Questions should be asked about the science behind the falling of the World Trade Center buildings 10 years ago, panelists agreed Tuesday night.
The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga hosted the event, "The Science of 9/11," which began with a moment of silence for the families who lost loved ones.
The discussion "is an opportunity to illustrate the application of the scientific method to a real life event that most Americans remember exactly where they were," said UTC professor of anthropology Lyn Miles, one of the event's coordinators.
There are also more than 1,500 architects and engineers who have raised scientific questions over the collapse of the World Trade Center and are calling for a full investigation of 9/11, and it's worthwhile to discuss why, she added.
The school showed the documentary "Architects & Engineers 9/11 Truth," also the name of the nonprofit that says the collapse of the buildings was not caused by the impact of the planes but by explosives or controlled demolition.
Close to 300 people attended the event, many university students, who often cheered the comments made from one of the panelists, David Johnson, a University of Tennessee at Knoxville urban planning professor emeritus and urban engineering expert, who also calls for a new investigation of what happened on that day when almost 3,000 people were killed.
"We need a citizens' initiative to ask for an investigation. We need other kinds of efforts to ask the academic and legislative world for hearings that are authentic and that we can respect and settle this and bring us to some closure," he said.
Jim Hall, former director of the National Transportation Safety Board and leading expert on transportation safety and security, agrees.
"As a nation, we have to be very careful not to overclassify information that we the taxpayers are paying for. We need to be sure as these investigations proceed, so the American people and those individuals who lost loved ones have confidence in the integrity of the investigation," he told the crowd to applause.
There were a few instances when self-described "truthers" rebutted comments from panelists, especially from Erwin Foster, UTC College of Engineering professor emeritus, civil engineer and forensic investigator, who provided a lot of the scientific explanation. But moderator Richard Winham was quick to emphasize the discussion was not about conspiracy theories but about science.
The documentary showed the testimony of experts ranging from chemical and structural engineers to physicists and architects talking about why the official findings are flawed.
ABOUT AE: 911Truth
Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth is a nonprofit, nonpartisan association of architects, engineers and affiliates dedicated to exposing the falsehoods and to revealing truths about the collapses of the three World Trade Center high-rises on Sept. 11, 2001.
The group believes there is sufficient evidence to conclude that three World Trade Center buildings No. 1 (North Tower), No. 2 (South Tower), and No. 7 (the 47-story high-rise across Vesey Street) were destroyed not by jet impact and fires but by controlled demolition with explosives.
Source: Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth website
The official finding was that the fires weakened the structures, leading to the collapses.
One argument in the documentary was the speed at which tower seven, the 47-story high-rise across Vesey Street collapsed in less than seven seconds.
But Foster said there were a lot of "half truths."
"My philosophy is that everybody ought to ask questions and ought to keep asking questions," he said.
Foster added he was impressed by the number of half-truths about the temperature of steel and how it wouldn't melt and the lack of mention about the beams in the building being very flexible.
"There are a lot of mathematics and dynamics going on here that we don't have any experience on whatsoever," he added.
One of the earliest casualties of 9/11 was the truth, said Tom Junod, an Esquire magazine journalist who interviewed families and survivors to determine the identity of the famous falling man -- a man photographed falling from one of the buildings.
The picture of the falling man immediately was suppressed, he said. The official explanation was that nobody jumped from the buildings, but families were desperate to learn the truth.
Rorie Jones, 19, attended the panel discussion to get extra credit and write a paper about it for her sociology class.
When the freshman entered the auditorium at the University Center, she didn't have an opinion on the matter. When she left, she only had more questions.
"It brought up points I hadn't thought about before, like the physical aspects of how the buildings collapsed," she said.
"It makes you think," she added, "but in order to come up with any conclusions we have to remove our emotions."
Perla Trevizo joined the Chattanooga Times Free Press in 2007 and covers immigration/diversity issues and higher education. She holds a master’s degree in newswire journalism from Universidad Rey Juan Carlos in Madrid, Spain, and a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Texas. In 2011 she participated in the Bringing Home the World international reporting fellowship program sponsored by the International Center for Journalists, producing a series on Guatemalan immigrants for which she ...