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September 11th Conspiracies - Building Seven

Author: Edward L Winston
Contributors: Dave Sorensen

By far the most persistent conspiracy theories to date are surrounding Seven World Trade and its collapse. In fact, when pretty much everything else was debunked, the center of 9/11 Truthers rested on the idea that Seven World Trade was a controlled demolition. If the big conspiracy debunkers can't prove them wrong, I doubt I can, but for the sake of covering as much as possible on the issue of 9/11 conspiracies, this page must be created.

Table of Contents

  1. Foreknowledge
    1. WTC was Losing Money
    2. WTC and Terrorism Insurance
  2. Larry Silverstein
    1. Silverstein Properties Made Good on the Collapse
    2. Silverstein "Pulled" WTC7, Having it Demolished
  3. Collapse
    1. WTC7 Only Had Small, Limited Fires
    2. Fire Department Did Have Enough Water To Fight The Fire
    3. WTC7 was Not Damaged Enough by the Collapse of WTC to Collapse
    4. Photographic Evidence of Explosives at WTC7


This section deals with theories that tend to suggest foreknowledge of the attacks.

WTC was Losing Money


Why would they want to demolish the WTC? It had been losing money for years. It's the most valuable piece of real estate in the world, but the buildings themselves were a disaster. Under- tenanted, beset by asbestos problems, the owner, the NY Port Authority, had received warnings that it was sitting on a legal and financial time bomb.

Sometimes various conspiracy theorists assert that the World Trade Center was losing money and a good way to keep from losing money, was to demolish it, blame it on terrorists, and rake in the insurance money. Here is another example[2]:

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey had been losing money on the towers for years because of low tenancy. The financial loss was the real issue. There was also another vital issue -- asbestos! The towers had become an albatross sitting on the most valuable piece of real estate in the world. The Port Authority had three choices: sell or lease them, pay for expensive asbestos removal or demolish them. The Authority had tried for years but were unable to sell the buildings -- after all, what fool would take on the liability of asbestos? They couldn't demolish it. The health hazard of asbestos powder blanketing New York was legally unthinkable and totally out of the question. Expensive asbestos removal seemed to be the only option.

This quote tells us that Mr. Silverstein must have been a "fool" to take on something that is losing money, and would require such "expensive asbestos removal". However later in the article the quote comes from, the author changes direction and tells us that the WTC was a bargain:

"Silverstein Properties, Inc., and Westfield America, Inc. will lease the Twin Towers, completed in 1972 at a cost of $370 million, and other portions of the complex in a deal worth approximately $3.2 billion the city's richest real estate deal ever and one of the largest privatization initiatives in history." The cost of this lease was for a fraction of their real value.

 It seems strange to me that Silverstein only paid "a fraction" of the real value for his lease, getting the WTC cheaply, yet managed to be losing tons of money with his asbestos filled building. The New York Times did not think he had many problems in early 1998 when they published an article titled "Commercial Property/Downtown; At the World Trade center, Things Are Looking Up"[3]:

As the market for office space in midtown has tightened and rental rates increased, tenants have been looking to downtown as a cheaper alternative. Over the last year, those seeking large blocks of space have been finding them at the trade center, which had many vacancies as a result of the 1993 terrorist bombing and the shrinkage of the financial industry in the early part of the decade.

"In January 1997 we had about an 80 percent occupancy rate," said Cherrie Nanninga, director of real estate for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the complex. Twenty percent of 10.5 million square feet of space is 2.1 million, which would be a substantial building by itself.

But as a result of the last year's work, Ms. Nanninga, said the complex is over 90 percent occupied and expects to it reach the 95 percent mark by the end of the year. That, she said, would be about as full as the center is likely to get, since there is almost always someone moving in or out. "Ninety-seven percent occupancy would be full," said Ms. Nanninga...

Naturally after the 1993 bombing some tenants were lost, however by 1998 the fear had dissipated and they were experiencing an increase in occupancy, so much so that they were approaching the maximum. Over the next few years they got even better; to the point where the Port Authority issued a press release stating "only 250,000 of the 10.4 million square feet of office space in the trade center remains vacant. And the legal center has an occupancy rate of over 99 percent."[4]. I can hardly see how money was being lost at this time, and the price tag for removing the asbestos was $200 million, not much compared to the $3 billion price tag for the lease[5].

