... Well, we had a sense from... And for those folks who have spent time over the years watching various news clips from 9/11, you've probably seen a handful of clips here and there of different reporters talking about explosions. But we wanted to get a sense of the big picture and look at it from the bird's eye view.

And what we found was that, overwhelmingly that — I guess we say the great majority of the reporters who were there who witnessed the event, perceived it to be an explosion or an explosion-based event. And then the reporters who were on the ground talking about it in the minutes and hours afterwards, referred to it as an explosion or other terminology that's suggestive of it being an explosion-based event. And we actually found a very small number, a very small percentage of the reporters who were reporting events in New York City, not mention explosions in their reporting. And so it was clear to us that really that the dominant perception, the dominant interpretation of what was taking place there by the reporters who were there witnessing it and having their interpretations of the event immediately documented and transmitted to millions of people was that the towers were destroyed because of massive explosions inside of them as sort of a subsequent follow-up attack to the planes hitting the towers.

We suspected that this was something along the lines of this is what we would find. But I think we were perhaps surprised at just how, in a sense, uniform it was. And that pretty much everyone who described the event, the great majority of them described it as an explosion or some kind of explosion-based event. And so I think that we're really pleased now that this paper is published and that all of these video clips are collected and available in one place so that anybody who wants to research this more, anybody who wants a much more comprehensive and richer understanding of what took place in New York City on 9/11, can go to this article and can see it all for themselves — and can read our interpretation, our analysis of what these reporters were thinking and saying on that day.

Andrew Steele:

That's right. It's a great reference point, too, for your research. And if you want to point to a specific account, it'll most likely be on there. Because, again, this is very comprehensive. And, of course, these reporters were there on the scene that day. That's what a lot of 9/11 coverage consisted of, the reporters either calling in on their phones or, by the time they got cameras out there, standing in front of the camera saying exactly what they felt, what they thought, their first instinct before some time set in and they were handed a new script, a new story to put onto the American public — and the world public, for that matter.

Graeme, this is a great follow-up to your “118 Witnesses” paper from years ago. And I want to know, from your perspective, why do you feel it was important to document now the news reporters. You went to the first responders first. Now you're looking at what the news reporters have to say. Why is their testimony so important in your view?

Graeme MacQueen:

Yeah, that's a good question, Andy. And one of the reasons I feel a sense of satisfaction in this coming out, is because it does link up nicely with the piece I did 15 years ago.

In this case, a lot of the heavy lifting as well as a lot of the fine distinctions were done by my coauthor, Ted. And I thank him for that. But it's been great to have that sense of continuity. The reason it's important, there's a number of reasons it's important. But one of them is, I had a kind of a unique chance when I did the firefighters, because there was this World Trade Center Task Force report. And it was very long, but it was finite. I mean, it's however many — I don't know — 10,000 or 12,000 pages. And there it is, and you can study it, and you can count how many people talk about explosions, and you can count how many describe the destruction in a different way, so you can compare them. And this was very useful.

And I didn't really expect to find another little universe of witnesses comparable to that again. Every time I thought of doing the news media, I thought, “But that's hopeless, because it's like an infinite universe — all the different news agencies that covered it.” So you would end up cherry picking. You know, okay, well, these are the number of people that mentioned explosions. But you wouldn't be able to compare that with anything else. It'd just be an overwhelming task.

So, it was really good, in dialogue with Ted — and I think this was more Ted's insight than mine — to realize that, “Well, but there is a finite number of major television stations and news channels and whatever.” And we can pick them out and we can find as much footage as we can find. It won't be complete but it'll be a finite universe of reporters. And we will be able to go through it and we will be able to count, just as with the firefighters: How many talked about explosions and how many didn't, because this comparison is really important. After all, if we said there were 36 reporters that talked about explosions and someone came along later and said, “Yeah, but there were 360 that described the towers and didn't mention explosions,” then it would kind of take the wind out of our sails. But that's not what we found at all.

So, I'm really glad that we were able to get this finite number of sources, examine it carefully, make our definitions, and our distinctions just as well as we could, and be transparent about it. You know, “Here's the material. Here's what we did. This was our method. If you don't like it, do it yourself. See what you come up with.”

So, it's a citizens’ initiative, which is necessary because the governmental investigative agencies, especially the FBI, did not do their job. Or, if they did, they're hiding it from us. And, therefore, we citizens of the world — because I'm not even a U.S. citizen, I'm Canadian — we have to do the job. So that's what we're trying to do.

Andrew Steele:

Now, I'm going to ask Graeme this question because you wrote the first “118 First Responders” paper. But Ted, feel free to speak up too. But, in that first paper, you had a standard that you followed, by what you considered to be a valid account to include. And it depended on what specifically people said. What kind of standard did you follow on this paper?

