9/11 skeptics want those who disagree at Saturday event
They claim evidence will sway others to doubt 'official' story.


Tribune Staff Writer

SOUTH BEND -- Andy Schmidt wants you to attend Saturday's conference -- especially if you don't agree with him that what he calls the "official story" of 9/11 is false.

Three presenters -- all part of the "9/11 truth movement" that questions the conventional explanation of the 9/11 attacks -- will speak at the event, which Schmidt sees as a learning experience.

"I would strongly encourage people who doubt the 9/11 truth movement to come to the conference," he wrote in an e-mail, "because they will learn the most (if they remain civil, that is!) We don't want to just be preaching to the choir. It's an educational event that will be of most benefit to folks who are still 'on the fence' about 9/11 truth."

The Granger man says he wants to draw people who, like he once did, don't agree with 9/11 skeptics.

Initially, Schmidt said in a telephone interview, "I was one of the strongest believers in the 9/11 story."

In fact, he said, in the wake of the attacks, he reported two men of Middle Eastern descent after they walked into the Boston library where he worked at the time because he thought they seemed suspicious.

But over time, he encountered the work of skeptics -- at talks, on the Internet and in books -- who sought to poke holes in the mainstream explanation of 9/11. The questions they raised changed his perspective. Now, he hopes to change others' views, as well.

"The Web sites, the books, that's basically it," he said. "I think if you just do minimal research, you can find things that just don't add up."

Kevin Ryan, a former South Bend resident and one of the presenters, likes Schmidt's approach to the conference.

"It's very useful when we can get people who are interested in what we have to say," Ryan said.

Ryan, who now lives in Bloomington, Ind., was fired in 2004 from his job at Environmental Health Laboratories Inc. in South Bend, a subsidiary of Underwriters Laboratories Inc.

The firing came after Ryan wrote a letter to the National Institute of Standards and Technology, which was examining the collapse of the World Trade Center's twin towers.

In the letter, Ryan said burning jet fuel did not cause the buildings to collapse and maintained that Underwriters Laboratories had certified steel components used in the construction of the skyscrapers, a claim the company denied.

Mike Berger, another presenter, said the conference will be about raising questions, which he said is key to addressing official reports that have "white-washed" what happened on 9/11.

During the conference, he will show and discuss his film "Improbable Collapse," which critiques government reports about the collapse of the Trade Center buildings.

"While people want to speculate, there's no need for speculation," he said. "What we have from the government, in effect, is speculation on how these attacks may have happened. But certainly they haven't run all these leads down."

Berger says the "painful truth" is that the U.S. government had provided a "conspiracy theory" to explain the attacks. But despite that, he said, many people don't question the explanation of 9/11 offered in government reports and through countless media outlets.

Schmidt hopes the conference will help change that.

"Come to the event. Keep an open mind. Just look at the evidence," he said. "Because that's where things start to fall apart."