Progression of Collapse Progression of Collapse

As in WTC 1, a very large quantity of potential energy was stored in the building, during its construction. Once collapse initiated, much of this energy was rapidly released and converted into kinetic energy, in the form of the rapidly accelerating mass of the structure above the aircraft impact zone. The impact of this rapidly moving mass on the lower structure caused a wide range of structural failures in the floors directly at and below the aircraft impact zone, in turn causing failure of these floors. As additional floor plates failed, the mass associated with each of these floors joined that of the tower above the impact area, increasing the destructive energy on the floors immediately below. This initiated a chain of progressive failures that resulted in the total collapse of the building.

A review of aerial photographs of the site, following the collapse, as well as identification of pieces of structural steel from WTC 2, strongly suggests that while the top portion of the tower fell to the south and east, striking Liberty Street and the Bankers Trust building, the lower portion of the tower fell to the north and west, striking the Marriott Hotel (WTC 3). Again, the debris pattern spread laterally as far as approximately 400-500 feet from the base of the structure.