Forensic Archaeology at Ground Zero: The Battle Over Ladder 4

August 6, 2004.

A GRIEVOUS WRONG: History may never record why a “journalist” and his editorial allies invented a hoax in which the rescue vehicle belonging to the crew of Ladder 4, when it was discovered deep-hammered into the earth, some five-stories below the World Trade Center’s former street level, was said to have been filled with clothing looted from a Trade Center store. Describing the “discovery” as “a source of embarrassment and bitter mockery” of the word “hero,” a writer named Languishie and a handful of follow-oners repeated the story so often – “It was hard to avoid the conclusion that the looting had begun even before the first tower fell… History will show that the great urban legend of the 21st century is the image of the heroic 9-11 firefighter” – that truth came to be regarded as lies, and lies became truth. By the spring of 2003, total strangers could be heard shouting the word, “Scum!” through the open engine bay doors of the firehouse where 4 Truck had once stood.

I know nothing about the psychology that lies beneath the story concocted by Languishie, et al., and I care less. I know nothing about the psychology that has driven colleagues along Publisher’s Row to ask that the rest of us remain quiet about the hoax and let it stay alive; and I care rather less. What I do know is that no one taking in air and still in his right mind should have fabricated an accusation of looting and, in a time and place that gained some historical notoriety for its communications breakdowns, wrapped that accusation around one of the few fire crews that did have clear communications. They also had clear line-of-sight contact with survivors – right up to their last second of life. The architects of hoaxes, greed, and journalistic arrogance made a structural (and tactical) error. They unknowingly chose, as victims, a crew whose remains, and their truck, were preserved in the one corner of the crater rim where FEMA’s photographers and computer-mappers, and the crew of Ten House, and the scientists, had already documented everything they could (for reasons initially so far removed from Ladder 4 that forensic science along Liberty Street sometimes had more to do with the physics of erupting volcanoes than with crime scene investigation or vindicating fallen heroes).

The arrival of the hoaxters in the Crater of Zero was Ladder 4’s misfortune.

The arrival, ahead of the hoaxters, of men and women who might be called information-gathering machines, was the hoaxters’ misfortune.

- Charles Pellegrino

NEWS RELEASE

August 26, 2004:

AUTHOR’S RESEARCH FOR LATEST BOOK LEADS TO THE PUBLIC VINDICATION OF FDNY LADDER 4 CREW

Author, Scientist and Undersea Explorer, Charles Pellegrino, Explores the Final Days of Pompeii, the Fall of the Twin Towers, and Other Strange Connections in GHOSTS OF VESUVIUS.

WORDS FROM THE FDNY:

“As is often the case when accusations are made, the sensational headlines hold the public’s attention. This book finally defends the reputation of Ladder 4 and its heroic crew of firefighters and officers. And it does so with something that their accusers could not produce: cold, hard facts. If there is any justice, this book will garner some of the national attention that 4 Truck’s accusers received.”

- Lt. Sean O’Malley, Ten House, Ground Zero.

“The truth about Ladder 4 is long overdue since the widely published hoax about our truck being filled with looted jeans while the World Trade Center burned was simply beyond absurd. I witnessed those brave men entering the lobby of #2 WTC, barely more than twenty minutes before they died. The fact that they got a massive Hurst Tool and rescued two women from a crashed and burning elevator is a credit to their training, expertise, and courage. And then, to be hoaxed and branded afterward in their graves as looters instead of heroes had to be the final most inhumane act, on a day that was already inhumane enough. As Pellegrino so often says, forensic archaeology is about keeping a faith with the truth, and with the dead. His in-depth study, as set out in this book, following wherever the evidence led, finally sets the record straight. I hope it will heal the widows and children of Ladder 4 along with undoing what has threatened to become a never-healed scar for the FDNY, and this city.”

- Capt. Paul Mallery, Company Commander of Ladder 10 at Ten House, on 9-11.

In his latest book, GHOSTS OF VESUVIUS, Charles Pellegrino incorporates “downblast theory” to explore and compare the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in AD 79 to the Twin Tower collapse columns of 9-11. As a renowned forensic archaeologist, scientist, and family member of a 9-11 victim, Pellegrino was invited to work at Ground Zero by the National Guard. It was there that he began applying the principle physics of volcanic downblast theory in an effort to someday save the lives of people living near volcanic hot spots. His research ultimately led, along the way, to the vindication of Ladder 4’s crew.

Using state-of-the art forensic archaeology, Pellegrino delves into the final days of the fabled Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum – which were obliterated by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. He also discusses the bizarre physics that were mimicked in the ensuing catastrophes of Hiroshima, the Titanic, and the collapse of the Twin Towers. In studying Mt. Vesuvius, Pellegrino and his colleagues eerily predict that the volcano, which erupted with the force of over 1000 Hiroshima atomic bombs, will almost certainly erupt again within twenty-five years.

The kinetic force of the WTC collapse columns, on 9-11, was 1.6 kilotons. Lower Manhattan experienced ten to fifteen percent of a Hiroshima, that day. MESSAGE ENDS

From Adam Handlesman, 5wpr

The Ladder 4 Controversy

Excerpted from Chapter 10, Ghosts of Vesuvius, by Charles Pellegrino (reprinted with author’s permission):

A CAR ON LIBERTY STREET had followed the curb five-stories under Building Number 4. An incredible anthology of the World Trade Center appeared to have been tornadoed inside the vehicle before it was crushed shorter than knee-level. There was a piece of concrete curb, in the company of twisted shreds of Venetian blinds, part of a bathroom urinal, and (crushed Frisbee-flat, and emptied), a huge, industrial-sized container of Poland Spring water. As these objects entered through one side of the car, the front and rear seats appeared to have been sucked out the opposite side. The motor, like the seats, was nowhere to be found; but jeans from 4 World Trade Center’s Structure store warehouse – still neatly folded and sometimes compressed and frayed into stacks of two and three – seemed to be everywhere under the eastern half of the Liberty Street excavation. Law books and phone books had gone underground in much the same pattern as the jeans: two-by-two and three-by-three. Much as a stream of running water will deposit gold nuggets of approximately the same size in the same place, objects of the same mass and grain size traveled together within the WTC clouds. Gravity currents may be chaotic, but chaos is not without a certain order.

Anyone who spent twenty minutes surveying the crater rim could not help but notice the signatures of chaos. I could spend the next decade trying to reconstruct the forces acting against a single car, or a fire truck, and still I would be raising more questions than answers. Every twist and snap in the metal, every inexplicably intact piece of paper, seemed to reinforce, archaeologically, Reverend Milton Williams’ eyewitness account: “If you can imagine the little brown paper bag you took to school when you were a child… If you were to take a tornado, a typhoon, an earthquake, and a major volcanic eruption: Put all of that into your little lunch bag.