Graeme MacQueen:

Very similar. And I'll hand this to Ted in a minute because he's more familiar with it. But, basically, in order to be counted as an explosion witness, you had to use certain terms. You had to describe it in a certain way. Otherwise, you didn't get counted. And, also, how are we going to determine what a non-explosion witness is? That was even more — that was quite a bit more complicated. But we did our best. And, Ted, do you want to say a little more about that?

Ted Walter:

Yeah. Simply put, we really, actually created three different categories of “explosion reporters,” which is the blanket term that we use for all these reporters who in one way or another reported something related to explosions and the collapse of the towers.

There was “eyewitness reporting.” So, basically, the reporter had to actually just witness and describe the event directly in some way. Then we saw another pattern of reporting, which had to do with the reporters mentioning the event in the immediate aftermath of it or within minutes or hours after, they would call it an explosion. And we were very careful when we came across those instances to make sure that the reporter was not describing the collision of the airplane to the tower and the fireball that came out of that, but actually the collapse of the buildings. And so a lot of reporters described — you know, referred to it as an explosion or a similar kind of event, something similar to an explosion. And we categorized those reporters as narrative reporters. So, they're giving you a narrative of what took place. And within that narrative is the explosion and destruction of the towers. And then the third category was what we called “source-based reporting,” which was — there was a handful of reporters who were talking to government officials and were told by the officials in these agencies that the officials believed that the towers were or possibly were brought down by explosives. And this included officials from the fire department — the New York Fire Department — the FBI, and the New York Police Department — so pretty much like three of the most important agencies in terms of responding to the attacks. High-ranking officials in all three agencies also believed along with many of the reporters and many of the firefighters that the buildings had been brought down with explosives, and they were conveying that information to reporters. So that was the third category.

Our criteria for a non-explosive reporter was they had to describe the event and not mention explosion in any way. So they didn't necessarily have to articulate the fire induced collapse hypothesis explicitly or say that they were implying that or supporting that theory in any way. They just had to describe the event and not mention it as being an explosion or explosion-based event in any way. And we found only four reporters who reported the event in that way.

Now, if you go back to the criteria that I just mentioned for the explosion reporters, we kind of discovered along the way as well that, to do an even comparison here, to do an apples-to-apples comparison between the two groups, when you're just comparing them side by side, you really have to focus on the eyewitness reporting, the ones who witnessed the event and reported and described the event and said that it was an explosion or that they heard an explosion. You can only compare those reporters to the non-explosion reporters, because we did not include in the non-explosion category, people that just referred to it as a collapse.

Because you also had explosion reporters that referred to the event as a collapse as well. You would have somebody who'd say, “There was this huge explosion, and the building collapsed.” And they were essentially thinking of it as the explosion caused the collapse, but they still use that word collapse in some cases.

But when we do that apples-to-apples comparison of reporters who described the event directly — and were not just referring to it in the course of their reporting but actually describing it to the viewing audience — we had, I think the number is, we had about 21 explosion reporters witnessing the event, perceiving it as an explosion or something of that nature, and only four reporters not perceiving it, or at least not articulating that they perceived it as an explosion. So that percentage is something like 84%. So that's the great majority of the reporters who described the event to people watching on television.

Andrew Steele:

Now, something that I really want to shine a spotlight on is the amount of work that must've gone into this. The 9/11 Truth movement is like a space shuttle launch. You have so many different people doing so many different things as part of this massive combined project. And I can just imagine how much 9/11 footage had to have been gone over to get all of these accounts. And not just passive watching but active watching, listening, for these accounts to come up and making a note of them. I mean, you even put down the timestamps when we were getting the videos. So, I'm very appreciative of you guys for doing this.

So, beginning with Ted — Ted, can you first comment, how long did this take for you guys to do? And I also want to know from both of you, did you guys learn anything new from this from watching all this footage? Did you pick up any new accounts that you had never heard before?

Ted Walter:

Yeah, so the short answer is that it was an awful lot of work. Graeme originally — I believe it was two years ago around the September 11th anniversary that I wrote an article that was starting to touch on this subject. It was talking about — and I'd have to go back and really dig into it again — but it was basically talking about how Vice President Dick Cheney and Mayor Giuliani, on the day of 9/11, basically contradicted the notion to people that were talking to them that were asking them questions or that were sharing their observations of the destruction of the towers, that Dick Cheney and Giuliani contradicted that notion and said, “Oh no, it's a natural building collapse. The building is just pancaking.” And I found that really fascinating. And, so, I looked at a number of examples where various officials, where you had some people in government agencies or in news organization suspecting that the buildings had been brought down with explosives, and then you had the counter-narrative coming from a small handful of people.

