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Thursday, Feb. 29
The Indiana Daily Student

arts

Possible Sept. 11 theft revealed

Book criticized for describing possible looting by firefighters, others

NEW YORK -- The author of a book accusing firefighters of looting ground zero after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks defended his work Monday against mounting criticism by union officials. \nCritics of William Langewiesche's American Ground: Unbuilding the World Trade Center have focused on a passage about the discovery of dozens of new jeans -- still tagged, folded and stacked -- inside the cab of a fire truck pulled from the rubble. \nAbout 150 demonstrators, including off-duty firefighters and widows of firefighters killed in the attack, gathered outside a museum where Langewiesche was holding a book-signing session Monday night. \nThe demonstrators -- some chanting "Liar! Liar!" -- distributed a letter from fire department Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta accusing the author of "tarnishing the memory of our city's heroes with foolish, absurd and unfounded accusations." \n"I have nothing against firefighters," William Langewiesche said. "I'm much in admiration of firefighters." \nThe uproar, Langewiesche added, comes as no surprise. \n"This is very, very emotional territory," he said. \nA longtime correspondent with The Atlantic Monthly, Langewiesche was granted full access to the cleanup site over several months. He described a war zone that brought out the best and the worst of those who labored to remove bodies and debris. \nOne office building near ground zero was "systematically rifled for valuables," Langewiesche wrote. "Whether by errant firemen, policemen or construction workers hardly mattered. All three groups were at various times implicated in a widespread pattern of looting that started even before the towers fell, and was to peak around Christmas with the brazen theft of office computers." \nWorking about 50 feet below street level last fall, construction workers found the fire truck filled with jeans, the book said. The workers began jeering firefighters at the scene after concluding that "while hundreds of doomed firefighters had climbed through the wounded buildings, this particular crew had engaged in something else entirely," it said. \nFire officials have theorized the merchandise was blown into the truck by the force of the towers' collapse. \nOne of the demonstrators, Chief Joseph Nardone, said that the book's account was full of inaccuracies. \nHe conceded jeans were found scattered near the truck but said they were from a different store and said the crew from that truck, who died on Sept. 11, "were out to do one thing --save people"

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