Shake it up. And open the bag. That’s what we saw.” He paused, and thought about it for two seconds. “That’s what we saw,” he repeated.

To date, Reverend Williams has given the most apt description I’ve heard of the strange physics that took charge when ten-to-fifteen percent of a Hiroshima descended into the heart of Manhattan on twin collapse columns. The Reverend from Saint Pauls, or anyone else who truly lived on the rim, understood how a memo from Marsh and McLennon Insurance Company could travel a seventh of a mile south of the North Tower’s 98th floor and become jammed with floor tiles and bits of window dressing inside an air vent on the roof of Ten House… how a hundred law books could travel together and land in a heap at the Battery Park City Marina, a sixth of a mile from their starting point in the South Tower… How a computer monitor could be catapulted from the South Tower, a tenth of a mile east and through Mary Perillo’s window… How, across the street from the Perillo apartment, in the fire escapes above O’Haras pub, part of a legal library could land and still retain its alphabetical order.

Still… None of this knowledge could discourage the publication of public indictments against the crew of Ladder 4, entirely on the basis of folded jeans from a clothing warehouse coming to rest in orderly piles, near (but in fact not on or in) 4 Truck. At first glance, it had seemed impossible, to some, that order could arise within such chaos without the intervention of human hands. If the work of gravity currents was an ink blot test, in which one sees what one wants to see, there were certainly those who (perhaps acting out of rage against the ruins themselves), saw something more sinister at work in nature’s physics. It was hard, so a writer claimed and so his editor upheld, to avoid the conclusion that Ladder 4 was at the center of “a widespread pattern of looting that started even before the Towers fell.”

Here are the facts, to the best that our science can tell them. This is what happened, when a tiny ember of Vesuvius fell upon New York:

Ladder 4 Truck arrived on Liberty Street, within clear view of Ten House, between twenty and thirty minutes after the South Tower was struck by United Airlines Flight 175. At that time, the top thirty-stories of the Tower were leaning eastward, toward 1 Liberty plaza, dropping glass and steel and groaning audibly.

Every man in every fire team knew, then, that he was entering his worst nightmare. Paul Mallery, who was calling World Trade Center evacuees inside the open bay doors of Ten House, had a clear view of Ladder 4 group from the moment their truck worked its way gingerly down Liberty Street, over and around steel beams, over smashed computer terminals, and over airplane parts from Flight 11’s North Tower exit wound. They parked near the doomed South Tower, and Paul’s little knot of survivors observed that the crew had a terrible time maneuvering into the building. They scurried, first, under the footbridge that had connected 4 World Trade with Bankers Trust Plaza. Using the bridge for shelter, they crossed Liberty Street to the south side of the South Tower. During the first five minutes, they separated into two groups near the south entrance: The main group assessed what was needed, and a second smaller group “of about three men” returned to 4 Truck for the Hurst tool. Their backs hugging the south wall, their Hurst cutting tool in tow, they next made their way toward the entrance. The Hurst was not a simple or light piece of equipment: It had a motor, and it was usually carried on wheels.

“They had to keep their backs against the wall,” Paul reported. “Eighty floors up, people were swarming out of the windows like bees. Some of them struck the ground like firebombs, and the men from Ladder 4 – they were hit [by “ejecta”]. They were hit by something bad, and they kept on going.”

Ladder 4 happened to be one of the teams that had clear communications throughout its mission. As “4” drove to the site, they received word that there were people trapped in elevator banks on the ground floor of the South Tower. Ladder 4’s driver acknowledged the message, and reported that they were bringing a Hurst tool – the same piece of equipment that Paul Mallery observed them carrying into the building, between 9:30 and 9:40 a.m., some twenty-to-thirty minutes before the first collapse column formed.

Inside the South Tower, KBW research associate Linda Rothemund and approximately eight of her co-workers had survived a fly-wheel cushioned elevator crash from the 78th floor. The crash was not the end of their troubles, however; for the elevator was being heated from below, apparently by burning jet fuel that had trickled down neighboring shafts. Being the smallest member of the group, Linda was able to squeeze through what she described as an eight-inch rupture near the elevator’s floor. She emerged into Tower Two’s ground floor lobby, and had attracted the attention of firefighters and police officers who were evacuating survivors through the north wall’s revolving doors, into the WTC concourse. Linda brought a whole team running to her friends’ rescue, with axes and fire extinguishers. One of those rescuers was firefighter Timothy Brown, that day’s supervisor from the Mayor’s Office of Emergency Management. About this time, Tim had been trying to verify the availability of military air cover for New York. He had already received the 9:16 A.M. announcement (which came thirteen minutes after the South Tower impact of Flight 175 and the severing of cable connections to Linda Rothemund’s elevator) that Flight 93 was now a third cruise missile believed headed for Washington or New York. He also received the 9:24 A.M. announcement that Flight 77 was a fourth missile, and that they “should be prepared to get hit again.”

Then his connection with Washington was lost, and an operator told him that the Pentagon had just exploded. As Flight 77 impacted the Pentagon, the clock touched 9:38 A.M. About the time of this third impact, 4 Truck had arrived at the Liberty Street entrance to the South Tower – approaching from West Street (as memorialized on surviving video) and parking on the sidewalk, with its cab partly sheltered under a footbridge that connected WTC-4 to the Banker’s Trust Building. The truck was in direct line of sight with a second command post then being set up in the lobby, next to the glass doors at the South Tower’s southeast corner. About this same time, Tim Brown noticed that more and more of the office workers emerging through the stairwell doors appeared to be from the floors directly below the second impact: Many were severely burned. Three or four of the Ladder 4 crew were already at work on the fallen elevator, and had pulled Linda’s equally thin friend, Lauren Smith, to safety. The clock, now, was at or beyond 9:40 A.M. – twenty minutes (and probably less) from Zero.

Linda and Lauren’s friends in the elevator were not as thin, and not as lucky. “These people were getting slowly cooked,” Tim reported. While a group of men worked at the elevator, he set off in search of Emergency Medical Service specialists – wondering, at every step, about the warning: “Be prepared to get hit again.” He wondered if the next plane might strike the already weakened skyscraper hard enough to bring it crashing down instantly upon survivors and rescuers. And then he discovered that he might soon die even without a third impact: “I stepped out the doors, onto Liberty Street. There were things crashing all around. Deadly things. Pieces of burning furniture. Sheets of glass. People.”

