An Interview with Mike Walter, Pentagon Eyewitness

di Hammer

English: This is the unabridged, unedited original text of an interview by email with Mike Walter, USA Today reporter and eyewitness to the Pentagon crash. An Italian translation is available here.

Italiano: pubblichiamo qui l'originale dell'intervista rilasciata via mail a Undicisettembre da Mike Walter, testimone oculare dell'impatto al Pentagono, di cui è già stata pubblicata la
traduzione italiana. Il testo di Walter è riportato tal quale, senza modifiche.

USA Today reporter Mike Walter is one of the best-known eyewitnesses of the Pentagon attack, partly because his words in a CNN interview on 9/11 have often been twisted and deliberately misquoted by conspiracy theorists to support their claims that the Pentagon was hit by a missile. This misquoting has been reported by many sources, including Der Spiegel and Undicisettembre's Italian-language documentary Misteri da Vendere.

Since 9/11, Walter is strongly committed to explaining to the public the actual course of the events of that day. He recently completed a documentary, Breaking News, Breaking Down, in which he reports on one of the less-known aspects of the 9/11 tragedy: the pain and distress that since then accompany anyone who witnessed it directly.

The Undicisettembre group recently contacted Mike Walter, who granted us an interview. This is an opportunity to dispel once and for all many of the most popular conspiracy theories, including Massimo Mazzucco's creative explanation that Walter actually mistook a missile for an airliner.

We would like to thank Mike Walter for his kindness and for the time and attention he has granted us.

Undicisettembre: Hello Mike, it's an honor to speak with you and to share your words with our Italian readers, who are often hindered by the language barrier. Thank you for taking the time to discuss your experience once again. Is it OK if we deal with the conspiracy theory stuff first and get it out of the way?

Mike Walter: Yes of course. I would first like to say thank you for giving me this forum to communicate directly with the people of Italy on this very important issue. For someone to witness the horror that I did that day I think it's very important to honor the people who died by being an honest witness to what happened. I believe those who twist the facts for whatever reason do a great dishonor to the people who died and the loved ones they left behind.

Undicisettembre: Can you give a brief account of what you saw and experienced that morning? What do you recall, generally speaking?

Mike Walter: I was on my way to work which at the time was about 5 minutes away from the Pentagon. I would drive on the freeway to highway 27 that took me right by the Pentagon. I would end up on the road to the Pentagon North Parking lot which would swing around and put me on 110. So this wasn't some random thing that I was there as some have suggested. I was running late that morning and stuck in traffic.

I was listening to radio accounts of what was happening in New York. I was very frustrated because I was the senior correspondent for the national newspaper USA TODAY. I rolled down the window to my car and heard the jet. I looked up to see it's underbelly, then it gracefully banked and began a steep decline. It would dive into the Pentagon.

Undicisettembre: The next question is inevitably about the size of the hole in the face of the Pentagon. Some people say it was too small for an airliner. What's your opinion about this topic? Did you get a good look at the hole before the section of the building collapsed?

Mike Walter: Yes...I have heard this account...but all I can say is when you are traveling with this force, over 500 miles an hour and you are going into a concrete structure, something has to give. As the jet smashed into the Pentagon it was traveling at such a high speed that when the wings hit they basically just folded back...that explains why the hole isn't so large.

Undicisettembre: Some other people on the Internet claim that you couldn't see the impact directly, because your view was blocked by some trees. Is that correct?

Mike Walter: This is from an earlier interview that I did here in the United States. My view was very good. There were some trees...so I was being honest....I wasn't exactly sure if the plane skipped before entering or just crashed into the Pentagon at a very low point in the building. But as far as my view...that was the only part that I had any question about..the exact way it entered. I saw the plane go into the Pentagon, there is no doubt, I had a very good view. I saw the wings fold back; I saw the huge explosion, the fireball and everything else that happened that day.

