The 9/11 Interview with Michael Hess: Evidence that NIST Lied about When He and Barry Jennings Were Rescued
by David Ray Griffin
September 17, 2008
Shortly after the first strike on the World Trade Center, which occurred at 8:46 AM on 9/11, Michael Hess, New York City's corporation counsel, and Barry Jennings, the deputy director of the Emergency Services Department of the New York City Housing Authority, headed to the Office of Emergency Management's Emergency Operating Center, which was on the 23rd floor of WTC 7, where they assumed that Mayor Rudy Giuliani would be. But when Hess and Jennings arrived, the place was empty. Jennings then telephoned someone to ask what they should do and was told that they should leave immediately. Finding that the elevators would not work, they started down the stairs. When they reached the sixth floor, however, there was a powerful explosion beneath them, which, Jennings told the makers of Loose Change Final Cut,1 caused the landing on which they were standing to give way. Making their way back up to the eighth floor, they were able to break a window and call for help. Hess later reported: "[W]e were trapped on the eighth floor with smoke, thick smoke, all around us, for about an hour and a half [before] the New York Fire Department . . . came and got us out."2
Hess made this statement while being interviewed by Frank Ucciardo of UPN 9 News "on Broadway about a block from City Hall," almost a half mile from WTC 7. This interview began before noon, most likely at 11:34. The conclusion that it began at 11:34 is based on evidence derived from a DVD containing UPN 9 programs from that morning, in which the Hess interview begins at the 57-minute mark. According to a note on the DVD itself, its video began at 10:37 AM, which would mean that the Hess interview began at 11:34. It is possible, however, that the video might have actually started at 11:00: At the 111-minute mark, the UPN 9 program switched to live coverage by CNN of a Taliban news conference, and the only reference we have been able to find to this coverage indicates that it began at 12:51.3 This would mean that the video began at 11:00 and the Hess interview, therefore, at 11:57. Nevertheless, whether the earlier or the later starting time is correct, UPN 9 News began interviewing Michael Hess before noon.
However, NIST---the National Institute of Standards and Technology---which was tasked with providing the official explanation of the collapse of the Twin Towers and WTC 7, claimed that the two men were rescued at "12:10 to 12:15 PM."4 Why might NIST have made this claim? The reason becomes evident in another NIST document's statement about Hess and Jennings, which begins:
"With the collapse of the two towers, a New York City employee and a WTC 7 building staff person became trapped inside of WTC 7. The two had gone to the OEM center on the 23rd floor and found no one there. As they went to get into an elevator to go downstairs the lights inside of WTC 7 flickered as WTC 2 collapsed. At this point, the elevator they were attempting to catch no longer worked, so they started down the staircase."5
According to NIST, therefore, Hess and Jennings, upon finding the OEM center vacated, started downstairs just after 9:59, when the second tower collapsed. It was this collapse, NIST suggested, that was responsible for the elevator's failure to work.
As we saw earlier, however, Jennings said that they had arrived at the OEM center shortly after the strike on the North Tower, hence around 9:00 AM. He added, in fact, that he had to have been on the 23rd floor "when the second plane hit" (which was at 9:03).6 Besides contradicting Jennings' testimony on that point, the NIST account went on to say:
"When they got to the 6th floor, WTC 1 [the North Tower] collapsed, the lights went out in the staircase, the sprinklers came on briefly, and the staircase filled with smoke and debris. The two men went back to the 8th floor broke out a window and called for help."7
According to NIST, therefore, what Hess and Jennings took to be an explosion in WTC 7 was really just an effect of the collapse of the North Tower. That collapse occurred at 10:28. Accordingly, if the two men were then trapped for about 90 minutes before they were rescued, this rescue must have occurred at about noon---hence NIST's claim that they were rescued at "12:10 to 12:15 PM."
NIST's timeline is clearly implausible. Claiming that Hess and Jennings started down the stairs after the collapse of the South Tower caused the elevator to fail, NIST implies that it took them 29 minutes---from 9:59 to 10:28---to descend from the 23rd floor to the 6th floor.
NIST's timeline is also directly contradicted by the testimony of Jennings, who said: "After getting to the 8th floor everything was dark . . . . [B]oth buildings were still standing. Because I looked . . . one way, looked the other way. . . . [B]oth buildings were still standing."8
The strongest evidence against NIST's timeline, however, is Hess's interview with UPN 9 News. Defenders of the official account, according to which there were no explosions in WTC 7, might challenge the truth of Jennings's testimony. But if Hess was giving an interview almost a half mile away before noon, then NIST's timeline, according to which the two men were not rescued until after noon, is objectively disproved. This is the case whether we accept the 11:34 or the 11:57 starting time for this interview.
Given the fact that the interview occurred almost a half mile from the WTC, it would probably have taken Hess at least a half hour to get there after he was rescued (he surely would have talked to firefighters and other officials about the ordeal before taking off). So if the interview began at 11:34, he and Jennings would have been rescued before 11:05. If the interview began at 11:57, they would have been rescued before 11:30.
In either case, NIST's explanation for the event that Hess and Jennings took to be a massive explosion in WTC 7 itself is disproved. If the two men were rescued before 11:05 after having been trapped, as Hess said, for about 90 minutes, the event must have occurred before 9:35. Even if they were not rescued until closer to 11:30, the event must have occurred at least by 10:00. In either case, the event could not have been the collapse of the North Tower, which did not occur until 10:28.
That said, I endorse the earlier times---11:34 for the beginning of the Hess interview, 11:05 or earlier for the rescue, and 9:35 or earlier for the explosion---for three reasons. First, the note on the DVD says that the video started at 11:34. Second, the account by Hess and Jennings suggests that they would have reached the 6th floor, where the landing was knocked out from under them, at about 9:15. Third, whereas the later times would suggest that this event occurred around 10:00, Jennings stated, as we saw, that after the explosion occurred and he and Hess made it back up to the 8th floor, the South Tower, which collapsed at 9:59, was still standing.
As I pointed out in The New Pearl Harbor Revisited, a BBC special on WTC 7 that aired July 6, 2008 ("The Conspiracy Files: 9/11--The Third Tower"), distorted Jennings' testimony. Although he evidently told the BBC interviewer the same story he had earlier told to the makers of Loose Change Final Cut, the BBC placed his testimony within the time-framework suggested by NIST. So, after playing footage in which Jennings described a massive explosion in WTC 7 (which was probably at about 9:15), the BBC says: "At 10:28, the North Tower collapses. . . . Tower 7 takes a direct hit. . . . Early evidence of explosives were just debris from a falling skyscraper."9
However, Jennings will apparently not be available to correct the record. Jennings, 53 years old, evidently died in August 2008, reportedly only a few days before NIST issued its report on WTC 7.10
In any case, UPN 9's interview of Michael Hess is now publicly available, thanks to Dylan Avery, who made a copy of it available, and Fred Burks, who posted it at The Transformation Team (click here).