Building 7, Collapse of

7 World Trade Center two days after it (controversially) collapsed.Photo: James Estrin/New York Times/Redux

For the adherents of “9/11 truth”—the idea that the “official story” explaining the attacks was fatally, and mendaciously, flawed—the fate of 7 World Trade Center is the still-smoking gun. Here was a 47-story building that was hit by no airplane yet nonetheless collapsed at 5:21 p.m. on September 11, 2001. The “official” version says the building was brought down by the buckling of key structural columns weakened by fires that started after the building was hit by debris during the collapse of the North Tower (see “Total Progressive Collapse). But “truthers” discount this, pointing out that no other steel-frame building in history, even those that burned longer and more intensely than WTC 7, had ever been toppled because of fire. Referencing videos that show the building dropping straight down in a short period of time (6.6 seconds is what is usually cited), many truthers contend that WTC 7, like the Trade Towers, was the victim of a premeditated, controlled demolition.

In the truth-movement canon, “Building 7” has assumed the Jack Ruby–Lee Harvey Oswald position in the overall 9/11 conspiracy claiming the entire episode was “an inside job,” planned and carried out by individuals connected to the Bush agenda. Even though no one died during the collapse of WTC 7, the building itself had to go to cover up the far larger crime of the nearly 3,000 murders in the Twin Towers. Anthropomorphically speaking, Building 7 simply knew too much.

It is a provocative supposition, especially when one examines the extraordinary list of tenants paying rent to developer Larry Silverstein on that fateful day. These include the Department of Defense, the Secret Service, the IRS, and the Securities and Exchange Commission (many records, including probably much-damning evidence in the Citibank–WorldCom financial scandal, disappeared forever). The mortgage was held by the Blackstone Group, then headed by Pete Peterson, the chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations. In addition, it is inevitably stated by conspiracists that the board of directors of the security company employed by the building included Marvin P. Bush, the president’s younger brother. If the 9/11 attacks were, as truthers often said, a plot in the mode of the Nazis setting the Reichstag fire, thereby justifying the worldwide war on terror and domestic fascist control, it would be hard to believe that at least some of Building 7’s paranoia-inducing tenants were not in on it.

Beyond this, WTC 7 was also the headquarters of Rudy Giuliani’s Office of Emergency Management, which housed the mayor’s infamous 23rd-floor “bunker”—the command center from which he planned to run the city during some terrible, unthinkable crisis. Unfortunately, when that crisis did come, the bunker (and large diesel tanks equipped to fuel it) were destroyed, leaving Giuliani to direct the city’s response from the dust-strewn streets below.

Building 7, Collapse of