There is no evidence that the WTC was losing money or was some kind of disaster, and clearly they had no problem with getting tenants, especially towards 2001. 

WTC and Terrorism Insurance


The WTC did not have insurance coverage for terrorism. Silverstein took out the policy for terrorism with a double indemnity clause. The ink was not dry on the contract when the towers fell.

I find it highly strange that people would suggest something is strange about insuring a large building against terrorism. I hardly believe they would make the same claims about people who got flood insurance right before the Katrina disaster. Regardless, this claim still seems a bit odd; is it supported by facts? Short answer is, no, it isn't. For the long answer, we must first look into a few pieces of information.

We know the WTC was insured against terrorism in 1993, because they received $510 million after it was bombed[7]. Further, did the insurance industry apply specific terrorist exclusions? No[8][9]:

Even after the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in 1993 and the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, insurers in the United States did not view either international or domestic terrorism as a risk that should be explicitly considered when pricing their commercial insurance policy, principally because losses from terrorism had historically been small and, to a large degree, uncorrelated. Thus, prior to September 11, 2001, terrorism coverage in the United States was an unnamed peril covered in most standard all-risk commercial and homeowners' policies covering damage to property and contents.

Terrorism is a fairly normal thing for a large building, as I would suspect. The claim made that the ink was not even dry is doubly false, because they were already insured against terrorism before 1993, and the policy was obviously signed before then, so had at least 10 years to dry.

Larry Silverstein

This section relates to Larry Silverstein, his companies, and his associates.

Silverstein Properties Made Good on the Collapse

The Silverstein group purchased the lease on the World Trade Center for $3.2 billion. With two claims for the maximum amount of the policy, the total potential payout is $7.1 billion, leaving a hefty profit for Silverstein.

Actually, this claim is completely wrong. Silverstein only stands to make $4.6 billion in insurance, and it is only being provided to rebuild the site, which is going to cost $6.3 billion, so he actually stands to lose money in the long run[10]. Not to mention that he may not even get that much, considering the insurance holders say that he no longer owns all the buildings at the site, so they are not going to payout that money[11]. He also must continue to pay his lease towards the port authority, $120 million alone to maintain a right to build[12]. So much for a windfall profit.

Silverstein "Pulled" WTC7, Having it Demolished

Larry Silverstein decided to "pull it" when deciding what to do with WTC 7. This is a term meaning "demolish".

First of all, it is not a term used in the demolishing industry[13]. Second, why would he be telling this to the Fire Chief? Since when does the Fire Department demolish buildings? I guess one could suggest that the fire department was in it, but I highly doubt it, I imagine that would have gotten out by now. In any case, why blow up a building if you cannot contain the fire? Why not just leave it alone? And most importantly, if it does mean "blow up", then why would Silverstein admit it on television? Instead, it is far more logical to assume "pull it" means "pull people out of the building" or "pull the plug on the fire fighting". In fact, that is almost certainly what he meant[14]:

On September 9, 2005, Mr. Dara McQuillan, a spokesman for Silverstein Properties, issued the following statement on this issue:

Seven World Trade Center collapsed at 5:20 p.m. on September 11, 2001, after burning for seven hours. There were no casualties, thanks to the heroism of the Fire Department and the work of Silverstein Properties employees who evacuated tenants from the building.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) conducted a thorough investigation of the collapse of all the World Trade Center buildings. The FEMA report concluded that the collapse of Seven World Trade Center was a direct result of fires triggered by debris from the collapse of WTC Tower 1.

In the afternoon of September 11, Mr. Silverstein spoke to the Fire Department Commander on site at Seven World Trade Center. The Commander told Mr. Silverstein that there were several firefighters in the building working to contain the fires. Mr. Silverstein expressed his view that the most important thing was to protect the safety of those firefighters, including, if necessary, to have them withdraw from the building.

Later in the day, the Fire Commander ordered his firefighters out of the building and at 5:20 p.m. the building collapsed. No lives were lost at Seven World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

As noted above, when Mr. Silverstein was recounting these events for a television documentary he stated, "I said, you know, we've had such terrible loss of life. Maybe the smartest thing to do is to pull it." Mr. McQuillan has stated that by "it," Mr. Silverstein meant the contingent of firefighters remaining in the building.

