Reading with a critical eye

Last Monday was the 16th anniversary of the infamous terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

American Airlines Flight 11 hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City at 8:46 a.m. Seventeen minutes later, United Airlines Flight 175 smashed into the South Tower of the WTC. The flights originated in Boston, headed for the West Coast.

American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., at 9:37 a.m. That flight originated at Dulles International Airport, outside Washington, D.C. It was bound for Los Angeles.

A fourth plane that was hijacked that day, United Airlines Flight 93, was forced down in a field in Shanksville, Pa., after passengers stormed the cockpit. That flight originated in Newark, N.J., scheduled to fly to San Francisco.

There were 19 al-Qaida hijackers involved in the attacks. Of that number, 15 were citizens of Saudi Arabia; there were two from the United Arab Emirates and one each from Egypt and Lebanon.

The attacks killed 2,996 including the 19 hijackers.

We are reiterating these facts today because several readers objected to a letter to the editor that ran last week that claimed (among other things) that explosives brought down the towers — not planes — and that no plane even crashed in Shanksville and there was no video evidence of a plane hitting the Pentagon.

Well, we personally saw the second plane, United Flight 175, hit the South Tower. We were visiting a newsroom at the Clarksburg (W.Va.) Telegram and ran to the TV after word of a plane hitting the first tower spread. It later turned out that United 175 slamming into the tower was the most photographed such attack ever.

As for the American plane that hit the Pentagon, the letter writer said there is no video footage of the plane hitting the building. Man, there was sure a lot of video of the aftermath. Fake crash? Try telling that to former Solicitor General Ted Olson whose wife Barbara died on the flight that hit the Pentagon.

Our rules for running letters to the editor are intentionally loose — no personal attacks, no libelous statements, a limit on the number of letters per person per month and a limit on length. We do not vouch for the facts — this is an opinion page.

Unfortunately, this freedom allows some outlandish claims to appear. We’d urge readers to look at, critically, any claims in letters that look dubious.

* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.