Corroborating the observations of Paul Mallery’s 10 House rescue team (across the street from Tim’s position, in direct line of sight with 4 Truck), Tim noticed that near the end, probably as the upper floors began to slip and to crack open, people were indeed swarming out of windows above the fire. One of them had fallen upon Dan Suhr of Engine 216, killing him in an instant. Looking to his left, Tim saw 4 Truck parked on the sidewalk, just east of the Liberty Street entrance. It’s driver, Michael Lynch, was struggling with a Hurst tool – trying to free the “jaws of life” from the rig, so he could pry open the doors of the crushed elevator, and free Linda’s friends. He was having difficulty with the heavy, motor end of the tool, so he called to Tim for help. Tim started running toward the rig, but another man beat him to it, and saved his life.

“Never mind,” Michael called out. “We’ve got it.”

Considering the danger that was raining down and exploding all around them, Tim would recall later that the exchange was extraordinarily calm and confident. The men had known, on first viewing of the inferno, what they were stepping into. When Tim met his friend Terry Hatton, from Rescue 1, they had hugged, and kissed on the cheek, and Terry had said, “I love you, brother. It might be the last time I see you.”

The last time Tim saw Michael Lynch, the driver was towing his Hurst tool into the lobby with two other firemen. Tim then sprinted west along Liberty Street, as fast as he could, to the shelter of the pedestrian bridge at west and Liberty, in search of an EMS crew. There, he began assembling a team, to return with him to the South Tower lobby and help him to evacuate the growing number of burn victims he had seen gathering there, and falling from exhaustion. He would need fifteen minutes to pull a team in; but time was getting away from him. The clock had, by now, touched 9:50 A.M.

At 9:59:04, the upper thirty floors of the Tower snapped eastward, like the initial side-snap of an ax-felled tree. During the first second-and-a-half, it’s horizontal velocity reached thirty-five miles (49 kilometers) per hour; but three seconds after that, its vertical velocity was nearing 120 miles (197 kilometers) per hour, quickly exceeding all horizontal momentum, so that the structure seemed simply to implode. Gathering mass and strength as it compressed earthward, the precursor wave passed through the Ladder 4 crew in a chip of time measurable only in hundredths of seconds. The rescuers might have heard its approach, but they had ceased to exist before their nerve endings could begin to feel the wave, much less to actually transmit any sensations from it. An alarming roar, a burst of pressurized air, a surge of adrenaline – and, then, instantaneous non-existence.

Outside, 4 Truck was swallowed by the collapse column. It came to rest five-stories below its starting point: on the B5 level of the South Tower parking lot. On December 17, 2001, excavators reached the flattened wreck of 4 Truck. A few paces west of the wreck, hundreds of unbroken wine bottles survived intact and in clusters. Dozens of yards east of the wreck, hundreds of still-folded blue jeans from the Structure store also survived intact and in clusters; but the base surge had scattered the clothing store’s warehouse more severely than the South Tower’s wine cellar – had scattered the jeans as far east as Church Street, in patterns perfectly consistent with downblast and surge. Though the direction of scatter clearly began east of and continued away from the wreck, the curiously ordered nature of some of the clothing – still folded and tagged and sometimes still stacked – led to puzzlement among some observers. To a few, it did not seem possible that order could occur in the midst of total chaos, without the meddling of human hands. Puzzlement led, evidently, to embellishment. And embellishment led, months later, to a firsthand eyewitness account – at once strange and cruel – professing that the cab of 4 Truck, when it was opened by excavators, was “filled with dozens” of those “tagged, folded, and stacked” jeans.

As it turned out, the grave of 4 Truck (as a result of lying within what became the nearest thing to an archaeological transect through the crater) was filmed and photographed throughout the three days of its exhumation. The FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) video made two facts clear: First, the “firsthand participant journalist” who “saw” the jeans in the cab was never present in the first place (an absence later, and reluctantly, acknowledged by the “looting event’s” sole eyewitness of record). Second, there were no jeans in 4 Truck’s cab.

FEMA cameraman/archivist Patrick Drury noted that when he was brought to the southeast corner of the site, at about 3:00A.M. on December 17, the firemen were hoping that the driver, Michael Lynch, had returned to or stayed with 4 Truck, and that they would recover his body from the cab: “I stood in the rain and the Trade Center muck with the firemen,” Drury reported, “and we all looked on as a few of their own dug with their hands and small tools in order to get into the truck’s cab.” All that remained were a few shreds of spare bunker gear (a fireman’s usual jacket, pants, boots…). “A glove was pulled out and then a few scraps of cloth that looked as if they might have once been a pair of pants or a jacket. Shortly thereafter a fireman on the other side of the cab popped his head up over the vehicle and said that there were no remains to be found. The mood was very somber and I could feel the strain on the men around me.” Later, when the hoax began circulating in the press, Drury found it impossible to believe that someone had reported seeing the cab of 4 Truck stuffed to the gills with jeans, and recovery workers shouting expletives at the firemen. “If this were the case,” he said, “I would have had one of the biggest stories to come out of the World Trade Center since its destruction.” Drury added, “There is to be no bias or censoring of what I shoot. If there had been Gap jeans in the cab of Ladder 4 and all around it as it laid six stories below street level I would have gladly shot them.”

In April, 2002, the helmets and boots of Ladder 4 team – Michael Brennan, Mike Haub, Michael Lynch, Dan O’Callaghan, Sam Oitice, John Tipping II, and Frank Callahan – were unearthed near a South Tower elevator bank, along with the Hurst tool that they had been using to free the people trapped inside, up to that final split second of life.

Surviving firefighters and Port Authority police officers reported that there was no shortage of heroic efforts that day – especially after the collapse of the South Tower, when the fall of the North Tower became inevitable, and imminent. In the ground-level concourse of the North Tower, the rescuers had no trouble calling civilian volunteers out of the stream of evacuees to carry the injured to safety, sometimes on makeshift stretchers made from broken panels. In the main lobby, firefighter John Morabito grew suspicious of the number of civilians who so unreservedly followed his orders to evacuate those who had been burned or otherwise rendered unable to move. It occurred to him that the seemingly obedient civilians might simply be dropping the victims on the ground and making a dash for safety, as soon as they rounded a corner and were beyond sight. So he followed after them and discovered that, at risk to their own chances of escape, they were carrying on with their assigned missions.

“I was more proud of the civilians than anybody else, that day,” Morabito recalled. “They all had to get out of there, and they were scared; yet every single one of them was listening to every single direction I was throwing at them. They were helping. They were New Yorkers. That’s all I can say.”

One of the last groups of firefighters and police officers to evacuate alive, down the stairwells of the North Tower, met two civilians running up. The “civies” were carrying flashlights and walkie-talkies. They identified themselves as building security, and announced that they had made contact with people trapped in an office on the sixty-second floor. The security guards acknowledged a warning that the building would soon collapse, but they refused to leave. The last time anyone saw them, they were climbing toward Floor sixty-two. No one knows their names, and no one ever will. The North Tower’s security guards suffered one hundred percent mortality.

