“I went down to the scene and we set up headquarters at 75 Barkley Street, which was right there with the Police Commissioner, the Fire Commissioner, the Head of Emergency Management, and we were operating out of there when we were told that the World Trade Center was going to collapse. And it did collapse before we could actually get out of the building, so we were trapped in the building for 10, 15 minutes, and finally found an exit and got out, walked north, and took a lot of people with us.”
No steel framed building had collapsed through fire prior to 9/11, so how was it known that the World Trade Center was going to collapse? There was no factual or historical basis for this prediction.
When was Giuliani warned? Why were only a select few people warned? How many lives would have been saved if everyone had received this warning?
Were Port Authority staff told to stay in the buildings? If so, why?
One possible implied assumption here is that no-one could possibly have suggested the towers would collapse, unless they had advance knowledge of a demolition. But why not? The “collapses were unprecedented”, yes, but then so were the initial impacts. There’s no reason someone might have not have expressed their personal view that the tower would collapse.
That’s not just our opinion, either. John Peruggia of the FDNY is reported to have heard warnings about the towers prior to the first collapse.
An engineer from the Department of Buildings reported that the structural damage appeared to be immense. The stability of both buildings was compromised. In particular, the engineer was worried about how long the north tower would stand.
“102 Minutes”, Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn
Peruggia found this an “astounding possibility”, this account tells us, but could not ignore it. He sent a messenger to tell Chief of Department Peter Ganci (“and Chief Ganci only”) “that the building integrity is severely compromised and they believe the building is in danger of imminent collapse”.
That messenger turns out to be Richard Zarillo, who takes up the story:
As I was walking towards the Fire command post, I found Steve Mosiello. I said, Steve, where's the boss? I have to give him a message. He said, well, what's the message? I said the buildings are going to collapse; we need to evac everybody out. With a very confused look he said who told you that? I said I was just with John at OEM. OEM says the buildings are going to collapse; we need to get out.
He escorted me over to Chief Ganci. He said, hey, Pete, we got a message that the buildings are going to collapse. His reply was who the fuck told you that? Then Steve brought me in and with Chief Ganci, Commissioner Feehan, Steve, I believe Chief Turi was initially there, I said, listen, I was just at OEM. The message I was given was that the buildings are going to collapse; we need to get our people out. At that moment, this thunderous, rolling roar came down and that's when the building came down, the first tower came down.
So we have at least two reports from what would have been an authoritative source on the day, of the potential for collapse, and there’s no reason to believe this might not have filtered through to Giuliani.
There are also anecdotal reports of others who shared this opinion, including a New York Linguistics professor, who said he’d thought this after witnessing the fires:
My Thayer School engineering training came back, and I realized that with that intensity of heat in a building in which the steel girders were insulated with asbestos, it had to collapse within one hour. I called the fire department, police, etc. and told them the building was guaranteed to collapse.
We can’t prove that’s a legitimate email, but if it is then it illustrates the collapse wasn’t a total surprise to everyone. Assistant Chief Joseph Callan of the FDNY also reported his concerns about conditions in the North Tower before it collapsed.
Approximately 40 minutes after I arrived in the lobby, I made a decision that the building was no longer safe. And that was based on the conditions in the lobby, large pieces of plaster falling, all the 20 foot high glass panels on the exterior of the lobby were breaking. There was obvious movement of the building, and that was the reason on the handy talky I gave the order for all Fire Department units to leave the north tower.
It is far from inconceivable that someone might have suggested to Giuliani that the WTC might collapse, then, but there’s another potential explanation for this claim that could be even simpler. Let's look at other accounts from those around Giuliani at the time.
I received a radio transmission from FDNY Captain Joe Folino, an OEM responder, who informed me that the Mayor had requested that I join him and Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik at 75 Barclay Street, where they were establishing a temporary executive command center. I left the North Tower lobby and went to Barclay Street.
In addition to the Mayor and the Police Commissioner, several Deputy Mayors and Senior City Hall staff were at the command post. The Mayor was on the phone with the White House, and had been told the White House was being evacuated. Suddenly, the building began to shake, and someone yelled the towers were coming down. We could hear the roar of the building collapsing, and then there was silence and darkness.
FORMER COMMISSIONER OF THE NEW YORK CITY
OFFICE OF EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT
RICHARD J. SHEIRER
Here "someone yelled the towers were coming down" only just before (or even as) they collapsed. Could this be the warning Giuliani referred to? Let's try another version:
From there Giuliani, needing phone lines, commandeered a Merrill Lynch back office at 75 Barclay Street. After 45 minutes someone yelled, "Get down! It’s coming down!" The force of the collapse flattened the building across the street,
...Lhota says. “We got through to the governor’s office and peppered them with questions: Is this terrorism? Are more planes on the way? Are the airports closed? Should we close the tunnels? The mayor also wanted to talk to the White House. As I handed him the phone, saying, ‘Vice President Cheney is about to get on the line,’ a police official ran in yelling, ‘Get down! Everybody get down! It’s coming down!’ ”
The collapses were certainly unprecedented, then, but it seems there were several possible warnings that Giuliani may have received: no mysterious phone calls required. If so, this also explains a point that is often ignored: if Giuliani did receive earlier notification of the collapse from a reliable source concerned about his safety, then why was he still in the building?