18 years ago, the deadliest terrorist attack in human history claimed almost 3000 lives. It’s no wonder that we keep returning to 9/11 in hopes of understanding what happened. Here are a few theories that continue to thrive online, despite being debunked.
Were the Buildings Already Rigged with Explosives?
One of the most persistent 9/11 theories was that the Twin Towers, along with the nearby 7 World Trade Center, were rigged with explosives before the planes crashed. The idea is that the damage was far too extensive to have been caused without additional demolitions.
Experts insist that the structural damage was caused by the super-hot fires that resulted from the crashes and that there is no evidence of explosives. Despite being debunked, millions of people still believe that this is the best explanation for the destruction of the towers.
Could 9/11 Have Been Worse?
Since 2001, we’ve learned more about the planned attacked against America–and just how much worse it might have been. Of course, the obvious worst-case scenario was if Flight UA 93 had connected with the White House or Capitol Building as planned. But there is evidence that al-Qaeda had much more planned.
Just last year, ABC News uncovered that multiple suspected terrorists tried to enter the country around September 11. The theory is that these al-Qaeda members were supposed to have hijacked additional planes–for a total of 6 or 7–or even form a second wave of attacks. This is one 9/11 theory that is almost certainly true.
Was the Military Ordered to Stand Down?
One question that keeps getting asked is this: Why didn’t the Air Force intercept the hijacked planes? Conspiracy theorists have suggested that Dick Cheney ordered the military to stand down. However, the official reports say that a series of events made it impossible for the military to intervene.
First, we simply weren’t prepared for this kind of event. Policies and procedures for hijacking hadn’t been significantly updated since the Cold War. A training exercise at US air defense command and a lack of communication between the military and the FAA meant that by the time anyone understood what was happening, it was already too late.
Did They Shoot Down United Airlines Flight 93?
The theory is that UA 93–which was bound for Washington, DC, and likely would have targeted the White House or the Capitol Building–was actually shot down over Pennsylvania. Theorists claim that the flight was destroyed by a missile or a mysterious “white jet” that some witnesses claim to have seen.
The cockpit recorder recovered from the flight confirms that the passengers overpowered the terrorists and prevented the attack from reaching its target.