The firefighter who followed, by suspicion, the rescuers he had assigned, spoke often, during the coming year, about the heroism of the civilians. But others corrected him; others pointed out that the Towers, like Gettysburg, were a battlefield, that day.

There were no civilians.

CENSORSHIP WATCH

August 26, 2004

Here is what has happened: In June, 2003, I was politely asked, by colleagues, to remove the (above) vindication of Ladder 4 from Chapter 10, in Ghosts of Vesuvius. The premise seemed simple enough: “Mr. Languishie can be trouble for you. You don’t need to be making lots of new enemies. Who needs trouble?” I refused even to discuss pulling the material from the book until or unless someone (in my publisher’s legal department or elsewhere) could demonstrate that the evidence and/or conclusions were inaccurate.

Weeks later, in July 2003, while I was on an oceanographic expedition to the mid-Atlantic Ridge, more than 1500 miles from the nearest land, the book was pulled from the press – ostensibly because of a legal challenge that required signatures, in New York, “at once.” Two other legal challenges followed. Neither had anything to do whatsoever with what was actually written in the book; but each resulted in the manuscript being pulled from the press anyway. Meanwhile, members of my publisher’s law department, to their credit, followed through with an internal legal and factual review of the Ground Zero evidence. In early 2004, Harper legal concluded that the Ladder 4-as-looters-story (“one of the biggest stories to come out of the World Trade Center since its destruction”) was in fact entirely false. It was a “cruel hoax,” and could legitimately be reported as such. However, I was told by my agent and by others to expect a down-turn on the writing side of my career, because the publishing industry “has a long memory” and I was the one considered to be “trouble” for, in the words of one editor, not being a team player, for “showing bad taste – and for a lack of solidarity for a colleague [Languishie] in trouble.” According to literary agent Russ Galen (who had seen the fall of the South Tower too up-close and too personal to ever stand by silently and let rescuers be wrongly accused) – there was “a certain amount of exhaustion” setting in at the HarperCollins building, arising apparently from “in-fighting factions.” Galen became seriously concerned that those who had power over my book might accede to “stealth publication,” in hopes that the trouble might simply go away if the book were allowed to fall from existence, mostly unread.

Evidently, book intimidation, even from the most blatant and reprehensible species of hoaxter, can work in America today (under what appears to pass for a new journalistic ethic: solidarity with a literary colleague no matter how wrong-headed – or else!). Even Russ Galen, who had seen many unbelievable things during his long tenure as a literary agent, did not believe that anyone would allow Ghosts of Vesuvius to sink – at least, not in the aftermath of a February 2004 movie option on that very same book, with an announcement that it was to be produced by none other than James Cameron (Variety: “The Lightstorm trio will sift through the book to create a fictionalized account, which will likely tie into the politics of Rome, an empire whose demise might have been hastened by the devastation of Vesuvius.”) No one would ever have believed, just a few short years before, that a book with this kind of publicity-fueled booster rocket at its back could possibly be sent out of the warehouses “Dead on Arrival.” It would be the strangest corporate decision since, “Gee, let’s change the flavor of Coca-Cola!” It would be the first time, in the history of American publishing, that anyone had seen the like. But there it was: “It’s already got a troubled history,” said Galen, in the spring of 2004. “I have my concerns about this book. It’s possible these days that the phrase, ‘Who needs trouble?’ means everything.” And he added, regretfully, “These days, when the purchase of an author’s next book depends upon the computerized sales record the present book, a single stealth publication is enough to destroy lives and careers. Anyone these days [even with a movie deal and a New York Times best seller behind him] can be brought down and condemned to the censorship of the bean-counter.”

“Stealth publication” is a condemnation usually reserved for authors who, “in the opinions of their editors and their peers,” have produced something shoddy, or who have failed to meet the commercial potential anticipated in the original book contract – with, for example, no visible opportunities for glowing reviews, attendant National Geographic coverage, or the like. (Bear in mind that even where predictions of commercial potential are concerned, some of my colleagues have probably killed good books by mistake. The mainstream editorial prophets of marketability, universally, and within recent memory, rejected the Harry Potter books because – in the words of one editor, “novels about wizards are going out of style.”) Stealth publication is a phrase used, within the industry, to describe books missing from the “new releases” sections in bookstores and even from the publisher’s own home page, combined with release in pornographically low print runs of 4000 or fewer copies – with, say, a solitary “tombstone ad” in an obscure technical journal and, instead of the usual publicity tour, an announcement that the author does not give interviews. Such behavior would be galling enough if applied to a Rowling or a Zebrowski. It becomes all the more galling if converted into a tool for perpetuating an ugly hoax. Intentionally stealthing or silencing an entire book because of a scientific investigation that clears the names of seven heroes, would render certain of my literary colleagues indistinguishable from the original architects of the hoax; for (all in the name of, “Mr. Languishie is an A-list Pulitzer nominee and who needs that kind of trouble?”) they would become inextricably enmeshed in the hoax. Refusing to see that they participate in evil, refusing even to hear of evil – and regarding retreat and stealth as the better part of valor – such people neither see nor comprehend that in snuffing out “an uncomfortable truth [in their own words],” they shall risk keeping the original lie alive as an on-going wrong – “still being actively perpetrated.”

And so, Ghosts of Vesuvius - with my support of Ladder 4 remaining intact – was pulled from the press and returned to the press three times, then threatened, finally, with extinction by “stealth publication,” so that nobody could read it.

But there was simply no way either Galen or I could have gone silently along with the hoax. Those men of Ladder 4 deserved better than, “Who needs trouble?”

Charles Pellegrino,

COMMUNICATIONS

July 19, 2004

From a STARRED review for Ghosts of Vesuvius: A stunning and magical alchemy of science, philosophy, Bible study and brilliantly detailed on-the-scene reporting. Pellegrino’s book moves effortlessly from the sweeping grandeur of infinite time and space to the briefest moments in the lives of ordinary men… Rooted in the solid ground of rational investigation and intense research, the book never flies out of control but carries one along from point to point on a tour of Pellegrino’s wide-screen thinking. The emotional heart of the book lies at Ground Zero in lower Manhattan, where Pellegrino and a small band of volcanologists put their skills to work making sense of the towers’ collapse - - This is a book to be savored, reread and passed along to future generations.

Publisher’s Weekly

July 19, 2004

From SCG Literary Agency: I’ve just read the starred review in the brand new Publishers Weekly. To say this is utter vindication for you is the understatement of the year.