Undicisettembre: An Italian conspiracy theorist said you might have mistaken a cruise missile for an airplane. I guess you can rule out this crazy idea too, right?

Mike Walter: Here again people have taken my words and twisted them. The fact that I mentioned the trees has been used to discount my testimony.

This cruise missile notion also comes from an interview that day when someone asked if I thought the plane was really aiming at the Pentagon or was it simply an accident.

That's when I said "It was like a cruise missile with wings and it went right over there." I gestured to the area of impact. My point was that the plane was no longer a plane... Whoever was piloting the jet had every intention of turning it into a weapon... like a missile. But the notion that it was a missile and not a jet would be laughable if it wasn't so sad. I think it is really sad because some people actually believe this stuff.

Undicisettembre: Did you see any wreckage of the airplane on the ground?

Mike Walter: Yes I did. But I wasn’t alone, other witnesses and some reporters and photographers who were there to cover the attack also saw the wreckage.

Undicisettembre: Did you see any of the survivors or hear anything from them? What can you tell us about them?

Mike Walter: The story was broken up and different reporters covered different aspects of the story. I did not talk to any of the survivors inside the Pentagon who got out. I have spoken to people who were inside the Pentagon and got out, but they were other parts of the Pentagon. As I'm sure you know the Pentagon is enormous and it's made up of rings. Most of the people that I know and have spoken to were in other rings.

Undicisettembre: What can you tell us about the firefighters and the rescuers?

Mike Walter: They were really impacted by what they did. The hours they put in were long, and the work intense. I do know that many were traumatized by what they saw in the aftermath of the attack.

Undicisettembre: What's your reaction to being a witness of such a huge tragedy and then hearing the so-called "truthers" claim it all was fake?

Mike Walter: At first I thought these people were laughable and would go away, but unfortunately many people believe their accounts. In this age of the internet lots of wrong information can circulate... and the more it circulates the more traction it gets and the more people tend to believe it. I know a lot of young people believe this stuff... because my daughter is 22 and some of her friends have questioned me at length about this because they have seen so much of the stuff on the internet and are confused.

Undicisettembre: Many journalists here in Italy believe the MIHOP (made it happen on purpose) or at least the LIHOP (let it happen on purpose) theories. What's the situation among your colleagues in the US?

Mike Walter: I think my colleagues here ignored this movement for a long time. I started to see this phenomenon early on and was concerned about it. I was contacted by a French journalist about 6 months after the attack, which was after Thierry Meyssan had come out with a book saying that the attack was an inside job and there wasn't a plane.

I was alarmed when I heard that the book was a best seller. I felt like it would be good to do a story on this surge of stuff on the internet, and to do something about the false quality of this material. But initially American journalists thought it was crazy that people were saying this and they ignored it.

Now they do stories on these people as a curiosity. But unfortunately every time they approach the story that way they give these people more credence, more credibility. I feel strongly that they should spend more time putting together reasoned reporting that discounts their wacky theories.

Undicisettembre: Do you think there's anything even vaguely reliable in the various conspiracy theories?

Mike Walter: I think there is a general distrust in authority, and I think people find it hard to believe that one of the strongest nations in the world could be vulnerable to an attack like this. So you combine both of those things and you have the seeds for a conspiracy theory.

Undicisettembre: Leaving aside all the conspiracy theory rants, are there any aspects of 9/11 that you think deserve further investigation? Any unsolved mysteries, nagging gaps that need to be filled, perhaps to bring closure to the emotions surrounding the event? Which avenues of 9/11 investigation and research would you recommend to journalists?

Mike Walter: Unfortunately I'm the wrong one to ask. I have no doubts about what happened that day... because I saw it with my own eyes. The one story I would like to see reported on about 9/11 is this... the impact on journalists.

I've done a documentary on how it impacted me psychologically, but I think there are other medical ailments associated with 9/11 and there are lots of reporters and photojournalists who are now seeing medical issues associated with being involved in the reporting from New York on 9/11 and the days that followed. David Handschuh, a photojournalist in New York, is doing a fascinating study on this, and there are a lot of reporters suffering from doing their job that day and the days that followed.

