Lowell Sun Online
They remain convinced: U.S. behind 9/11
By EVAN LEHMANN, Sun Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON -- The sudden collapse, the seamless downward cascade of the crumbling World Trade Center towers planted doubt in Bruce Henry's mind.
The way the buildings fell didn't seem right. The implosion-like plummeting, the absence of central beams and girders refusing to fall, the speed of the collapse -- all raised suspicion for the retired mathematics professor from Worcester.
"That was the seed," said Henry, who taught at Worcester State College. "To me it seems so transparent with a minimal amount of reflection that there's something catawampus," or cockeyed, with the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Finally, he came to a shocking conclusion that runs counter to the accepted history of America's darkest day: The towers, he believes, "were brought down by planted explosives."
He's not alone.
Henry and several other Bay State residents are members of Scholars for 9/11 Truth, a controversial group that claims elements of the U.S. government, not Osama bin Laden, masterminded the deadly attacks that killed almost 3,000 Americans.
Members of the group, including about 80 professors nationwide, generally believe the attacks were designed around building support for an aggressive U.S. strategy in the Middle East.
Members point to a string of what they describe as discrepancies in the accepted history of the attacks, including continuing uncertainty about why a third World Trade Center tower, known as Building 7, collapsed without being struck by a plane.
"There is something hugely wrong with the official story," said Gwendolyn Atwood, 45, of Lincoln, a clinical psychologist trained at Harvard University and a group member.
The group's theories collide with the findings of the 9/11 Commission and an exhaustive investigation by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, a government agency, launched to determine the cause of the buildings' collapse.
Fires resulting from the impact of the fuel-laden airliners destroyed the twin towers, according to reports by the NIST, which assigned 200 employees to the two-year investigation.
The agency interviewed more than 1,000 people near the scene of the attack or who helped design the buildings, analyzed 236 pieces of metal from the wreckage and studied 150 hours of video and almost 7,000 photographs capturing the collisions and collapses.
The agency's final report rejects "alternative hypotheses suggesting the WTC towers were brought down by controlled demolition using explosives planted prior to September 11, 2001."
Many people, however, are not convinced.
Guido H. Stempel III, director of Scripps Survey Research Center, believes the poll highlights discontentment with the Bush administration, which has struggled to convince Americans that the war in Iraq is justified, faced criticism for its domestic eavesdropping program and weathered declining approval ratings.
"The (administration's) effort to tie 9/11 to the Iraq war is just something a lot of people don't buy," Stempel said. "What I'm saying is if (government officials) tell you a story that's not correct, people say "
Fifty-one percent of Democrats responding to the poll said the government was involved in 9/11, compared to 18 percent of Republicans, Stempel said.
Conspiracy theories are popular in American culture. Forty percent of Americans still believe the government was involved in President John F. Kennedy's assassination, and 38 percent believe the government is hiding proof that aliens exist, according to polls taken last month.
Lacking a smoking gun to make their argument, Scholars for 9/11 Truth members point to a list of reasons they say proves their point when taken together.
"It's sort of a cumulative effect," said Gustavo Espada, 31, of Somerville, a member and graduate of Harvard, where he works in information technology. "I don't think anybody has a 100 percent view of what actually did happen on 9/11."
Espada spends about 10 hours a week handing out literature, Web logging and talking with people on the street about his views on 9/11. A 90-minute symposium organized by Scholars for Truth was also broadcast on C-SPAN last month.
"There's a point of view out there ... we just wanted to shed some light on it," said C-SPAN spokeswoman Jennifer Moire.
The message, however, has not reached Don Goodrich, whose son, Peter, died aboard Flight 175 when it struck the second tower of the WTC.
"I don't pass judgment on the groups," said Goodrich of Bennington, Vt., adding that they are "unimportant to me."
Goodrich, too, has searched for evidence that could explain the attacks -- an exercise that has generated little fulfillment.
"The inevitable consequence ... is that much is unknown and forever will be unknown about what happened that day," he said.
Evan Lehmann's e-mail address is email@example.com.