12 Questions People Still Have About 9/11
Many Americans believe we'll never know everything there is to know about the 9/11 attacks. Here are some of the questions that still remain even 18 years later.
How did the towers collapse so quickly?
The theory: Engineers designed the Twin Towers to withstand the impact of a commercial jet airplane. Yet, both towers collapsed within two hours of being hit. Could the towers have been rigged with explosives (demolition-style) prior to the planes hitting?
The consensus: Snopes discredited this as not scientifically sound, and the world may never know how these optimally-engineered towers collapsed so quickly. All of these conspiracy theories actually turned out to be true.
Did the aircraft materials contribute?
The theory: The primary material used in constructing airplanes is aluminum. According to the Smithsonian channel, two scientists have independently pointed out that at extremely high temperatures (over 1,000°F), aluminum melts and becomes a powerful explosive when it comes into contact with water. They theorize the burning towers formed a "furnace" of sorts, melting the aluminum, which would have then exploded on contact with water from the building's sprinklers.
The consensus: This is one explanation that could account for the towers' "demolition-style" collapse.
Why no mention of the aluminum in the official report?
The theory: The Smithsonian points out that the official investigation report doesn't even mention the presence of aircraft wreckage in the towers. Why?
The consensus: It's possible investigators failed to recognize the material as aluminum in its molten state or for some other reason considered it not important.
Why did the government ignore the warning the day before?
The theory: The day before the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. government's National Security Agency (NSA) intercepted two communications, both from Afghanistan to Saudi Arabia. One says, "Tomorrow is zero hour." The other says, "The match begins tomorrow." These messages were not translated until September 12, according to CNN. Was there a reason for this?
The consensus: This remains a mystery. Here are 16 more of history's strangest unsolved mysteries.
Where was the NSA on September 10, 2001?
The theory: Assuming the NSA didn't translate these ominous messages on the day they were intercepted, there's still the question of what the agency was doing that day.
The consensus: The CIA had been on high alert since August 23 that a terrorist attack by Al Qaeda was imminent. These are the twists of fate that saved 7 people's lives on 9/11.
How early did the government know?
The theory: As early as July 31, 2001, the FAA had issued a warning to airlines that "terror groups are known to be planning and training for hijackings." And according to CNN, this wasn't the first such warning issued by the government.
The consensus: In fact, it may have been even earlier. As far back as 1998, the FAA had been warning airlines and airports to maintain a "high degree of alertness" in response to ominous statements made by Osama bin Laden.
Why didn't anyone warn us?
The theory: On August 6, 2001, the CIA reported to President George W. Bush that al Qaeda was planning airline hijackings, according to CNN. This information was passed on to embassies and other overseas organization. But not the American public. Was there a good reason for this? There's a chance that authorities didn't take the threat seriously, and there's a chance that they believed there was little citizens could have done to alter the outcome.
The consensus: Most people—especially families of the victims—would have preferred that the American public had a warning.
Will this change the way governments handle alerts?
The theory: It should. Last June, the European Union enacted legislation requiring that citizens be alerted to potential terrorist attacks. The legislation has been called "lifesaving."
The consensus: Post-9/11 our country has made its own sweeping changes. U.S. agencies have been more forthcoming about potential danger. Homeland Security's color-coded system (red being the highest threat) has been replaced by the National Terrorism Advisory system, which keeps us posted with "elevated" and "imminent" alerts. In addition, all major cellular companies also have the capability of warning subscribers about threat level changes. Finally, ground zero is home to a new tower. Learn how 1 World Trade Center was built to be safer than the Twin Towers.
Why won't anyone tell the FBI what happened?
The theory: The greatest enduring conspiracy theory regarding the 9/11 attacks is why the CIA blocked communications that would have informed the FBI of impending terrorist attacks. "It's horrible. We still don't know what happened," Newsweek quotes one of the FBI's lead counterterrorism agents as saying.
The consensus: For some former national security officials, this question alone rivals even those we ponder regarding the assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy.
Could the attacks have been prevented?
The theory: The CIA blocked information regarding a possible attack in both 2000 and 2001 from reaching the FBI. "It is patently evident the attacks did not need to happen and there has been no justice," Mark Rossini, one of two FBI agents assigned to the CIA's Osama bin Laden unit, told Newsweek.
The consensus: Many family members of 9/11 victims would agree. This woman survived 9/11—these are the questions she gets asked the most.