These people say they all saw 9/11 celebrations in NJ firsthand
They're needles in a haystack — but they're there, if you look hard enough.
In response to several news stories by New Jersey 101.5 addressing whether there's any truth to Donald Trump's repeated (and widely debunked) claims that he watched television footage of "thousands" of Muslims celebrating 9/11 in Jersey City, hundreds of people have written comments on New Jersey 101.5's Facebook page asserting Trump's statements — or at least some version of them — are true.
A close examination of the comments finds very few people describing events they say they witnessed firsthand — well under 1 percent. None describe celebrations in the thousands. Some attribute celebrations to other cities, most commonly Paterson, home to one of the largest Muslim populations in the United States. (Note: Paterson's police director has told New Jersey 101.5 police have no records of any such celebrations being reported to them, and vehemently denies any celebrations took place).
But there are indeed some who say they saw some sorts of celebrations with their own eyes.
Far more NJ1015.com commenters say they saw reports of celebrations on television news in 2001 — though fact-checkers at PolitiFact and the The Washington Post have said exhaustive searches of television footage from the time didn't turn up any such celebrations (a Sept. 18, 2001 Washington Post report said some people were detained and questioned after they were “allegedly" seen celebrating the attacks and holding tailgate-style parties on rooftops" during the attacks, but the Associated Press reported a day earlier those allegations were determined to be unfounded).
For instance, Lisa-ann Andrioli Moyer writes: "I most definitely saw them. They were on the news, in Paterson, New Jersey, dancing and cheering. There were large groups of people in the streets. It was horrifying to see and you don't forget that."
"Oh please! Stop there absolutely was footage," Elizabeth Gabey-Williams writes.
No one stating he or she saw a report on television news has yet been able to provide a verifiable citation of a particular news broadcast, or a link to such video.
Some comments simply assert the celebrations happened, though it's not always clear how the poster knows. Others say they heard about celebrations from residents in town or law enforcement that they trust. Yvonne Cullari Puzio writes: "My godson saw it with his own eyes in Paterson, NJ. He was so distressed he said if he didn't have a wife and kids he would've gotten out of his car with a baseball bat."
Some posts accused media agencies of working together to stifle such footage — or of following government orders to do so. New Jersey 101.5 has not been in touch with any other media about holding back footage of 9/11 celebrations or of any other matter. Any such government order would be unlawful.
Among those who said they did see celebrations in New Jersey firsthand were the following (minor edits have been made for punctuation, capitalization or spelling). Many describe the celebrants as Muslims, though it is not clear in all some how the poster would know that to be true:
- Tom Penicaro: "I worked for PSEG in Clifton on the Paterson boarder and I witnessed it firsthand. They were celebrating in the streets cheering and stomping on the flag. I am a Marine and I remember very very clearly because I was so passed I wanted to engage them with a bat I had in my van."
- William Hugelmeyer: We all saw and heard the reports, just because the media is doing a white wash doesn't mean it didn't happen! I was working in the jail when the attacks occurred. Once it was clear it was a terrorist attack, we had inmates celebrating. This instantly caused a lockdown. As you could imagine, many other inmates and officers didn't share their jubilation."
- P.j. Flattery: "I saw with my own eyes Muslims in Paterson dancing and singing on the streets during 9/11. Trumps an American. He's gonna have his haters and people trying to knock him down."
- Patrick Kiernan: "They were celebrating all around the area of the mosque on Getty Ave in Paterson. You cant tell me they weren't because I lived there when It happened and I observed the clashes in the city at the time. There may be no visual proof but I remember the police went on the news and asked the citizens not to retaliate against any of the Muslim citizens in the city and that just emboldened them even more to be spiteful and full of their hate .Dont say it didn't happen because it did."
- Terry Lynn Mustakas: "I experienced/witnessed many incidents of Muslims celebrating 9/11 in North Brunswick. I was in a grocery store when I heard the plane crashed on the store radio. The Muslim man in line next to me turned and spit on me. I'll never forget it."
