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Old 12th October 2006, 10:55 PM   #1
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What they actually described hearing in & around the towers

In this thread TS1234 posted a link to this "peer-reviewed" paper in the Journal for 9/11 Studies. The paper lists various first-person accounts of things that sounded or looked like explosions at the WTC on 9/11. I took a look at the most provocative category, which is people who said they heard or saw what they described as "like bombs going off" or "like secondary devices." The paper lists 31 FDNY members who described such events. Here's my breakdown of what they heard and saw.

People in the "described something like a bomb” category.....31

# Who did not actually mention bombs, explosions, devices.....1 (Walter Kowalczyk)

Remaining people in "bomb" category.....30

# Who were describing the collapse of a tower.....30

# Who had no idea at the time of the event that what they heard was the collapse of a tower (usually because they were inside another building).....15

# Who saw the collapse of a tower, at least partially.....7

# Who explained that they knew the explosive sounds were collapses.....2

# Who said they had no idea what was going on during the event.....4

# Who said they thought, as of the interview date, that they had actually seen or heard explosives.....0

# Who have claimed in the past 5 years that they believe there were explosive devices in the buildings.....0

(See the quotes below)

I have read through and taken notes on over 14,000 pages of interview transcripts and audio recordings of first responders to the WTC incident. Some observations:

–Overwhelmingly, when something like an explosion is described, the event is the collapse of a tower: not the noises leading up to collapse, but the fall of a tower itself.

–Almost no one who was in the north tower when the south collapsed knew what had happened. Many only found out after evacuating the north tower. Many people in the north tower lobby who took the brunt of the south tower collapse described it as a huge explosion, and were thrown a great distance by the blast of air and debris.

–Most people who were in the Marriott/Vista hotel did not know that it was the south tower that collapsed on it. They thought it was a bomb within the Marriott.

–Some people who were on the scene for hours did not know that both towers had collapsed completely, because the smoke and dust and confusion was so great.

–There were several reports of internal collapses in the towers.

–Many people who were on the scene early did not know that a plane/planes had hit the towers and assumed it was bombs.

–Virtually everyone, including those who knew that planes had done the initial damage, was worried about the possibility of secondary devices in the buildings and surrounding area: this had been drilled into them in training.

–Numerous people described the impacts of jumpers as "explosions."

–Dozens of vehicles burned and their gas tanks exploded after each of the three major collapses.

–There were many bomb scares in the area, including one that coincided with a gas leak warning that cleared out the area northwest of the WTC, including Stuyvesant High School.

–Police fired pistols in at least three incidents, once to alert rescuers and the other times to break windows to find refuge.

–There are some reports of firefighter's oxygen tanks exploding.

I haven't quantified all of my notes on the above categories of explosions, but I have broken down how people described hearing the collapse of the towers themselves. Most of the accounts are from FDNY and Port Authority Police interviews. I reviewed 603 of these.

First responder accounts reviewed 603
Descriptions of collapses noted 432

Described tower collapses as “Rumble/huge rumbling, etc.” 186 accounts
Described tower collapses as “Explosion/Like an explosion” 55
Described tower collapses as “Sound like a Jet/Jet engine” 42
Described tower collapses as “Roar” 35
Described tower collapses as “Like a train/locomotive” 23
Described tower collapses as “Like thunder/thunderous” 9
Described tower collapses as “Like an earthquake” 7
Described tower collapses using other terms (see below) 75

Here is how most of the people in the "other" category described the sound of the tower collapses (NT is north tower, ST is south):

