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FEMA's WTC Investigation

Ground Zero was the site of the total collapses of the Twin Towers and Building 7 -- the only three cases of total collapses of skyscrapers in history, and the only collapses of steel-framed high-rise buildings being blamed mostly or exclusively on fires. Based on the official explanations, these collapses represented the most mysterious engineering failures in history, with profound implications for the safety of high-rise buildings. Consequently they warranted a serious investigation of unprecedented scale. No such investigation occurred. Instead, FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) took control of Ground Zero in Manhattan in the immediate aftermath of the attack and assured that no real investigation could be conducted.

FEMA is not an investigative agency, but it was entrusted with the sole responsibility for investigating the collapses. It began to coordinate the destruction of the evidence almost immediately. The structural steel would be removed and loaded on ships for transport to blast furnaces in India and China. Meanwhile, FEMA pretended to investigate the collapses by assembling a group of volunteer investigators from the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), dubbed the Building Performance Assessment Team (BPAT). The group was headed by W. Gene Corley, a structural engineer from Chicago who led the investigation of the the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. 1  

FEMA's so-called investigation had the features of a complete farce:

  • No independent investigation was funded: FEMA allocated $600,000 for the BPAT's study, which included the cost of printing their report.
  • Except for an early "tourist trip", The BPAT volunteers were barred from Ground Zero.
  • They did not see a single piece of steel until almost a month after the disaster.
  • They had to guess the original locations of the few pieces of steel they saw.
  • They collected 150 pieces of steel for further study (out of millions of pieces).
  • Their report, which called for "further investigation and analysis", was published after Ground Zero had been scrubbed.

In May of 2002 FEMA's hand-picked team of volunteers released their report that, although self-described as preliminary and incomplete, would be promoted by government officials as the last word on the causes of the building collapses -- at least until the completion of NIST's Report, more than three years later. FEMA's World Trade Center Building Performance Study: Data Collection, Preliminary Observations, and Recommendations is full of vague and evasive descriptions of the buildings, deceptive illustrations, and misleading scenarios. Although the report called for more study, by the time it was issued the crime scene had been scrubbed, and the structural steel, which was so essential to any investigation, was long gone.

The first detailed critique of FEMA's report was provided by an anonymous author, whose critique of FEMA's chapter on WTC 7 was widely circulated.

s u m m a r y
authors: anonymous
This commented version of Chaper 5 of FEMA's World Trade Center Building Performance Study highlights many deceptions used by the report writers to hide the obvious fact that the collapse of Building 7 was a demolition.

More analysis of FEMA's report was later provided by researcher Jim Hoffman, who devotes part of a radio interview to it on the show Guns and Butter.

e x c e r p t
title: Your Eyes Don't Lie: Common Sense, Physics, and the World Trade Center Collapses
authors: Jim Hoffman

The Primary deception in FEMA's report is to make you think that the core columns didn't even exist ... but even if you believe all this stuff about these floor diaphragms collapsing, it doesn't begin to lead to a total building collapse, because what you'd have is you'd have these floor diaphragms, which are like rings that extend all the way around the core, and out to the exterior wall, which simply pancake down around the core columns, like records falling down around spindle, leaving both the core structure and the outer wall intact -- no total collapse.



1. Epilogue, City in the Sky, 2003, page 329

page last modified: 2006-02-01
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Members of FEMA's Building Performance Assessment Team (BPAT) measure some pieces of steel at Fresh Kills landfill.