The Missing Piece of 9/11

YouTube has recently suggested a lot of 9/11 conspiracy videos to me. If I click on one of them and watch it, YouTube mines that and suggests more. As I watch them, one thing is pretty clear: few people buy all the way in to the “official” story of the day, which says that 19 Islamists simultaneously hijacked four airliners on the east coast, flew them for some distance without effective official countermeasure, then successfully flew three of them into symbolic structures. Two of those structures, very tall skyscrapers, then collapsed in an identical fashion, and later that day a similar nearby skyscraper also collapsed in a nearly identical fashion.

The problem with the conspiracy theories is this: as implausible as the events of 9/11 seem, no one seems to be able to suggest either a more passable scenario or explain why powers that be would create scenarios that seem so inconsistent.

So, let’s break it down 9/11’s most implausible items…

  • Steel skyscrapers collapse due to impact plus fires. I’ll grant you that this is a pretty hinky occurrence, and what the theorists say most often, that no modern high-rise has ever collapsed in its footprint after being damaged or destroyed by fire, is true.
  • Airliner wings and engines “melt” into the side of a steel structure like the WTC towers or the side of the Pentagon. I suspect this one is related to speed; bullets go into stuff all the time and seem to melt, despite being much softer than the materials they strike.
  • Airliners flying near the ground at very high airspeeds. A lot of conspiracy videos assert, and even cartoonishly illustrate, that wings of airliners would be torn off at 500 knots at sea level. As a pilot, I know a few things about speeds, and they are talking about Vne, or Velocity Never Exceed, the bug on the airspeed dial the represents sound advice from the engineers who designed and built the aircraft: if you go faster than this, we can’t guarantee the airplane will fly a like it should or even hold together. While it’s true that on the flight decks of the jets that struck the WTC, there were probably audible and visual warnings going off, and that flying a jet at these speeds would mean taking it out of service for inspection, it is not a guarantee that the wings and empennage would fly off.
  • No black boxes found/black boxes found by the FBI and/or not released. This is probably a consequence of the FBI being in charge of the investigation. Only the NTSB knows how to collect and interpret such devices. A more marginal explanation might be the desire to “spare” the families the horror of reenactments.
  • The planes were actually missiles that were switched for the actual planes that ended up somewhere else. Even if this were the case and for some reason you needed to shoot the WTC with a missile, why not just put it onto a 767?
  • That airliners would be able to shut off transponders at a certain time of day. Actually, Occam’s Razor favors this one, as a bunch of teenage boys with walkie-talkies could have done it.

One way to measure the logic of a scenario is to examine what it accomplishes.

Certainly if you wanted to commit 9/11 from the inside, the hijacking scheme is one way to do it, but why would you? If you wanted to burn records or destroy specific buildings, a far simpler way would be to stage a fire or explosion. Or a more straightforward terror attack, like a successful version of the failed 1993 WTC attack.

Or turn it around: what did 9/11 accomplish for the U.S. government? Specifically? That’s really the biggest hole in the 9/11 conspiracy scene: what did 9/11 accomplish for the insiders?

Somebody please talk some sense to me. I certainly can’t find it from the internet’s so-called Truthers.

This is the empty sky on the morning of September 12, 2001. Grounding all aircraft in the United States for days after 9/11 was a very immature response to what actually happened: strongarm attacks on a small number of commercial aircraft.
This is the empty sky on the morning of September 12, 2001. Grounding all aircraft in the United States for days after 9/11 was a very immature response to what actually happened: strongarm attacks on a small number of commercial aircraft.


  1. 1. It’s one thing to poke holes in the “official” narrative; quite another to suggest a more realistic/plausible scenario. Most conspiracy theorists manage some degree of poking holes, but it’s rare to find one who suggests a plausible “actual” scenario to replace the official one.

    2. Quite a few of these conspiracy theories rest on “facts” that aren’t true. For example, the “jet fuel can’t melt steel beams” trope. Of course it can’t melt steel (burning at a max of 1500°F, when steel needs 2700°F to melt), but it’s hot enough to *weaken* steel. Steel can lose up to 50% of its strength at a mere 1100°F.

    3. Further, all the ones I’ve seen rest on fairly weak logical structures. For example, the claim that jet fuel fires weren’t enough to bring the buildings down ignores several (fairly obvious) facts — (1) jet fuel wasn’t the only thing burning — it was just the catalyst and fires spread throughout the buildings, (2) possibly the biggest contributor to the structural failure of the buildings was the impacts themselves; the buildings weren’t constructed to withstand *sideways* force of that nature. And so on.

    My statements above aren’t meant to represent a full “debunking” of 9/11 mythologies, but are merely observations with a few examples for clarity. There ARE however very well-written and well-researched debunkings. Popular Mechanics has excerpts here: (part of a published book).

    4. I’ve noticed when something bad happens frequently — car crashes, for example, no one seems to think there’s a conspiracy; it’s just part of life. But when something really bad happens, and only happens once, it stands out in everyone’s mind and these pseudosleuths arise to attack the “official” narrative. Personally, I’d be more likely to go the other direction — and wonder who’s behind all these car crashes. Is there a systematic effort to poorly test and train drivers and refuse to recheck their skills every few years? Is there organized resistance to self-driving AI — known to be much safer than human drivers? Is someone intentionally adding explosive fuel to automobiles? Weirdly, the answer to all three of those questions is “yes”, but you don’t see many videos about that. ;-)

  2. +1 to what Wil said.

    I remember conspiracy theories about the OKC bombing — the first such theories I remember hearing about in the mainstream media. Then the 9/11 thing was even worse. I’ve watched all the same movies as everyone else, but I’ve never bought into the idea that dozens — or hundreds — of people could all keep some giant secret like this. It’s like the moon landing theories. People who believe it was faked apparently have no idea the sheer number of people who work at NASA, who had hands-on experience with developing the rockets, the lander, etc., doing the math, tracking the craft in real-time — from countries all over the world, including hundreds of scientists, engineers and astronomers who didn’t even work for NASA.

    It reminds me a lot of the religious people who try to get you with “but how do you explain it?” They usually start with a personal story, or a news item that seems preposterous. I remember the one where a car was submerged and its inhabitants were unconscious, and the rescuers couldn’t find it, but one firefighter claimed he “heard” the baby in his head, directing him to the right location. Sure enough, he found it. So religious people LOVE this story, because they think it proves God is real. “So how do YOU explain it?” they retort when I show skepticism. I don’t. That’s it. I’m not required to explain anything — especially events I didn’t witness and that don’t affect me in any way. But there’s certainly nothing about it that would prove a God exists. (Maybe it’s evidence of telepathy?)

    It’s not how logic works: “I can’t explain something; therefore I should concoct a far less-believable story to replace it, and believe THAT.” Sick minds.

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