Thrushing noise like a rocket.
Loud whistling noise.
Heard a large fall of something.
Heard the noise of something going on.
A loud noise.
NT: Boom, boom, boom, very loud.
Distinctive sound
Loud Groan
Heard a big boom.
ST: Really loud crackling sound, like a million firecrackers.
NT: Like every floor went chu, chu, chu.
Groaning and grinding
The worst sound of a rolling sound
Like metal clanging on metal
Big boom
Huge noise
Like an incoming missile.
Tremendous noise
A loud noise that I can't even explain.
ST: Sounded like a waterfall almost. NT: Like a plane
Didn't hear anything
NT: Like rushing water.
Like a giant tree branch breaking
Loud noise
A big "Shhhhh," Sounded like a missile coming.
Just a loud noise
The most horrendous noise
Like those rockets they launch the space shuttle with
ST: bangs NT: rumbling
NT/ST: Rushing roar
The two crashes and two collapses all sounded the same
NT: Loud crack.
NT/ST: Terrible noise
Puffing and bouncing
Huge noise
An unusual sound
Like a missile
Incredible noise.
Heard pops, looked like it was blowing on all 4 sides.
NT/ST: Crackling and thundering
High pitched whine.
Loud noise
Didn't seem like an explosion.
boom boom boom, then train roar.
NT: Loud noise
Loud Noise, Cracking
Loud Noise
Like marbles crashing down
Like Steel cutting through steel
"A sound I never heard before"
NT: Another noise
Low sounding boom, big roar.
"A Little bit of noise."
Although on the site, didn't hear collapse at all (!).
Crumbling sound
NT: Waterfall noise
Shh! Like hydrant
"A Noise"
Firecrackers, then a low rumble.
Twisting sound of metal
NT/ST: Shuddering shrilling noise of metal falling
Sound of gasses being compressed

These are the relevant excerpts from the accounts of the 30 people who said that the collapses sounded or looked like a bomb/explosion:

Stanley Trojanowski After the collapse of number Two World Trade Center, which I actually thought was a bomb that went off because the north tower was blocking my view, debris and everything started falling, people were running.

The north tower came down, and I got hit with some debris. I remember getting banged up to the divider by the rig which was in the street. I made my way underneath the scaffolding again and just tried to outlast the collapse, which I thought was just another bomb going off.

Albert Turi The next thing I heard was Pete say what the **** is this? And as my eyes traveled up the building, and I was looking at the south tower, somewhere about halfway up, my initial reaction was there was a secondary explosion, and the entire floor area, a ring right around the building blew out. I later realized that the building had started to collapse already and this was the air being compressed and that is the floor that let go.

Thomas Turilli In north tower, describes south tower collapse: The door closed, they went up, and it just seemed a couple seconds and all of a sudden you just heard like it almost actually that day sounded like bombs going off, like boom, boom, boom, like seven or eight, and then just a huge wind gust just came and my officer just actually took all of us and just threw us down on the ground and kind of just jumped on top of us, laid on top of us.

Timothy Burke But it seemed like I was going oh, my god, there is a secondary device because the way the building popped I thought it was an explosion.

Kenneth Rogers South tower collapse: Meanwhile we were standing there with about five companies and we were just waiting for our assignment and then there was an explosion in the south tower, which according to this map, this exposure just blew out in flames. A lot of guys left at that point. I kept watching. Floor after floor after floor. One floor under another after another and when it hit about the fifth floor, I figured it was a bomb, because it looked like a synchronized deliberate kind of thing. I was there in '93.

John Rothmund Describing North Tower Collapse:
All of a sudden it happened again, the same exact sound, the same thing.

Q. The noise and the vibrations?

A. The noise and the vibrations.

[He had previously described the south tower collapse:]

At that time we were looking at the top of the towers and all the rubble and people coming off, and all of a sudden you heard -- it sounded like another airplane, or a missile. It was like a slow shake. The whole ground just vibrated and shook. We just told everybody to run, run into a building, let's go, run, run, run.

... Pulled all kinds of people down. Again, we didn't know what was going on. We thought it was a bomb, you know, like planes were dropping from the sky or missiles were hitting. We didn't know what the hell was going on.

Richard Smiouskas I took a few photographs. I turned around. I told Father Judge be careful. All of a sudden there was this groaning sound like a roar, grrrr. The ground started to shake. Father Judge started going out the revolving doors. I said don't go outside. The last time I saw him, he went out the revolving door.

I turned around and I started going back towards West Street. It looked like an earthquake. The ground was shaking. I fell to the floor. My camera bag opened up. The cameras went skidding across the floor. The windows started exploding in. I just rolled into the corner to protect myself from the glass. The next thing I knew, it was pitch-black. You couldn't see in front of you. You couldn't breathe. Every time you took a breath, you were just swallowing -- you were gasping. I took my shirt off and wrapped it around my head so I could breathe.

It felt like an eternity getting out of that building. I was disoriented. I knew the general idea of where I was. I was actually thinking about going out the windows where the glass was broke, but I figured people were still jumping and I didn't know exactly what was going on outside. I'm thinking maybe the building snapped in half. I'm thinking maybe a bomb blew up. I'm thinking it could have been a nuclear. I didn't know what was going on.