Undicisettembre: OK, no more conspiracy stuff. Let's move on to somewhat more personal questions. How did this tragic event affect your everyday life?

Mike Walter: It really impacted me quite a bit after the attack. To see this horror was very difficult. I had covered mass murder trials in the past... but I had never seen a case of mass murder right in front of me.

A few days after the attack I had to interview a young widow with her two little children playing in the distance, she had kissed her husband that morning and he had headed off to work and she never imagined that his life might end just a short time later. To see this woman shattered emotionally and to see others who lost their loved ones on that day was tough because I had witnessed their final moments and saw the instrument of their deaths just moments before it hit.

That is tough to take. So I was plagued by nightmares’ about what I saw, and also pretty depressed after the attack. So I'm hoping my film will help others who have had to deal with tough stories or tragedies in their lives. That way some good can come out of that bad day.

Undicisettembre: On 9/11 you went from being a reporter to being an eyewitness, from being an interviewer to being the interviewee. Has this changed your reporting? Has it given you new insight into the art of journalism?

Mike Walter: This is a very good question, and very insightful. Yes, there is no way that you can cross over and not be impacted. I feel like it would be great exercises to have reporters have to be on the other side of a camera on occasion. I think the biggest change for me is that I don't want to waste my time on stories like Paris Hilton and Britney Spears. I want to do journalism about things that matter. I think I was always a compassionate reporter who had tremendous empathy... but now I think those skills have been strengthened.

Undicisettembre: Do you think the country and its people have recovered from the tragedy? Do you feel like the nation is still living in fear, or has it regained its standing in the world?

Mike Walter: I think this latest election, this is just my personal view, and this latest election was a referendum on that subject. Were we going to be a country of fear or a country of hope? I think the previous administration had spent a lot of time working on the fears of Americans.

Having said that, I do hope that we don't lose sight of what happened that day. Unfortunately there are people who hate us. We can take the fight to them as President Bush suggested, or we can try another way of doing things, of trying to understand why there is this hatred. I think hatred in most cases comes from ignorance. If people learn to understand one another they can find common ground and avoid war and tragedies like I witnessed on that day.

I do think as a result of the vote that we have recovered to a degree. I think the attacks on that day impacted different parts of the country in different ways. I know months after the attack when I would travel to California and people there would seem to be moving on, whereas here on the East Coast the people were still dealing with the after affects of that day.

So in closing I would say I hope we have recovered, but I hope we never forget, in fact we must never forget what happened that day. We must also never forget that there were a lot innocent people, mothers, dads, sons, daughters, sisters and brothers who died. Their families will move on, but their lives will never be the same.


11/9: il processo si sposta a New York

di John - www.crono911.org

Eric Holder, Procuratore Generale degli Stati Uniti, ha decretato che i cinque imputati per gli attentati terroristici dell'11 settembre 2001 saranno processati da una corte federale di New York.

La decisione, comunicata il 13 novembre e voluta dall'amministrazione Obama, azzera il processo penale militare in corso a Guantanamo e prelude all'imminente chiusura del controverso campo di detenzione che ha ospitato sinora i terroristi e combattenti catturati nell'ambito della guerra globale contro Al-Qaeda iniziata all'indomani degli attacchi contro New York e Washington.

Gli imputati sono l'ideatore degli attacchi, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM), e i suoi complici Ramzi Binalshibh, Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali (alias Ammar al-Baluchi), Waleed bin-Attash e Mustafa Ahmad al-Hawsawi.

E' il caso di ricordare che i primi due hanno ammesso le proprie responsabilità prima ancora di essere catturati, nel corso di un'intervista rilasciata al giornalista arabo Yosri Fouda, in Pakistan, nel 2002.