- Russ Galen,

July 21, 2004

From Lightstorm Entertainment (with mention of a “thriller” referencing a script based on forensic archaeological revelations of the Vesuvian eruption of AD 79): Congratulations on the great review. It is well deserved and you’ve earned it the hard way. I’m happy that you persevered. I know it’s been a rough ride. Now we just have to tease a great thriller out of the ashes.

- James Cameron,

From R. Farley, National Geographic:

August 10, 2004

I spoke with Simon about dedicating the programme [Thera, the Minoans, and the Eruption of 1628 BC] to your father [who died June 1, 2004]…Unfortunately, we were not able to achieve your request that we so wanted to do for you – I am sorry not to give you better news, but obviously as I said earlier your appearance on the programme stands testament to your professionalism and a tribute to your father’s memory. I hope to speak to you again soon.

- R. Farley, (in reference to finishing touches on a recently filmed episode featuring Pellegrino’s studies in “volcano physics”)

August 10, 2004

Dear Rachael: Thank you for the effort… I figured that the odds were low. I guess my book on 9-11 forensic physics [a future project], when it is finished, will be the best dedication. When I got into serious trouble last year for adhering to the truth about a terrible hoax leveled against the crew of Ladder 4, Dad stuck with me on a decision that I explained to him, and to the kids, might evaporate a college fund and ruin my career. But how could I ever look my kids in the eye and explain that truth is important if I could not even keep a faith with the dead? I’ve had friends in similar situations whose parents and spouses told them to preserve their futures, not “rock the boat,” and [to] go along with the lie. And I had [colleagues] who knew better, from past history, than to ask me twice. Dad said that for the rescuers of 9-11, the Pentagon and the Towers were Normandy and Vire: “You defend those men, Charlie. They were my brothers.” And he stood by me, in a stand that we all knew was bound to have a very depressing effect on my career. And I’m very proud of him. He never tried to teach me that success was to be measured in bank accounts. I just hope my kids can grow up like him. He never finished high school, but in all the truly important ways he was one of the smartest people I have known, and I often sought his advice – and, again, I’ll consider myself lucky if, in knowing him, my kids pick up Grandpa’s ways.

- C. Pellegrino

August 11, 2004

Charles: A new hoax appears to have emerged. Key people [at the publishing house] are under the distinct impression… that you said you didn’t want to talk [with media] about 9-11 AT ALL!… I find that hard to believe. Let’s talk tomorrow.

- An alert from Public Relations (on Publication day, Ghosts of Vesuvius)

August 2004

Friends, colleagues: There is no truth to the rumor that I would ever be quiet on this subject, particularly as it relates to Ladder 4. If widely believed, however, such a claim would produce much the same impression about my media accessibility as the story, some years ago, that I had returned to New Zealand and was living in a tree. More recently, of course, we’ve read my obituary – which ended with one of my three favorite bad reviews of all time: “I’m really not glad that Pellegrino is dead. I’m just glad he isn’t writing books anymore.” (But still… what gave anyone the idea that I live in a tree?)

Back to some main issues: I will never understand – ever – how anyone could have set out to muddy the waters and turn Ladder 4 into WTC’s version (or antithesis, as the case turns out to be) of the “Californian incident.” Nothing in science is ever known to 100% certainty; but the innocence of 4 Crew comes as close as we can get to it. There is no gray area in this – especially when the only eyewitness of record was forced to admit that he was in another city during the discovery and excavation of 4 Truck. But still the Languishie supporters flail against scientific proof, becoming, if not part of a dawning reality, then at least an example that renders the divisions in this city, and in this nation, all the more fascinating – if not symptomatic, if not downright pathological. A year ago, a New York editor told me I must have been mad to admit openly that I am a Republican. I’ve never known the two parties actually to hate each other before. Americans fighting and destroying Americans (even in the grave) – what could be more fantastic, for those who wish to destroy a few more of us?

I have heard from colleagues in publishing that the truth about Ladder 4 will “offend the wrong people,” and that siding strongly (“blindly”) with firefighters and police can seem too Rudy Giuliani, “too far right.” This same industry, in 2001, dumped Michael Moore’s Dude, Where’s My Country? – unceremoniously “in some bookstores with no advertising, no reviews, and the offer of a three city tour: Arlington! Denver! Somewhere in New Jersey!” - in other words, a “stealth publication, because his book was judged, “too far left,” and too critical of people who could “be trouble.”

Now, I think I get it. I may be wrong, but I think I see the rub: “Too far right… Too far left.” Evidently, even insofar as Ladder 4 is concerned, we must all be centrist, and “politically correct.” We must be inoffensively and undeniably neutral, making certain not to hurt the feelings of “colleagues” who were only trying “to bring a little fairness and balance to all those overblown images of heroic 9-11 firefighters.”

Aboard the Research Vessel Keldysh, in July 2003, when the Russian half of our crew examined E-mails coming at me from New York – regarding the pulling of my book from production while I was out at sea – they could scarcely believe what they were reading. One of the scientists commented, “It seems to me that you have no more freedom of the press in America today than we had under communism.” That is a scary observation. Under the present-day pall of “political correctness,” he may be entirely correct. Redefine political correctness as enforced neutrality. Simply that: Enforced neutrality. Keep trekking along that path, Americans, and we will soon be back to the days of Pliny the Elder under Nero, when the only safe things to write were books about grammar and cooking.

While Michael Moore and I may have differing political views, there is one subject on which we both agree and on which we are both militantly far from neutral. As Moore puts it: “The worst thing to tell a free people in a country that’s still mostly free is that they are not allowed to read something.” “Or write it,” I might add.

- C. Pellegrino,

August 12, 2004

Dear Charlie: It deeply saddens me to see my friend pummeled for only one reason – being truthful and honest and courageous in the line of fire. For speaking yet again for those who cannot.

- T. Jordan (who once saved Pellegrino’s life)

August 2004

Dear Tony: All of the FDNY, PAPD, and NYPD people I have worked with (add to this the “civilians” who ran toward the fires, and assisted in the rescue operation) convince me that this city and this country have more good people than bad, and that whatever challenges lie ahead, it is the good people all around us who virtually assure that we shall prevail. Unfortunately, during this very same time period, having observed from within how the publishing industry coddled Mr. L., even after it was revealed beyond all serious dispute that he had lied about 4 Truck, I have become equally convinced that the only truth Jayson Blair (of Burning Down My Master’s House infamy) ever told was that he found himself being singled out and punished in public for what was, in his industry, “simply business as usual.”

- C. Pellegrino,

August 13, 2004

Charlie: Sorry to hear that the rejecters of truth are causing you so much grief - - but then, that is the nature of the human mind: To attack, when threatened by reality, while feeding at the trough of greed and delusion.