Thomas Spinard South tower collapse: I don’t know what time later a loud rumble – it sounded like an explosion. We thought it was a bomb.

Jay Swithers When I was giving her the oxygen, setting up the tank, you could hear a loud rumble. Somebody said run for your life. I turned to see who was yelling run. At that point I looked back and most of the people who were triaged in that area with the triage tags on them got up and ran. I took a quick glance at the building and while I didn't see it falling, I saw a large section of it blasting out, which led me to believe it was just an explosion. I thought it was a secondary device, but I knew that we had to go.

Janice Olszewski
South tower collapse: I didn’t know what was going on. I didn’t know it was a collapse at that point. I thought it was an explosion or a secondary device, a bomb, the jet --- plane exploding, whatever.

Richard Picciotto Inside north tower, heard on the radio that the south tower came down. Didn’t understand what that meant:

My thinking was whether –I thought a bomb hit the other building and brought it down, and if there’s a bomb in that one, there’s a bomb in this one. I call for an evacuation.

Gerard Reilly In north tower lobby, thought south tower collapse was bomb in Marriott Hotel:

So we probably were in the building maybe a minute in the lobby of the tower, whichever one we were in, and that's when it came down. But I thought it was an explosion in the hotel, because all the debris came down, it was pitch-black, the whole building shook.

I told him I thought it was a bomb in the hotel, because nobody said the building collapsed.

William Reynolds
I said to him, I said, "Chief, they're evacuating the other building; right?" He said, "No."

Q. You're talking about the north tower now;

A. Before the north tower fell. He said, "No." I said, "Why not? They blew up the other one." I thought they blew it up with a bomb. I said, "If they blew up the one, you know they're gonna blow up the other one." He said, "No, they're not."

Angel Rivera In Marriott Hotel when south tower collapsed:

We searched 14, 15, went in one lobby, we came out the other way, we went in one stairway, came up -- when we hit the 19th floor, something horrendous happened. It was like a bomb went off. We thought we were dead. The whole building shook. The brick coming out of -- the door to the hallway into the hotel blew off like somebody had thrown it all over the place. It shook all over the place. We were thrown on the floor.

When the second tower came down, we had no idea what was going on. We thought another plane, another bomb, another secondary device.

Gregg Hansson North tower collapse: Then a large explosion took place. In my estimation that was the tower coming down, but at that time I did not know what that was. I thought some type of bomb had gone off.

Timothy Hoppey In the interim while we were standing there on the curb at West Street, probably three minutes or so after he had told us to go in, that's when we heard the rumble. I looked up, and it was just a black cloud directly overhead. At that point I was thinking it was a secondary explosion. It looked to me like it was much lower than where the planes had gone in. That was probably just a delay in looking up.

Hoppey then describes bomb scares after the collapses.

Timothy Julian First I thought it was an explosion. I thought maybe there was a bomb on the plane, but delayed type of thing, you know, secondary device.

Q: I was convinced for a week it was secondary devices.

A: ...You know, and I just heard like an explosion and then a cracking type of noise, and then it sounded like a freight train, rumbling and picking up speed...

John Malley In north tower lobby when south tower collapsed:
As we walked through those revolving doors, that's when we felt the rumble. I felt the rumbling, and then I felt the force coming at me. I was like, what the hell is that? In my mind it was a bomb going off. The pressure got so great, I stepped back behind the columns separating the revolving doors. Then the force just blew past me. It blew past me it seemed for a long time. In my mind I was saying what the hell is this and when is it going to stop?

Then it finally stopped, that pressure which I thought was a concussion of an explosion. It turns out it was the down pressure wind of the floors collapsing on top of each other. At that point everything went black, and then the collapse came.

Julio Marrero In that process of him trying to explain to me to pull my ambulance over, I heard a loud bang. We looked up, and we just saw the building starting to collapse.
I was screaming from the top of my lungs, and I must have been about ten feet away from her and she couldn't even hear me, because the building was so loud, the explosion, that she couldn't even hear me.
...That's when I just broke down and cried at Bellevue Hospital, because it was just so overwhelming. I just knew that what happened was horrific. It was a bombing. It wasn't an accident. I didn't know what was going on. I had no idea, no clue that two airplanes had hit the building.

John McGimpsey
Q: Were you aware that the south tower had collapsed?