La decisione ha scatenato un vero putiferio negli Stati Uniti in generale e a New York in particolare. Da un lato, si teme che il trasferimento dei detenuti in prigioni federali e la loro partecipazione alle udienze in un tribunale civile di New York comportino seri rischi di sicurezza.
Si temono tentativi di evasione e di liberazione, ma anche e soprattutto ulteriori attentati da parte di Al-Qaeda o di uno qualsiasi dei tanti gruppi fondamentalisti islamici che vivono a New York, città che con questo processo amplifica un significato simbolico che già le ha procurato tanti guai.

Dall'altro, si teme che in una corte federale, legata ai sistemi probatori tipici della giustizia ordinaria americana (estremamente garantista), potrebbe anche succedere che i cinque terroristi siano assolti.

In molti ricordano bene, infatti, il processo contro El Sayyid Nosair, un fondamentalista che nel 1990 assassinò a colpi di arma da fuoco il rabbino Meir Kahane durante una conferenza a Manhattan, sotto gli occhi di centinaia di persone. Intercettato da un poliziotto mentre fuggiva, Nosair fu arrestato dopo un breve scontro a fuoco nel corso del quale il poliziotto fu ferito.

A causa di imprecisioni nelle testimonianze (un po' quel che succede con i complottisti che si dilettano a contestare le dichiarazioni dei testimoni dell'attacco al Pentagono sfruttando le inevitabili approssimazioni nel ricordare dettagli insignificanti), gli avvocati riuscirono a far assolvere dall'omicidio Nosair (che restò comunque in carcere per gli altri reati commessi).

Si accertò in seguito che Nosair apparteneva alla stessa cellula fondamentalista che nel 1993 organizzò il primo attentato contro il World Trade Center, con il decisivo contributo di Ramzi Yousef, nipote di KSM.

Se Nosair non avesse sparato e ferito l'agente di polizia che lo aveva intercettato, sarebbe stato un uomo libero.

A favore dell'accusa, nel processo sull'11 settembre, gioca però la posizione mantenuta dagli imputati, i quali finora hanno ammesso – con orgoglio – le proprie responsabilità. Se non cambieranno dichiarazioni innanzi ai giudici federali, andranno incontro a una sicura condanna, proprio come è stato per Zacarias Moussaoui, condannato nel 2006.

In ogni caso, questo nuovo processo rappresenta un'ulteriore inchiesta sui fatti dell'11 settembre, che si aggiunge a quella della Commissione 9/11, del Joint Inquiry congressuale, del processo Moussaoui, dell'indagine PENTTBOM dell'FBI, del NIST e della FEMA, per non parlare delle inchieste giornalistiche.

Inchieste congressuali, tecniche, giudiziarie, indipendenti: eppure c'è qualche complottista che sbraita per chiedere "una nuova inchiesta" sull'11 settembre...

Il nuovo processo lascia anche sperare – così come avvenuto per il caso Moussaoui – che una nutrita serie di prove e documenti sia pubblicata sul Web dopo la sentenza, a beneficio di storici, ricercatori e studiosi (quelli veri).

E' infine appena il caso di notare che la reazione dei cittadini di New York e dei familiari delle vittime della tragedia smentisce clamorosamente i proclami dei complottisti, secondo cui i newyorkesi non crederebbero alla "versione ufficiale" dei fatti dell'11 settembre.


Grattacieli crollano per cedimento di un singolo piano

di Paolo Attivissimo, con il contributo di AlienEntity1.

Uno dei temi ricorrenti delle tesi cospirazioniste riguardanti il crollo delle Torri Gemelle è l'asserita impossibilità che il cedimento di un singolo piano ai livelli alti di un grattacielo possa aver innescato il collasso catastrofico dell'intero edificio.