- Dr. Roy Cullimore (microbiologist, evolutionary biologist, and co-framer with Pellegrino of Consorm Biocomputation Theory)

August 15, 2004

Roy: Fifteen or twenty years ago, I guess my father would have told me not to rock the boat and to just go along [quietly] with my angry colleagues. But not in 2003. He said once that those men were like his brothers in combat – that I should do the right thing. I guess he knew that’s how I felt before he said it, because I took his dog tags (the ones that had been with him on the beach at Normandy) with me in Mir-1, wrapped with the 4 Truck mission patch, on the memorial dive for 4 Crew… Ladder 4 touched a nerve in him. He was a veteran of Normandy, the Bulge, and Vire – and it was clear that 4 Crew did him proud.

- C. Pellegrino

August 15, 2004

Charlie: When I think of what men like my father-in-law [FDNY] did every single day at work, there is not enough that can be done for their memory. Don’t just rock the boat, sink it!

- Doug M. (FDNY historian)

CATACLYSMS CONNECTED:

August 20, 2004

Sometimes it takes an outsider to bring new perspectives to a field of study. Charles Pellegrino has made a career of this, skipping with omnivorous intensity between volcanology, archaeology, astrobiology and paleontology. In his new book, Ghosts of Vesuvius, Pellegrino throws them all in and then some, tracing the physics of destruction at Pompeii back to the origins of the universe and forward to the fall of the Twin Towers on 9-11.

The eruption of Mount Vesuvius – which buried some 20,000 Romans in AD 79, is the focus of the book, but the author hardly confines himself to a single topic. In jumping from volcanic eruptions to stellar explosions, he comes across as a sort of bushwacking polymath, combining his mastery of scientific detail with a vivid imagination… The most fascinating details are the connections between cataclysmic events. For example, much of the physics involved in the Vesuvius event also directed the collapse of the World Trade Center. The forces at work were remarkably similar, including roiling clouds of debris traveling at up to [120] miles an hour and pressures of 3 to 9 tons per square inch – equivalent to the force of a speeding .38-caliber bullet [per square inch]. And Pellegrino deftly explains how the collective force of tons of rocks and dust-laden air can crush one structure yet leave its neighbor eerily untouched. The ghosts of the title emerge heartrendingly in the book’s closing pages, in which survival accounts of the carnage of September 11th provide a human view of the incredible violence of massive disasters.

- Ed Finn (in Popular Science)

CATACLYSMS CONNECTED:

August, 2004

Charles: I am pleased that the whole story is about to come out of the closet. As I said, the truth about Ladder 4 is long overdue.

For the record, as I might have mentioned in the past: I was Company Commander, Captain of Ladder Company 10 on the morning of September 11, 2001. I was relieved of duty by (covering) Lieutenant Stephen Harrell. (He was lost.)

As the events of the morning unfolded, I was witness to (among other things) the arrival of Ladder Company 4 onto Liberty Street (coming in from West Street, AKA Joe Dimaggio Highway). Funny, the things you think, at that sort of time, with all the destruction raining down. 4 Truck was a brand new rig – and I remember thinking how the springs were taking a really bad pounding as they crossed the curb [or, rather, concrete median] in Liberty Street. The chauffeur turned a hard left across the curb and parked the rig facing north under the foot bridge (the pedestrian bridge from Banker’s Trust, 130 Liberty Street to #4 WTC). I remember watching from one block away (from our Ten House triage center) and seeing the men grab their tools and scramble under the cover of the foot bridge for the relative safety of the wall of #2WTC [the South Tower]. I remember seeing the “Can Man” taking his 6 foot hook and 2 ½ gallon water/pressurized-air fire extinguisher. I was a can man, once upon a time. The guy grabbed his assigned tools just as if it were a tenement fire.

As the civilian victims were dropping from the higher floors, these guys ran for their lives to enter the lobby of #2WTC. I do not know if they knew of the fatal injury to FF Dan Suhr of Engine 216. This guy had been hit by a falling civilian fire victim.

As the weeks and months passed, I continued to ask, “Did they find Ladder 4 yet?” I knew where it was last parked.

It was found December 17, 2001, and excavated during the next three days. I knew firemen who were there the night it was unearthed. [Everything was somber. Quiet. Another missing crew’s truck, found. That was all.]

Then the story – months later – about “Gap Jeans.” Well, after all that I’ve been through, all that I’ve seen and heard, this was just so utterly ridiculous. It didn’t warrant attention because it was so absurd. I (we) had other things to do, like hunt for the victims and their various body parts, DNA, and so on [which were still being found as late as August 2004].

Again, this silly story was so ridiculous, it was beyond belief.

The Gap store was a full three blocks away (underground, along the shopping concourse). While Ladder 4 crew returned to the apparatus to get the Hurst Tool [the “jaws of life”] and its hoses and fittings, they had all they could do simply to survive the falling glass and debris – and bodies dropping onto Liberty Street. The fact that they got the Hurst Tool in operation is a credit to their training, skill, and expertise.

The general feeling I’ve gotten from others is, “Ignore it and it will go away.” No one wants to give a longer life to a bunch of crap. However, to set the record straight, it should be done.

Many, many things occurred that morning. Many have been documented in official reports. However, the dead cannot file such reports. The living are left to fill in the blanks, set the record straight.

- Paul Mallery (surge-cloud and shock-cocoon survivor, 9-11)

Ghosts of Vesuvius, page 401:

Months before anyone fashioned a literary box cutter (with its indictment against Ladder 4), Captain Paul Mallery, of Ladder 10/Engine 10 House, on Liberty Street, had told me that there must have been a “reason” why he had been allowed to live through the downblast and ground surge when so many others died so near. He said that he had not yet discovered the reason; but he knew that the truth was out there, somewhere, and that it would come to him eventually.

“There had to be a purpose,” he said, “why I lived to see all of this. Why I lived to tell it.”

- Excerpt from Chapter 10, C. Pellegrino

Ghosts and Science in the Dust: The connection between the ruins of Pompeii and Ground Zero is mystical. But Pellegrino’s forensics bring both sites to life, and these passages alone would justify this volume… He describes “shock cocoons,” sections of a building that are preserved while everything around them disintegrates in the heat of an explosion. He theorizes about the [fluid] dynamics that saved some of those survivors who were still within the [Twin] Towers when [they] collapsed.

This can be fantastic stuff – as here, about Port Authority police officers Aaron Greenstein and Robert Vargas: “Indeed, it was probably the slightly earlier Greenstein shockwave, racing south toward northbound Vargas – racing toward Vargas from the world’s largest airbag – that met and overpowered the northward wave front, stopped Vargas from being propelled any further, and saved his life.”