That was sort of like tiptoeing toward this question of like, “What did people perceive on 9/11 and how was the narrative shaped from that point?” And Graeme had been, I think, thinking about a paper that was focused on the sort of fascinating story of Aaron Brown, who was, I guess, the lead anchor for CNN on 9/11, who had sort of — he was basically outside, somewhere in midtown, but like sort of the top of a building in, you know, a CNN building in Midtown, watching everything unfold in front of him and making sense of it and trying to make sense of what he was seeing and what he was perceiving. And Graeme had seen a more recent interview with him where he talked about, I believe, feeling guilty or ashamed that he was not able to foresee that the buildings would collapse as a result of the airplane impacts and the fires. And that he questioned whether he had what it took to be an anchor, to be a journalist on that day, because he wasn't able to foresee it.

And Graeme picked up on how he was reporting the event and realized that he was actually doing really good journalism and actually asking and trying to figure out with an open mind and trusting his eyes and asking what was actually — what was the reason why this building came down. Initially, he sort of perceived it as an explosion or some kind of explosion-based event and continued to sort of ask that question throughout the day, even though his confidence in his initial impression of it being an explosion sort of gradually diminished as he started trying to construct a narrative that made sense in his head, and as he got information from other people and even an engineer later in the day who told him, “Oh no, no, it was a natural building collapse.” And Graeme ended up publishing this article last fall, which was an excellent article that you can find on the OffGuardian website, as well as our website,

And, so, Graeme was interested in developing this article at that time. And I said, “Let's maybe open up the scope here. I think Aaron Brown is fascinating. We have this other anchor at CNBC who — his name is Mark Haines — in my view, called it exactly as it happened, as it was happening. He immediately recognized what he was seeing and that it was an explosion, but it was very unusual, because it started high up in the building and worked its way down. And, so, there's so much out there. Let's open up the scope here maybe and see what can we find if we watch every single channel and all the footage that we can find.” And, so, we decided to do it. And I would say, the majority of our work of watching this footage, I mean, it took hours and hours and hours for both of us. The majority of the work probably happened in the first six months. So, this paper has been quite a long time in the making. So that, I'm talking like the fall of 2018 until the spring of 2019. Since then, it's been slowly — you know, we've been trying to get it done, and just various things have come up that have slowed us down.

The paper also has, the question that — and this is talked about in the paper that we just published — there was a second question that is on our mind that we are still in the process of trying to answer and that we plan to publish an article on soon, hopefully within the next few months, which is, “Okay, if the dominant hypothesis among reporters who were reporting the event was that it was explosions, that explosions brought down the towers, how did that story change so quickly?” And you can begin to answer that question as well by watching all this footage.

So, what we found, what we're actually presenting right now in this article, is only a portion of what we've found. It’s sort of just the original — it's the starting data, basically. And the next question, which is, in a lot of ways is an even more complicated question, is how did the story change? What can we tell from watching how this event was reported by the reporters at the scene and then interpreted by the anchors and other people in the studios about how the story changed. Who is responsible for it? What sort of factors caused this narrative of explosions bringing down the towers to go away, to basically fade into nothing by the end of the day?

And, so, tackling that second question has been a daunting task. And, in the end, we decided, you know what, let's get this first part of this data out there, which is what this paper is. And then we'll continue our work of answering the second question of why did the narrative change. So, it's been almost two years in the making and it's not done yet. But the first part of what we discovered from watching all this footage is now out there.

Andrew Steele:

Graeme, any comments on what Ted just revealed? And did you personally pick up any new stuff in doing this research?

Graeme MacQueen:

Oh, I picked up lots of stuff, Andy. I don't just look for explosion accounts when I watch this footage, I look for everything. But I can't cram it all in now.

Let me just say one thing, which surprised me, and that is that I ended up feeling very sorry for these journalists. And it's unusual for me to say that because I'm normally very, very critical of mainstream news coverage. But, number one, they were risking their lives a lot of them out on the ground there, and you see them covered with dust and running around. And secondly, they saw things, terrible things, that I'm sure none of them will ever be able to forget. If you listen to Rose Arce talking about watching people jump out of the towers and so on. And then, thirdly, they were forced ultimately to dismiss themselves and their own minds and their own perceptions, and to say, “I was there, but I was wrong.” And they're forced also to dismiss their colleagues. They're forced to dismiss all 36. “We were all wrong. We were all wrong. We had to be corrected by people who weren't there, but who are authorities or were told that by the government that they're credible and we're not credible.” And I think that's a terrible thing. I think that's like beheading American journalism. And I think they suffered through all those three things. And, so, I do feel sorry for them.

Andrew Steele:

I do, too. And it's terrible what was done to the psyche of this country as a result of 9/11 and keeping this big lie covered up, and that branches out, it trickles down, it affects so many other aspects of our existence here in America and that affects the rest of the world, too, because of the stuff that our nation did afterwards.