L'obiezione solitamente proposta è che il crollo dovrebbe arrestarsi perché la struttura sottostante, essendo intatta, resiste al carico. Dopotutto, si obietta, la struttura regge i piani soprastanti quando l'edificio è sano, ha un margine di sicurezza nel farlo, e quindi dovrebbe reggerli anche quando quei piani cadono per soli tre metri, oltretutto partendo da fermi. Se al WTC non lo fece, vuol dire che la struttura sottostante era stata indebolita e quindi le Torri Gemelle erano state sabotate.

Si tratta di un'obiezione che fa inorridire chiunque abbia competenza di strutture, ma che fa presa in molti, perché la percezione delle forze in gioco non è intuitiva. La distinzione fra carico statico (quello retto dall'edificio sano) e carico dinamico (quello che grava su una struttura quando le cade addosso la catasta di piani soprastanti) non è alla portata di tutti.

L'ideale sarebbe disporre di una dimostrazione pratica che faccia vedere cosa succede realmente quando viene indebolito un singolo piano di una struttura alta.

Segnalo quindi con piacere questo video ripreso in Francia: una demolizione senza esplosivi di due edifici di 20 piani, effettuata a Belfor, in rue Parant, il 21 febbraio 2008 dalla società Ferrari Démolition di Wittelsheim.

La tecnica utilizzata è quella del verinage: dei martinetti idraulici piegano e spezzano le colonne portanti di un singolo piano, in modo che la caduta dei piani soprastanti demolisca l'edificio.

Non occorrono esplosivi e non occorre alcun indebolimento preliminare dei piani sottostanti. Come si può vedere nel video, è sufficiente il cedimento di un singolo piano per innescare il crollo di tutta la struttura. La caduta dei sette piani soprastanti per soli tre metri basta a compiere l'operazione.

Questo è esattamente quello che accadde alle Torri Gemelle, su scala molto più vasta e con gli incendi al posto dei martinetti per indebolire la struttura.

In questa demolizione francese si nota inoltre la produzione di vistosi sbuffi nonostante non sia stato usato alcun esplosivo. Gli sbuffi sono generati dalla compressione improvvisa del volume d'aria all'interno dell'edificio, esattamente come alle Torri Gemelle.

L'asserita impossibilità di un crollo completo innescato dal cedimento di un singolo piano risulta quindi inesorabilmente demolita dai fatti.


Recensione: "Breaking News, Breaking Down" di Mike Walter

di Hammer. An English translation is available below.

Se un giornalista che ha assistito di persona allo schianto del volo American Airlines 77 contro il Pentagono decide di farne un documentario, è normale aspettarsi un video che racconta l'11 settembre da un punto di vista insolito.

Ma "Breaking News, Breaking Down" di Mike Walter, uscito nei primi mesi del 2009 e già insignito di diversi riconoscimenti in vari festival del cinema, non è solo questo: è la storia di persone colpite da un disastro, delle loro emozioni e della loro voglia di non arrendersi davanti alle tragedie della vita.

Mike Walter (da noi intervistato nello scorso mese di giugno), dopo essere stato testimone della morte orribile di centinaia di persone innocenti, fu vittima di incubi ricorrenti, crisi depressive e un forte senso di solitudine che lo stava allontanando dalla sua stessa famiglia.

Nonostante la lunga carriera giornalistica, in cui aveva raccontato a un vasto pubblico più morti violente, sciagure e disastri di quanti ne potesse ricordare, ciò che vide quel terribile giorno lo sconvolse come non era mai successo prima. Le immagini del Boeing 757 lanciato come uno strumento di morte contro un edificio abitato continuavano a riproporsi nella sua mente.

Mike si accorse che raccontare notizie drammatiche può avere conseguenze devastanti, ma riuscì a uscire dalla depressione grazie allo spunto offerto da una nota scritta su un fazzoletto di carta da un collega, che aveva assistito al crollo del World Trade Center e aveva intrapreso il proprio cammino di guarigione presso il DART Center, un ente che aiuta giornalisti emotivamente provati dal loro lavoro a vincere i loro problemi psicologici. Il collega invitò Walter a fare altrettanto.