Pellegrino applies his forensics to the controversy surrounding 4 Truck, an incident reported in William Langewiesche’s book, American Ground [as first published in the Atlantic Monthly, then more widely reported in the New York Post and elsewhere, including a national television and radio blitz]. The firefighters were accused of looting a number of neatly folded Gap jeans before the towers fell. Pellegrino convincingly describes how “downblast” and “surge” sometimes hurl objects great distances with little damage: perfectly stacked law books, to use his example, can fly considerable distances while retaining their alphabetical order. The neatly stacked jeans [which, notably, never reached 4 Truck] were distributed in a pattern consistent with these phenomena. Pellegrino here does good service to the memories of the firefighters involved.

- Excerpt from the New York Sun (recd. August 23, 2004)

From Spin Zone to Twilight Zone: Mr. Darwin’s Mutating Jeans

August 23, 2004

Dear Roy, Arthur: The latest spin from the Languishie camp came across my desk from my publisher this morning. Unable to pound away at the evidence, it’s clearly gotten down to pounding the table. Accordingly, Mr. L. never really said he or anyone else actually saw the piles of jeans in the cab of 4 Truck. Now he and his supporters along Publisher’s Row claim to have only related, in a book and in articles, “a species of rumor,” that was around the crater in those days. (Nevermind that I was around the crater – and in particular around Liberty Street in those days – and that the rumor was definitely not around.)

These spin doctors need to go back and re-read both the hardcover and paperback editions of Mr. L’s book before they become more of an embarrassment to themselves than they already are. Both editions are very specific about the details behind the accusation against 4 Crew – right down to the curses shouted, by construction workers, at the firemen watching the excavation of 4 Truck, right down to the looks in their eyes, right down to the angry fire-chief who “tried to shut the construction workers up” with an explanation (which turned out to be a Mr. Languishie misquotation of downblast theory), and right down to the brand names and store origins of jeans. And while we’re talking about the origin of “species of rumors,” can Darwin Languishie explain his mutating jeans? The jeans, the “dozens of new pairs of them, (tagged, folded, stacked by size) – strewn about for all to see – when a grappler pulled off the roof [of 4 Truck’s cab],” changed from “Gap” jeans in the hardcover edition to an anonymous brand in the paperback edition. The name change came (naturally) after it was pointed out to Languishie that the Gap store was more than 200 yards away from the place where Ladder 4’s crew died, slightly more than twenty minutes after arriving on Liberty Street. Those mutating jeans ought to be enshrined somewhere, in the annals of history’s cruelest hoaxes.

What fascinates and frightens me most about this whole damned mess is that those who created the hoax have been allowed to keep their jobs, while claiming that their right to free speech has been somehow assailed and that they (and not 4 Crew, or the families of 4 Crew) are the “real” victims. I’ve known peers who actually seem to believe that those of us who revealed the truth are the real “troublemakers” and should be silenced - - while the perpetrators of the hoax go on remorselessly to the next story, wrapping themselves in the American flag and in the myth of their own victimhood. Chalk up another giant leap for the human spirit.

- C. Pellegrino

What slime! Don’t let [them] wear you down, Charles. You’ve done right.

- Sir Arthur C. Clarke (via “snail mail,” while awaiting more “squid mail.” )

August 24, 2004

The more I read about this unbelievable situation, the angrier I get - - in fact, it’s rapidly growing to the point of philosophical fury.

How dare a major news organization fabricate a total lie, defiling the reputations of defenseless (and deceased) heroes in order to sell copy? Whatever happened to journalistic ethics?

How dare journalists and publishers abuse their authority, to attack and attempt to censor an author for telling the truth about a national tragedy that concerns us all?

How dare the government sit idly by and idiotically allow the unrestricted predatory merger-acquisitions of alternative media and publishing outlets by major news corporations and media conglomerates - such entities can and should be kept separate in order to prevent exactly this sort of abuse.

It boggles my mind that these kinds of things can happen under our very noses right here in “The Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.” In this case, the graves of the brave have been defiled, and the freedom (of the press) that we ballyhoo has been subverted in order to conceal the unethical truth behind an ugly hoax. It’s practically a plot out of Robocop, Neuromancer, and Orwell’s 1984, all rolled into one.

I am more determined than ever to do everything I can (as free time and work schedule permit) to help, Charlie.

- Brad H.

August 25, 2004

Dear Brad: I do not know how the hoax bloomed so out of control. Mr. L. told his tall tale, for reasons known only to him. And because he had a long and credible history (which included campaigns by his publisher for some of the industry’s highest awards), others accepted and printed the story without first checking the facts. My own misfortune is that some of those others, when finally they came asking what I knew, happened to be in positions of authority. So, they all ended up with a little bit of egg on their faces. So what? When you come right down to bottom: What’s the big deal? Egg-on-face is nothing, as compared against the pain that sticking to the story as “true” (despite all evidence pointing to the contrary) has caused the families of Ladder 4, and their replacement crew. Got egg on your face? Fine. Just wipe the egg off, retract the story, and learn something from it. Just learn never to repeat the same mistake again. That’s all anyone ever needed to do. But, noooo… It’s not making mistakes that weighs against people. It’s the frequency with which some people repeat those very same mistakes.

- C. Pellegrino

Unfortunately, it is legal [the Saleton/Languishie defense of the “mistake]: Unfortunately, the premise that one’s ability to suffer harm to his reputation dies with him will withstand all legal challenges. The fact is that the entire crew of Ladder 4 died, and so technically, no one can libel or slander the dead.

- Attorney Alan Derschowitz, commenting, with disgust, on the legal premise behind Languishie Editor Saleton’s decision to publish the Ladder 4 hoax

“We didn’t do anything wrong!” cry the publishers; but they only mean “nothing obviously illegal.” And to their lawyers they say, “Quick – smear and demonize all who protest!” See no evil. Hear no evil. Do evil.

- George Zebrowski (philosopher, author)

August 26, 2004

Charles Pellegrino’s version of events surrounding the final moments of the men of Ladder 4 airs out scientifically what we fire officers have been saying all along: That William Langewiesche’s account of jeans found around and in their buried truck never happened. The story was totally fictional, not based on any fact, and was one that smeared the memory of the firefighters of Ladder 4, who gave their lives while saving others. And we will not rest until the truth is told and apologies are made to the families of the firefighters lost – apologies by the author, editor, and publishers of this scurrilous story.

- John Dunne, Captain’s Representative, the New York City Uniformed Firefighter’s Association,

Last Word: Everything They Had

August 26, 2004

I do not believe that we can expect an apology from Languishie’s camp before the Sun grows cold. Wiser men than I have said stupidity has a habit of having its way.

But as a scientist who sometimes writes books, I can take this opportunity to apologize myself, for the grievous wrong committed by this publishing industry within which I work (or, perhaps, used to work). It is an industry woefully in need of a serious house-cleaning.

