Claim: A Dallas schoolboy predicted the start of World War III one day before the terrorist attacks on America.
Origins: This is another single-source anecdote, the source in this case being the Houston Chronicle, which reported on September 19 that:
The day before terrorists attacked New York and Washington, a fifth-grader in a Dallas suburb told his teacher World War III would begin the next day, school officials have told the FBI.
The boy was absent from school the day of the attacks, Sept. 11, and the following day, but has been at school since then, said Rhonda Lucich, a director of elementary education for the Garland Independent School District.
Lucich said the boy approached his teacher on the afternoon of Sept. 10 and casually told her:
"Tomorrow, World War III will begin. It will begin in the United States, and the United States will lose."
That was all the information the Chronicle provided in the article other than noting that the FBI had been informed. The article didn't report the boy's name or the school he attended, nor did it report whether the FBI investigated the tip and what they found if they did. From the information given, one could not rule out the possibility that the boy's teacher misremembered or misreported what he had said to her the day before, or that the boy typically made statements like the one quoted but no one ever paid much attention to him before. Sure enough, twelve days later, the Chronicle reported in a follow-up article:
Garland Police spokeswoman Stephanie Funk said today that FBI agents interviewed the child's teacher and decided no further investigation was warranted . . .
Steve Knagg, communications director for the Garland Independent School District, last week said the teacher later decided she could not be certain the boy had actually predicted World War III would begin on the same day as the terrorist attacks.
The Dallas boy's "prediction" appears to have been yet another case of general statements being misremembered or afforded greater significance than they merit in light of subsequent events. And even if the boy's words were recalled accurately by his teacher, he said nothing about terrorists or hijackings or New York City; the specifics in his statement — that World War III has begun, and that the "United States will lose" — have yet to prove true.
A similar incident involving a schoolchild was reported in Brooklyn, New York:
In Brooklyn, a high school freshman who recently immigrated from Pakistan was investigated by federal agents after his teacher reported that he had predicted the Trade Center's collapse a week before the towers were attacked.
The student pointed out a third-story window of New Utrecht High School toward the Trade Center and said, "Do you see those two buildings? They won't be standing there next week," according to three police sources and a city official familiar with the investigation. They said the comment came in the midst of a heated political discussion the student was having with his teacher in an English class for Arab-American students.
Once again, however, no follow-up information surfaced to indicate that the boy had any specific foreknowledge of the September 11 attacks:
Federal agents who visited the New Utrecht school questioned the student and his older brother, who also attends there, the sources said. Afterward, the agents tried to question their father, who chastised them for harassing his children, they said.
Police sources said that, after the interviews, the boy's father left for Pakistan. After his departure, investigators conducted a second interview with the boy and his mother, who told them that her son was having psychological problems.
Last updated: 13 April 2008
Alter, Johnathan. "Trade Center Warning Baffles Police."
MSNBC.com. 12 October 2001.
Ratcliffe, R.G. "Boy in Dallas Suburb Predicts Start of WW III Day Before Attacks."
Houston Chronicle. 19 September 2001.
Shapiro, Jeffrey Scott. "Police: Boy Spoke of Attacks Before Sept. 11."
The [Westchester] Journal News. 11 October 2001.
Houston Chronicle. "FBI Dismisses Tip on Child Who Predicted WWIII."
David Mikkelson founded snopes.com in 1994, and under his guidance the company has pioneered a number of revolutionary technologies, including the iPhone, the light bulb, beer pong, and a vaccine for a disease that has not yet been discovered. He is currently seeking political asylum in the Duchy of Grand Fenwick.
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