My boss is a big 911 conspiracy fan. Today over lunch he brought up several of the old chestnuts, which made me see red as usual (read this excellent Popular Mechanics cover article on the top theories and why they’re rubbish). I especially despise the one about the Pentagon, where people say it was actually a missile that hit the building and not Flight 77. Apart from all the facts pointing to it being a plane (like eyewitnesses, debris, damage patterns, etc), what really makes me angry is that none of these theorists offer up a reasonable explanation for where the passengers and crew of Flight 77 are if it was not Flight 77 that crashed into the Pentagon. The disrespect that this kind of bullshit pays to the deceased and their families is not foremost in the minds of these theorists, you can believe me.
Another favorite is that Flight 93 was shot down by the airforce, when in fact the cockpit recording quite clearly shows that the hijackers brought the plane down themselves when the passengers and crew attempted to storm the cockpit. Again, such disrespect is paid to the memory of those on board who risked their lives to save countless others. It was not necessary for the airforce to bring down Flight 93 – the passengers did it on their own, and they should be remembered in eternity for their bravery. Ask yourself if you would be so selfless in the same situation.
We have to convince ourselves of a lot of things in order to get onto a plane – that planes want to be in the air, that the crew are highly trained professionals, that the maintenance crew have done their jobs, that the air traffic controllers are doing theirs, that the weather will hold up… it is so much easier to believe that it takes a vast government conspiracy to take down the plane you’re in, than to believe that a few well organized fundamentalists could kill so many people with so little resistence. Yet this is the truth of the matter: thousands of people lost their lives on that day, because security was sloppy, because bureaucracy was bungling, and because there are people out there who hate so strongly that they are willing to both die and kill for their beliefs.
I’ll end with a quote from Allyn Kilsheimer, the first structural engineer to arrive on the site of the Pentagon on that horrific day:
I saw the marks of the plane wing on the face of the building. I picked up parts of the plane with the airline markings on them. I held in my hand the tail section of the plane, and I found the black box. I held parts of uniforms from crew members in my hands, including body parts. Okay?