This very week, journalists from Philadelphia to New York were front-paging and crisis-crying about a “sex scandal” in a Bronx firehouse, involving some pitiable woman who had been listing, somewhat like trophies, all of the more than 200 firefighters and police officers she had slept with since 9-11. This very same weekend, two Philadelphia firefighters died in a cellar collapse, but you would not have read about it unless you happened to see it on the chalkboard in a place like Ten House. The difference between the publishing industry and the FDNY is that in the Bronx firehouse, even before the evidence was in, firefighters were suspended and facing permanent dismissal even for giving the appearance of impropriety. In the publishing industry, the architects of the Ladder 4 hoax have not received so much as a reprimand, while a few “dinosaurs” who remained loyal to the truth, and to fallen heroes, were regarded as traitors, as if by a new journalistic ethic that hatched out under our noses while we were paying attention to something else.

So, John Dunne and the families of Ladder 4 have my personal apology, given on behalf of Publisher’s Row. The hoax – and the support of it by too many of my colleagues even after it was revealed beyond a shadow of reasonable dispute to be a hoax – shames us all.

Finally, within the LMDC [Lower Manhattan Development Corp.] there has been much talk about bringing one of the crushed fire trucks back to New York City from the Staten Island landfill, for the Memorial Museum now being designed for Ground Zero. I shall endeavor, now, to make sure that the chosen truck is Ladder 4. It is often said that on 9-11, “All gave some; some gave all.” But only one crew has the curious distinction of being crucified in books, magazines, newspapers, and on the airwaves after they gave this city and this nation, everything they had.

- Charles Pellegrino

jweb » Mon Nov 08, 2004 2:57 pm

Sadly, it seems like both the print and televised media are less concerned these days with truth, objectivity, and freedom of speech, and more concerned with selfishly spreading sensationalist, unsubstantiantiated rumors to increase their own ratings and sales.

Pellegrino's courage, integrity, and conviction are an inspiration to us all. The fact that his "rewards" for such admirable behavior are to suffer through personal hardship and attacks on his character is not only despicable, it is a shameful indication of how limited true "freedom of speech" is becoming in our country.

Ghost » Mon Nov 08, 2004 5:13 pm

One can hope that there is a special hell for those people when their time comes; maybe, a burning hell with no firemen around.

Charlie Pellegrino, on 29-Jul-2005

{The} History Channel starts filming Ghosts of Vesuvius the week after next. And they're making the serendipitous clearing of 4 Crew's names (by a study that began in volcano physics, and made a transect directly through 4 Truck, by utter chance) - they're making this part of the documentary - to be broadcast on the 5th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

Ladder 4 Repercussions

As the September 2006 air date of the 2 hour History Channel feature (American Vesuvius) approached, with its opening segment vindicating the men of Ladder 4/Engine 54 having already become widely known, the literary agent who originally sold the book was threatened with a Harper/Newscorp “boycott” of his entire stable of science fiction writers (his primary field of representation, and a main source of income) if he did not “get rid of Pellegrino” as a client. Meanwhile, Pellegrino’s next novel, Bones of the Minotaur, despite already having a six-figure film option from Fox, was kept under contract by Harper and not permitted to be published. This behavior was consistent with a “marketing decision” not to take advantage of the History Channel broadcast by making sure the book it featured was made widely available in book stores.

Publically, the New York Post had retracted the Ladder 4 story; yet behind the scenes, Pellegrino and at least one other author who had refused to “be team players” and to go quietly along with the hoax, and who happened to be employed in one of the few areas not protected by New York State’s whistle blower laws, faced brutal retaliation. With the aid of Salmon Rushdie’s agent, Pellegrino was able to finally escape the abuse and move to a new publisher… just before the executive who had overseen the abuse became “no longer employed” by Harper, and accepted a leading position at Holt, the publishing house to which Pellegrino had fled. Thus did Pellegrino become much like the Sigourney Weaver character, Ripley, in the first Alien film. He got away, and thought he was finally safe.

Past history, of course, was the best predictor of future history:

Editor J. Brehl on Ghosts of Vesuvius and “the Ladder 4 problem,” after discussions with Executive Editor M. Braman and the decision to pull the book from the publication schedule, August 9, 2003:

“Parts of this [book] left me emotionally devastated, unable to respond for days. The quality of your work is undeniable. Some of this is the best writing I have ever seen. But the quality of your work is not what I am here to judge. Who needs trouble?”

J. Brehl, to Pellegrino, at the point of no return:

Brehl: “You’re not being objective – because you lost people in there!”

Pellegrino: “Horror of horrors – that I should commit a scientific investigation in print, or have a point of view.”

Note from C. Pellegrino to friend Rip MacKenzie, after Pellegrino’s literary agent, Russ, dismissed him:

“He asked me why I didn’t think of his other writers, and of him, before I “created this shit storm” with these people. Created it? I didn’t dive-bomb passenger planes into skyscrapers! I didn’t weave the ladder 4 hoax, and make threats against people who stepped out of line, and spoke up against it.”

Rip MacKenzie, September 18, 2004, passing along a statement by journalist Bill Moyers, dated September 11, 2004:

Another of journalism’s basic lessons: The job of trying to tell the truth about people whose job it is to hide the truth is almost as complicated and difficult as trying to hide the truth in the first place.”

Rest in Peace, Heroes

Charlie P. » Mon Aug 20, 2007 1:39 pm

This past weekend, here in New York, Joseph Graffagnino and Robert Beddia perished on the 14th and 15th floors of the Deutschbank Building, at Ground Zero, while battling a blaze - which threatened to collapse the already weakened and minimally braced building, gouged down its center line during the collapse of the South Tower nearly six years ago.

Joseph Graffagnino and Robert Beddia are a reminder that our FDNY, PAPD, and NYPD are still the front line and that, if another 9-11 were to be inflicted upon this nation, they would run again into the place being fled my virtually everyone else. In the worst of times, the best of us have unfailingly come to the fore. They would do it again. And this is another thing we must never forget.

- Charles Pellegrino

voralfred » Mon Aug 20, 2007 2:10 pm

Charlie P. wrote: Joseph Graffagnino and Robert Beddia are a reminder that our FDNY, PAPD, and NYPD are still the front line and that, if another 9-11 were to be inflicted upon this nation, they would run again into the place being fled my virtually everyone else. They would do it again. And this is another thing we must never forget.

At a time when too many crazy people go willingly to their death with the sole purpose to kill as many innocent people as possible, it is very comforting to know there are also people like Joseph Graffagnino, Robert Beddia and their colleagues of FDNY, PAPD, and NYPD. Thanks be given to them.

Pompeii

Charles Pellegrino

During filming of American Vesuvius