Grazie al DART Center, Mike Walter conobbe altri cronisti e fotoreporter afflitti dagli stessi suoi problemi. Nel documentario ci porta a conoscenza delle loro storie: storie di persone abituate a raccontare i fatti più tragici, ma che difficilmente hanno modo di esprimere le proprie emozioni.

Il gruppo in cui Mike venne inserito lavorò al progetto "Target New Orleans", in cui giornalisti provenienti da varie parti del mondo unirono i propri sforzi per contribuire ai lavori di sgombero delle macerie, pulizia e ricostruzione della città di New Orleans, colpita dall'uragano Katrina nel 2005.

Insieme impararono a superare il senso di solitudine che li affliggeva per il fatto di non poter condividere il loro tormento con nessuno che lo potesse capire. Così oggi, rimuovendo gli effetti più evidenti della catastrofe che aveva colpito molti di loro, hanno rimosso le proprie barriere emotive. Aiutando la comunità e sentendosi utili, hanno recuperato fiducia e gioia di vivere.

Non è, come dicevamo, solo un racconto insolito sull'11/9 e nemmeno il racconto della rinascita di New Orleans. Questa è la storia di chi ha superato le proprie difficoltà impegnandosi ad aiutare chi ne aveva più bisogno. E ci ricorda che anche i giornalisti, che spesso trascuriamo e vediamo come semplici e indifferenti intermediari, sono traumatizzati quanto e più di noi dalle vicende di cui sono testimoni e che portano nelle nostre case.

Come dice il film stesso: "this is a story of hope". "Questa è una storia di speranza".

English translation

If a journalist who directly witnessed the crash of American Airlines 77 into the Pentagon decides to make a documentary about his experience, naturally an unusual viewpoint on 9/11 is to be expected.

But "Breaking News, Breaking Down" by Mike Walter, which debuted in early 2009 and has already received many accolades at several movie festivals, is more than just a different viewpoint. It's a story about people struck by disaster, about their emotions and their will to stand up to the tragedies of life.

Mike Walter (whom we interviewed last June), after witnessing the horrible death of hundreds of innocent people, was plagued by recurring nightmares, depression and a strong sense of loneliness that began to estrange him from his own family.

Despite his many years as a journalist, in which he had reported to a vast audience more violent deaths, accidents and disasters than he could remember, what he saw that fateful day shocked him like never before. The image of that Boeing 757, hurled as an instrument of death against a building full of people, continued to resurface in his mind.

Mike realized that reporting dramatic news can have devastating consequences, but managed to escape from depression thanks to a note scribbled on a paper napkin by one of his colleagues who had seen the World Trade Center collapse and had started his healing process at the DART Center, an organization that helps journalists who have been shattered emotionally by their job to overcome their psychological problems. Mike's colleague invited him to do the same.

Thanks to the DART Center, Mike Walter met other reporters and photojournalists who were affected in the same way. His documentary allows us to get to know their stories. Stories of people who are accustomed to reporting the most tragic events but seldom have an outlet for their own emotions.

Mike joined a group on the Target New Orleans project: journalists from many parts of the world combined their efforts to help with clearing the debris, cleaning up and rebuilding New Orleans after hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Together they learned to overcome the loneliness that stemmed from being unable to share their pain with someone who could understand it. Today, by removing the most conspicuous effects of the catastrophe that struck many of them, they have also removed their emotional barriers. By helping the community and feeling useful, they have regained confidence and learned again to appreciate life.

"Breaking News, Breaking Down" is not just an unconventional angle on 9/11 or a story on the recovery of New Orleans. It's the story of someone who has overcome his troubles through his commitment to help the neediest of the needy. And it reminds us that while we often regard journalists as mere, indifferent intermediaries, they too are traumatized just like us, and even more than us, by the events they witness and bring into our homes.

As the documentary itself says, this is a story of hope.