And just something I'm going to shine a light on, this is from your paper. It says, “Three reporters, two of whom also fall into the narrative reporting category, reported on the possible use of explosives based on information from government officials who said they suspected that explosives were used to bring down the Twin Towers.” Now, it's interesting that they were putting out that hypothesis but they were quickly abandoned even before any official investigation could be conducted, went right out the door. So, it's not even journalists, it's people who are in investigative capacities trying to figure out who did this. And it doesn't seem like they really followed through on looking into the possibility that explosives were used. Because there was no NIST at that point saying, “Don't look this way.” And I don't think even FEMA had a chance to get in there before they quickly abandoned these theories, these hypotheses. So, it's very interesting.

Now, we're in a limited amount of time, Ted, but I do want to know what you guys are going to do with this. I mean, it's out there, but you have some plans to get this out and get a wider audience for this paper. So, Ted, can you talk about that?

Ted Walter:

Well, part of what the paper, I think, is trying to accomplish is to — for folks out there who've been resistant to the claims of the 9/11 Truth movement that the towers were brought down by controlled demolition and the various other related claims — that this set, this very rich accounting of what happened that day can open some minds.

And I think it's — you know, as the very first sentence in the paper states — people believe that this idea of the towers coming down due to explosives is some sort of revisionist theory. It's trying to change our understanding of what happened that day. The original theory is — as we propose it — the original hypothesis by the majority of the people who witnessed the event was that it was controlled demolition.

And, so, just reframing the way that you look at the event, and bringing all this information, bringing all these firsthand accounts to people, can really open their minds.

And I think that could be particularly true with people in the media, in the mainstream media. I can imagine many people — and this is sort of anecdotal-based in my interactions with people in the media — but this account of, these video clips of 36 reporters, probably many of whom they know to some extent — “they” being the sort of general, your average reporter in the media — could really open their minds in ways that perhaps a paper about nano-thermite or a computer modeling analysis couldn’t. And, in a way, it says, “Actually the first people that had these questions that kind of created, developed this narrative on the spot was the news media.” for a few hours on 9/11, one of the most important days in modern history, the news media was getting it right. And I think that idea could be very powerful for a lot of folks, and especially folks in the media, to look at this through a critical lens again.

And, so, we are putting some effort into like making sure that this paper gets to people in the media, making sure that it gets to every one of the 36 reporters who are documented in the paper as reporting on explosions in one way or another. And, yeah, so I think this could have an effect well beyond sort of the community that's most likely to read it. I think this could reach a lot further and can change a lot of minds.

Andrew Steele:

That's right. And, of course, the 9/11 Truth movement has an active role in that, too. So get this paper out on your Facebook, your Twitter, whatever kind of social networking or email networking you can. Make sure your family and friends read it. It's called “How 36 Reporters Brought Us the Twin Towers’ Explosive Demolition on 9/11.” It was brought to you by these two gentlemen. They’ve done a lot of great work here for this cause and they're going to continue to, I'm sure of it, until we have justice.

Ted, Graeme, thank you so much for putting this paper out and for all your work and for coming on 9/11 Free Fall today.

Graeme MacQueen:

Thank you.

Ted Walter:

Thanks, Andy. And, Andy, thank you for putting all the videos together. Everybody should know that you played a big part in the presentation of this paper with the hours and hours of video that's in that paper on the website. So, thank you.


By Ted Walter

Ted Walter is the director of strategy and development for AE911Truth. He is the author of AE911Truth’s 2015 publication Beyond Misinformation: What Science Says About the Destruction of World Trade Center Buildings 1, 2, and 7 and its 2016 publication World Trade Center Physics: Why Constant Acceleration Disproves Progressive Collapse and co-author of AE911Truth’s 2017 preliminary assessment of the Plasco Building collapse in Tehran. He holds a Master of Public Policy degree from the University of California, Berkeley.

By Graeme MacQueen

Graeme MacQueen received his Ph.D. in Buddhist Studies from Harvard University and taught in the Religious Studies Department of McMaster University for 30 years. While at McMaster he became founding Director of the Centre for Peace Studies at McMaster, after which he helped developed the B.A. program in Peace Studies and oversaw the development of peace-building projects in Sri Lanka, Gaza, Croatia and Afghanistan. Other works in MacQueen’s body of historical 9/11 research include: 118 Witnesses: The Firefighters’ Testimony to Explosions in the Twin Towers; Waiting for Seven: WTC 7 Collapse Warnings in the FDNY Oral Histories; Did the Earth Shake Before the South Tower Hit the Ground?; Eyewitness Evidence of the Twin Towers’ Explosive Destruction; and Foreknowledge of Building 7’s Collapse.

(Source:; July 11, 2020;
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