A: We didn’t actually know what was going on. We weren’t sure if those noises were – sounded like another plane, bomb, something like that, but – it just was a big, we really didn’t know what was going on because we were inside the building and then walking around we knew it was bad, just from looking out.

Keith Murphy In NT lobby when ST collapses:
I had heard right before the lights went out, I had heard a distant boom boom boom, sounded like three explosions. I don’t know what it was. At the time, I would have said they sounded like bombs, but it was boom boom boom and then the lights all go out. ...My initial reaction was these bastards, whoever they were, because now I’m thinking terror. They got us with another plane, because out in the street, the cops, they kept saying there is this third inbound plane, so I’m thinking we just got hit with another plane. That’s it.

John Delendick (Priest) We heard a rumbling noise, and it appeared that that first tower, the south tower, had exploded, the top of it. That's what I saw, what a lot of us saw. We ran down underneath the Financial Center.

I remember asking Ray Downey was it the jet fuel that blew up. He said at that point he thought there were bombs up there because it was too even. As we've since learned, it was the jet fuel that was dropping down that caused all this. But he said it was too even.

George DeSimone The next thing I know, we heard a little bit of a rumbling, and then white powder came from the first collapsed building. I thought it was an explosion initially.

After that, I still thought it was an explosion. I thought it was some kind of thermal explosion where I'm either going to get burnt -- and I had kind of ideas that it was going to be something like Hiroshima where all this heat was coming at me and we were going to get burnt -- or if the heat didn't burn me, I thought that all the parts coming out of this building, the windows, metal, all the things like that, that I might be severed in half. It turned completely black.

Right after that, in my mind, I heard a rumbling, and it was almost as if it was the roller coaster at Coney Island. It seemed like a metal clanging on metal sound. Then we saw a black cloud come out, and I told everybody to run. We ran as fast as we could as far north as we could. At that point we had gotten separated. We couldn't outrun a cloud. I don't think we understood the magnitude of what was going on. I was fearful that there were bombs in the building. That was my first thought, being the military kind of guy that I am.

Michael Donovan
Thought plane was bomb:
We heard the plane briefly, the earth shook, the buildings shook, a tremendous fireball overhead. I thought there was a bomb or an explosion. A tremendous fireball, flaming debris, pieces of the airplane, fuselage, landing gear, pieces of the building.

The roar became tremendous. I fell on the way to the parking garages. Debris was starting to fall all around me. I got up, I got into the parking garages, was knocked down by the percussion. I thought there had been an explosion or a bomb that they had blown up there. The Vista International Hotel was my first impression, that they had blown it up. I never got to see the World Trade Center coming down.

Robert Dorritie That's when I looked up, and the tower started coming down, which at the time I said I thought it was a secondary device. I had warned the guys about secondary devices on the way down and to be careful of that.

James Drury When the dust started to settle, I headed back down towards the World Trade Center and I guess I came close to arriving at the corner of Vesey and West again where we started to hear the second roar. That was the north tower now coming down. I should say that people in the street and myself included thought that the roar was so loud that the explosive - bombs were going off inside the building. Obviously we were later proved wrong.

James Duffy
Q. When either tower came down, did you have any advanced warning?

A. Oh, no. I didn't know what it was when we were inside. I didn't know the building had collapsed, actually. I thought it was a bomb. I thought a bomb had gone off. That's why I really didn't know until after.

Q. Afterwards?

A. Yeah, that that's when it came down. I wasn't expecting that. I thought it was a bomb or something that went off.

Brian Fitzpatrick Everybody was in shock. We didn't know what happened. We just thought it was debris or an explosion or a secondary explosion or another bomb inside the building or another plane.

Gerard Gorman Didn’t know south tower collapsed.
No. It goes to Vesey Street. On Vesey Street there's a staircase and escalators. That's where it led to. So on the overhang I remember seeing a frigging Bomb Squad cop and I asked him, what the hell blew up? He goes, I don't know. Oh, ******** F***ing he don't know.

Alan Cooke [Approaching WTC site in a vehicle] I thought what happened was that there was an explosion at the World Trade Center. Then I thought there was another one at the Seaport. I thought that was a secondary and herding everybody towards the Brooklyn Bridge, because everybody was asking me where should we go, where should we go.
"Please, keep your chops cool and don’t overblow.” –Freddie Hubbard

Last edited by Gravy; 12th October 2006 at 11:47 PM. Reason: formatting
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