For 9/11 skeptics, case is far from settled

By Marc Hansen
June 17, 2010
Des Moines Register

On Tuesday night, Sean Michalek drove from Victor to Adel for the monthly 911 Truth of Central Iowa meeting.

The trek west took 105 minutes, but so what? Michalek, 64, would have driven nine hours to commune and commiserate with other Iowans who believe the official story of Sept. 11, 2001, is a big fat lie.

“It’s the only game in Iowa,” he said.

The only game, he meant, for people who think 9/11 is the least examined tragedy in American history.

According to, the Adel group has company. Grass-roots organizers also exist in Cedar Falls, Davenport and Indianola.

That said, going on nine years after the attack on the United States, the 9/11 truthers are still playing small ball. The group, for the most part, is still more sect than mainline denomination.

Though 15 people showed up for the June meeting at the Adel Public Library, the attendees are convinced the movement is gaining strength and that someday the conspiracy theory will become an accepted fact.

James Hufferd, a former junior college teacher with a Ph.D., has been calling these monthly meetings for almost three years. When they have a speaker, they draw a decent crowd. In April, theologian and author David Ray Griffin filled a 300-seat auditorium at Drake.

On this night, Dennis Scar, 60, rolled in from his farm near Earlham. Lin Cornelison, 59, traveled from Creston. Angela Bassett, 38, came from Urbandale. Scott Hartung, 51, Kent Harkrader, 45, and John Frankling, 35, are from Des Moines.

Spread out on a table was a small video library. Dave Scar, 58, of Woodward, said he’s made 11,000 copies of various titles. Simply ask and ye shall receive.

Beginners, Scar said, might want to begin with “Loose Change” then work their way to “Zero: 9/11” or “911 in Plane Site” or “Blueprint for Truth” or “9/11 Mysteries.”

Most members of the group seem to believe the attack was an inside job that gave the United States an excuse to go to war. And if you disagree, it’s only because you haven’t taken the time to study the evidence or you’ve fallen under the sway of the lazy, corrupt corporate media.

If you want to debate the truthers, come prepared. Right or wrong, they’ve looked into this a lot more than the rest of us.

Michalek, a retired teacher, probation officer, truck driver, farmer and military veteran, said he lies in bed wondering how he can make people understand that, whatever happened, 9/11 cries out for further investigation.

“I wake up at 3 in the morning,” he said, “asking myself: How can I better reach people? How can I change minds? For me it was easy. I knew the government lied to me about Vietnam, because I was there.”

In Tuesday’s session, the truthers ate pizza and watched a film of scientist Kevin Ryan speaking at a college in Vermont. Ryan was fired from his lab director job after challenging government findings that burning jet fuel weakened the steel beams supporting the World Trade Center towers.

Ryan’s laboratory said he was axed for making his opinions sound like those of his employer. The Adel crowd believes he was fired for telling the truth.

Before they watched the video, “The Emerging Science Around the 9/11 WTC Destruction,” Hufferd warned the group. It’s a little technical.

A little technical? Ryan stood behind the lectern and talked about nanothermite and red/gray chips and methyl ketone something or other.

The video was less about juicy tidbits and dark scenarios and more about science and how the collapse of the Trade Center showed all the characteristics of a staged demolition event.

The truthers watched the film as if it were the final episode of “Law & Order.” In Ryan’s Q&A session, there was some sexy stuff about gangsters and FBI moles and how the conspiracy might go back further than people think.

When the film was over, the group members talked about what they’d learned: “I hadn’t heard two people were killed in the clean-up,” one person said.

Another wondered how John O’Neal really died. John O’Neal? I looked it up later. He was a counterterrorism guru who got fed up, quit the FBI and became head of security at the World Trade Center. Two weeks later, he died in the attack.

All their curiosity doesn’t make the truthers popular. In fact, it rubs a lot of people the wrong way.

Even loved ones sometimes wonder what went wrong. Frankling, a carpenter, said his mother isn’t buying what he’s selling. “She told me, ‘I raised you better than that,’ ” he said with a smile.

Most people, somebody else added, don’t want to believe the United States would murder 3,000 of its own citizens. Truthwise, there definitely is that.