The claim: World Trade Center Building 7 was ‘pre-rigged for controlled demolition’
World Trade Center Building 7, which was located near the Twin Towers in New York, collapsed on Sept. 11, 2001. Amid this year’s anniversary of the deadliest terrorist attack in U.S. history, some social media users claim the building’s collapse was pre-planned.
A Facebook video shared Sept. 11 claims that Larry Silverstein, who developed Building 7, gave orders to demolish it. As evidence, it cites a PBS documentary, “America Rebuilds: A Year at Ground Zero,” in which Silverstein says:
“I remember getting a call from the fire department commander, telling me that they were not sure they were gonna be able to contain the fire, and I said, ‘You know we’ve had such terrible loss of life, maybe the smartest thing to do is pull it.’ And they made that decision to pull and then we watched the building collapse.”
The Facebook post’s caption reads, “Did the people working in building 7 know that it was pre-rigged for controlled demolition?”
Follow us on Facebook! Like our page to get updates throughout the day on our latest debunks
The post generated 13,000 views in less than a week. Similar posts have amassed hundreds of interactions on Instagram.
But the claim is baseless.
Silverstein’s words were taken out of context to wrongly imply that he gave orders to demolish the building. There is no evidence the building was pre-rigged. An array of investigations concluded it collapsed due to fire.
USA TODAY reached out to social media users who shared the claim for comment.
Building collapsed due to fire
Official investigations show there is no truth to the claim the Building 7 collapse was pre-planned.
World Trade Center Building 7 collapsed at 5:20 p.m. on Sept. 11, 2001, after burning for seven hours, according to a Federal Emergency Management Agency report. It said the collapse of the building was a direct result of fires stimulated by debris from the collapse of World Trade Center Tower 1.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology also says on its website that “heat from the uncontrolled fires caused steel floor beams and girders to thermally expand,” causing a key structural column to fail and initiating the collapse of the entire building.
The site also says investigators “found no evidence supporting the existence of a blast event.”
None of the investigations show the building was pre-rigged.
Silverstein’s quote in the documentary is also taken out of context, Dara McQuillan, Silverstein’s spokesperson, told USA TODAY in an email.
In the documentary, Silverstein’s phrase “pull it” meant pulling the contingent of fire fighters remaining in the building, McQuillan told USA TODAY. It had nothing to do with demolishing the building.
Before the building’s collapse, Silverstein spoke to the fire department commander on site, who said several firefighters were working in the building to contain the fires, according to McQuillan.
“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,” McQuillan said.
Our rating: False
Based on our research, we rate FALSE the claim that World Trade Center Building 7 was “pre-rigged for controlled demolition.” An array of investigations concluded the building collapsed due to fire. Silverstein’s quote was taken out of context in the PBS documentary. He was referencing pulling the firefighters out of the building.
Our fact-check sources:
- Dara McQuillan, Sept. 16-19, Email exchange with USA TODAY
- National Institute of Standards and Technology, accessed Sept. 20, Questions and Answers about the NIST WTC 7 Investigation
- BBC News, July 4, 2008, Q&A: The collapse of Tower 7
- National Institute of Standards and Technology, Nov. 20, 2008, Final Report on the Collapse of World Trade Center Building 7, Federal Building and Fire Safety Investigation of the World Trade Center Disaster (NIST NCSTAR 1A)
- Federal Emergency Management Agency, accessed Sept. 20, WTC 7
Thank you for supporting our journalism. You can subscribe to our print edition, ad-free app or electronic newspaper replica here.
Our fact-check work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook.