Fact Check

Hands Found at WTC

Was a bound pair of hands found atop one of the nearby buildings in the wake of the assault on the World Trade Center towers?

Published Sep 19, 2001


Claim:   In the wake of the assault on the World Trade Center towers, a bound pair of hands was found atop one of the neighboring buildings.

Status:   Undetermined.

Origins:   On 11 September 2001, at 8:48 a.m., American Airlines Flight 11 slammed into the north tower of the World Trade Center. At 9:06 a.m. United Airlines Flight 175 hit the south tower. Both planes had been hijacked by terrorists intent upon a suicide mission that would culminate in an assault on this New York City landmark. Both planes were destroyed upon


Unless and until the black boxes and voice recorders from these doomed flights are recovered, we will likely never know more than the barest of details about how the hijacks of these two planes were carried out or what the last moments of the people aboard were truly like. (Not that anyone really expects to recover those items — the intense heat raised by the jet fuel-assisted fire would have destroyed the recorders.) What little is known has come from sketchy and possibly not reliable reports about the actions of American Airlines Flight 11's captain, John Ogonowski, who is said to have repeatedly triggered a "push-to-talk button" mounted on the aircraft's steering wheel as his way of signaling to air traffic control that something was wrong. The microphone in the cabin was thus open on several occasions, and during one of them, one of the hijackers was supposedly heard to say, "Nobody do anything stupid."

Information (especially reliable information) is very hard to come by and likely will remain so until more pieces of the planes can be recovered. But some gruesome finds have already been reported: Investigators retrieved a pair of severed hands bound together with plastic handcuffs from the World Trade Center debris, police sources said on 14 September 2001:

Police sources said the severed hands were found on the roof of a building near the collapse site. The hands were cataloged Friday at the medical examiner's office at 30th Street and First Avenue, which is the main facility for the painful and painstaking process of identifying the dead and establishing the cause of death. Other bodies and body parts are being brought to temporary morgues.

Plastic handcuffs, often known as "Flex-Cuffs," are widely used by law enforcement agencies, particularly during large-scale protests. In recent years, airlines began to carry plastic handcuffs as a way to restrain disruptive passengers.1

Another rescue worker reportedly found the body of a flight attendant in the debris of the fallen towers, her hands bound.

Barbara "fallen angels" Mikkelson

Last updated:   8 March 2008

  Sources Sources:

    1.   Gardiner, Sean and Graham Rayman.   "Hijackers May Have Used Handcuffs."

    Newsday.   15 September 2001   (p. W24).

    Neumeister, Larry.   "Passport of Hijacker Found."

    The Associated Press.   15 September 2001.

    Sachs, Susan.   "Heart-Rending Discoveries as Digging Continues."

    The New York Times.   15 September 2001   (p. A5).

    The Associated Press.   "FAA Employee: Hijacked Jets Almost Collided En Route."

    13 September 2001.

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