I think it's time to pull it on this conspiracy theory.


This section relates to the collapse of Seven World Trade, both the before and after.

WTC7 Only Had Small, Limited Fires

The WTC7 only had small fires that were too limited to bring down the building.

To the left is the most commonly shown photograph by conspiracy theorists. They use this photograph as evidence that the fires at Seven World Trade were not very large. You can click the picture for a slightly larger one.

The problem is that we do not know when this picture was taken. As noted in our next section "WTC7 was Not Damaged Enough by Collapse of WTC to Collapse", firemen reported that at first the fires did not seem to be large, but as the day wore on, they got much bigger, so much so they could no longer fight them.

And yet, there remains another problem, namely that many pictures exist that were taken throughout the day which show the building giving off smoke on nearly every floor, showing that a serious fire was raging within. Why don't the conspiracy theorists show these images?[21]:

Many more photographs just like this exist all over the Internet. So what does this mean to the conspiracy theorists? They claim the photographs are fake or it is just dust from the Twin Towers. Though, there is video evidence to the contrary (here, .avi; 5.17MB; XVid codec). In the video we can clearly see that smoke is pouring out of the building, and even in the video, over the radio you can hear "that's why he's pulling everyone outta here." in reference to the fire.

Fire Department Did Have Enough Water To Fight The Fire

The official report claims that there was limited water available to fight the WTC7 fires due to "a 20-inch broken water main in Vesey Street. This is an outright lie. This is Manhattan, more fire hydrants per square meter than any other place on earth".[23]

First I would like to say fire hydrants != to water || water pressure. Second, we can look at first hand accounts of this situation[24]:

There was an engine company... right underneath building 7 and it was still burning at the time. They had a hose in operation, but you could tell there was no pressure. It was barely making it across the street.

He could be in on it, we should look at other accounts[25]:

Located about five blocks from the World Trade Center (WTC) site, the 170-bed NYU Downtown Hospital was thrust into one of the most horrific events in history on Tuesday, Sept. 11...

Shortly after the second tower collapsed...due to the number of hydrants opened by the firefighters on the scene, we also lost water pressure to the building, leading to fears of losing water altogether. Staff were immediately notified to conserve water...

By 4 p.m. on Tuesday, gas and high-pressure steam had been restored through rerouting by Con Edison. Before the gas was turned on, the utility ran extensive tests to ensure that there were no leaks. About an hour later, the water pressure slowly started to increase, and the facility was once again able to sterilize instruments and provide domestic hot water.

Sounds like lack of water to me, what more can be said? Plus it's not like 22 million square feet of high rise building just collapsed and destroyed countless electrical, water, gas, and other lines earlier in the day.

WTC7 was Not Damaged Enough by the Collapse of WTC to Collapse

Located one block from the Twin Towers, WTC7 was barely scratched by the collapse of those structures.

While it is claimed that the WTC7 suffered no significant damage during the collapse of the towers, evidence from after the collapse shows that is actually untrue. Unfortunately because of most cameras being trained on the towers themselves, there are not many clear images of WTC7 and the collapse. So we must talk about what was seen afterwards. Here is a quote from Battalion Chief John Norman[15]:

From there, we looked out at 7 World Trade Center again. You could see smoke, but no visible fire, and some damage to the south face. You couldn't really see from where we were on the west face of the building, but at the edge of the south face you could see that it was very heavily damaged.

We have a photo by the NIST that shows the damage at the edge of the south face[16]:

Some more quotes and interesting information related to the damage of the building[17]:

Captain Chris Boyle
Engine 94 - 18 years

Boyle: ...on the north and east side of 7 it didn't look like there was any damage at all, but then you looked on the south side of 7 there had to be a hole 20 stories tall in the building, with fire on several floors. Debris was falling down on the building and it didn't look good.

Firehouse: When you looked at the south side, how close were you to the base of that side?

Boyle: I was standing right next to the building, probably right next to it.

Firehouse: When you had fire on the 20 floors, was it in one window or many?

Boyle: There was a huge gaping hole and it was scattered throughout there. It was a huge hole. I would say it was probably about a third of it, right in the middle of it. And so after Visconti came down and said nobody goes in 7, we said all right, we'll head back to the command post. We lost touch with him. I never saw him again that day.

