Cutter Charges and Cover-Up
Movies have conditioned people to expect a certain look and sound to explosions, all based on very low velocity explosives. In a stunning ironic twist, moviegoers seem to perceive the slower explosions as more powerful.
Demolition experts will tell you that high brissive or high velocity explosives [full details] are actually more powerful, as they build up a powerful shock wave.
However, except for actually collapsing a structure, such explosives are unsuitable for film. The blast is over so quickly it can be missed while the film is moving between one frame and the next. There is very little visible smoke and flash, and the "crack" of a C-4 cutter charge is downright disappointing to hear.
Thus, the average person's awareness of what an explosion is supposed to look and sound like is based on the movies and low velocity explosives only. In not knowing what high velocity explosives sound like or feel like (as the shock wave moves through the earth), many people might not understand what they heard or felt on 9/11/2001.
With the above in mind lets take a look at the collapse of World Trade Center 2...
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"We were there I don't know, maybe 10, 15 minutes and then I just remember there was just an explosion. It seemed like on television they blow up these buildings. It seemed like it was going all the way around like a belt, all these explosions." [Rich Banaciski - Firefighter (F.D.N.Y.)]
"When I looked in the direction of the Trade Center before it came down, before No. 2 came down, ..I saw low-level flashes. In my conversation with Lieutenant Evangelista, never mentioning this to him, he questioned me and asked me if I saw low-level flashes in front of the building, and I agreed with him because I thought -- at that time I didn't know what it was. I mean, it could have been as a result of the building collapsing, things exploding, but I saw a flash flash flash and then it looked like the building came down."
Q. "Was that on the lower level of the building or up where the fire was?"
A. "No, the lower level of the building. You know like when they demolish a building, how when they blow up a building, when it falls down? That's what I thought I saw. And I didn't broach the topic to him, but he asked me. He said I don't know if I'm crazy, but I just wanted to ask you because you were standing right next to me… He said did you see any flashes? I said, yes, well, I thought it was just me. He said no, I saw them, too." [Stephen Gregory - Assistant Commissioner (F.D.N.Y.)]
Two orange flashes can be seen below the collapse level - click image for full size
"It was a frigging noise. At first I thought it was -- do you ever see professional demolition where they set the charges on certain floors and then you hear "Pop, pop, pop, pop, pop" That's exactly what -- because I thought it was that. When I heard that frigging noise, that's when I saw the building coming down." [Daniel Rivera - Paramedic (E.M.S.)]
As we are looking up at the building, what I saw was, it looked like the building was blowing out on all four sides. We actually heard the pops. Didn't realize it was the falling -- you know, you heard the pops of the building. You thought it was just blowing out. [Joseph Meola - Firefighter (F.D.N.Y.)]
“When we got to about 50 ft from the South Tower, we heard the most eerie sound that you would ever hear. A high-pitched noise and a popping noise made everyone stop. We all looked up. At the point, it all let go. The way I see it, it had to be the rivets. The building let go, there was an explosion and the whole top leaned toward us and started coming down. I stood there for a second in total awe, and then said, ‘What the F_____?’ I honestly thought it was Hollywood. [Jeff Birnbaum - EMT]