Other Fire Department officials thought collapse was almost certain:

"...Captain Varriale told Chief Coloe and myself that 7 World Trade Center was badly damaged on the south side and definitely in danger of collapse. Chief Coloe said we were going to evacuate the collapse zone around 7 World Trade Center, which we did."[18]

"The biggest decision we had to make was to clear the area and create a collapse zone around the severely damaged [WTC Building 7]. A number of fire officers and companies assessed the damage to the building. The appraisals indicated that the building's integrity was in serious doubt."[19]

More firemen reported that the damage progressed as the day continued[20]:

Deputy Chief Peter Hayden
Division 1 - 33 years

...also we were pretty sure that 7 World Trade Center would collapse. Early on, we saw a bulge in the southwest corner between floors 10 and 13, and we had put a transit on that and we were pretty sure she was going to collapse. You actually could see there was a visible bulge, it ran up about three floors. It came down about 5 o'clock in the afternoon, but by about 2 o'clock in the afternoon we realized this thing was going to collapse.

Firehouse: Was there heavy fire in there right away?

Hayden: No, not right away, and that's probably why it stood for so long because it took a while for that fire to develop. It was a heavy body of fire in there and then we didn't make any attempt to fight it. That was just one of those wars we were just going to lose. We were concerned about the collapse of a 47-story building there. We were worried about additional collapse there of what was remaining standing of the towers and the Marriott, so we started pulling the people back after a couple of hours of surface removal and searches along the surface of the debris. We started to pull guys back because we were concerned for their safety.

As we can see above the firemen working on the site were already certain of the collapse long before it happened. How could they know about the small fires then the heavy body of fires? Well I imagine one easy way to tell was smoke coming out of nearly every window upwind from the building. That can be seen in many photographs  One could argue, though, that the firemen knew of the collapse beforehand because they knew of the impending detonation. I debunk that concept in the "Silverstein 'Pulled' WTC7, Having it Demolished". The main question being, why would so many firefighters willingly take-part in a large insurance scam (that had a negative payout as explained in the Silverstein section) when it had just affected all of them, killing a lot of their friends and co-workers? Some conspiracy theorists claim they were paid off, but that seems largely unlikely, considering even when people are paid off, they still talk (Watergate?), and with a situation this huge, surely someone would have said something.

Photographic Evidence of Explosives at WTC7

"Looking at the upper right-hand corner of [WTC7] we see a rapid series of small explosions traveling upward just as the building itself begins to fall. The size, placement and timing of these "puffs" is very consistent with squibs from cutting charges of the type used in professional controlled demolitions..."

Their photo:

Just like with the so-called explosions at the Twin Towers, there is more to this than simply being explosives. What's most interesting is that the "puffs of smoke" appear after the building starts to collapse, not before as in a real demolition. Not to mention that when they "enhanced" this video image, it became much more pixilated, and in a decent photograph of the same thing does not show something so definitive; the "puffs" are in fact flat against the building. And even if they were puffs of smoke, considering they started after the building began to collapse, I would imagine it would be a similar situation to that of the Twin Towers, where all the air is being pressed with tremendous force, busting windows and the like. You can see a different enhanced photograph of the same thing as the conspiracy theorists' image to the right, and click for a larger picture.

So, what does this mean?

Explosives were detonated after the building began to collapse, just for fun?

I doubt it. As for the "squibs", it is far more likely it is the same kind of puffs seen during the collapse of the Twin Towers. It is worth mentioning that WTC7 is not a square building, rather the sides are more like /___\ than [__].[22] Considering, also that in the photograph, the sun is at an angle to the right of the camera man, thus creating shadows in the windows of this slanted building, which could progress more-so as the building collapsed. If we look at the image to the right (click for larger picture) we can see that there are gaping holes and damages in nearly the same spot as the squibs later show up. Could it be that the sun casting shadows on these holes was the cause? Probably.

It's hard to say for sure what these squibs were, but they were surely not explosives, as they did not explode out as noted in the pixilated photograph provided by the conspiracy theorists. Most importantly, as the building continues to fall, the so-called squibs continue down with the building, something explosions do not do.