- John Pezzino: "They were in the streets banging on the cars trying to drive through the crowd in the street. The Muslims were shouting death to American s and Allah is great other crap I didn't understand. We were amused until a car with 3 young women mistakenly turned on to main st. The muslims were banging on their windows and screaming, thats when we came out of our car and pushed the muslims off their car helped them back out and get back to the Parkway."
- Mike Passeri: "It absolutely happened in Paterson. The police even had some of the streets closed off to traffic because of it. I was in Paterson on the 12th for business and the whole area around Crooks Avenue was covered in people celebrating. As for the fights in the high schools, I remember hearing about it being reported but have no idea if that was true or not."
- Eddie Iacono: "No, I was in Jersey City when it happened. That night I had to drive through the Muslim Alcove in Paterson, NJ and they were still laughing about it a bit too happily. They may have been speaking another language, but when someone sweeps their hand down while making sound effects of a building dropping, then smiles, and raises his fists in triumph, well, something is wrong."
- Priscilla Crane Hudson: "I saw first hand in Jersey City the Muslims cheering in the streets when the World Trade Center was destroyed. These so called news outlets should get their facts straight. And there were 100s of revelers over 3,000+ deaths."
- Walter Emiliantsev: "I lived in NJ at the time on Demott Ave., Clifton! When I tried to go to Paterson to my brother in laws shop, I usually took Main Ave. There were so many people dancing on Main, I couldn't get through! I KNOW what I saw!"
Ibrahim Hooper of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, told BuzzFeed News last weekend Trump was repeating “one of these vile memes” that had been “on the anti-Islam hate sites for some time, but there’s actually no evidence to support it whatsoever. And it’d be interesting if he personally saw it. That would be quite interesting since it didn’t happen.”
Wednesday, MTV News aired a report revisiting it's own news story from shortly after 9/11. In the original 2001 report, Paterson resident Emily Acevedo said she saw "a lot of people, and they were just chanting and raving, and I noticed they were holding things. They were holding, like, rocks and sticks. And they were saying, 'Burn America.'"
She went on in the 2001 report to say the group had been of teenagers. She said some of the teens were on Main Street, banging sticks and stones against railings and leaving chip marks.
"Everyone that was out there, they were only 13, maybe 14 at the most. They were kids. They didn't know what they were doing. But they had so much hate, and they were doing that. It was just so sad," Acevedo said.
In a new interview with MTV, Acevedo said it was "just a bunch of kids acting out — they don't know any better."
She went on to condemn Trump's comments: "It's nothing more than another privileged white male who has never lived a day or a night on minimum wage past the age of 30 or 40, who never lived a day or night in a city like Paterson or Jersey City, trying to speak for the masses and not really understanding what they're saying."
Claims of celebrations have been broadly disputed by political leaders and law enforcement from both major political parties.
"There has been no jubilee in the streets. There hasn't been, you know, anybody out in the neighborhoods having fun or thinking this was a great or glorious idea," then-Paterson Mayor Marty Barnes was seen saying in TV footage at the time.
Then-Attorney General John Farmer, who is now a law professor at Rutgers School of Law in Newark and who served as senior counsel to the 9/11 Commission, told NJ Advance Media Tuesday authorities looked into reports of large celebrations immediately — and found them to be unfounded.
“If it had been going on — especially in the thousands — we would have locked that place down. Because it would have been a serious threat to public safety," he said, according to the report.
Farmer continued: "There was no dancing on the rooftops in Jersey City or Paterson on 9/11. That was one of several confused, false reports that circulated that day that we checked out. Obviously, if there had been, it would have been a serious thing."
Then-Gov. Donald DiFrancesco said this week he "never heard anything like that."
"I have no recollection of it and no one that I talk to has any recollection of it,” DiFrancesco, 71, told ABC News. The Republican served as governor from 2001 to 2002. “I think I would have known if it happened.”
Gov. Chris Christie told reporters on the campaign trail "I don’t recall that. I don’t" — though he also said it's possible there are things he doesn't remember about 9/11.
In a series of Tweets Sunday, Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop called the claim “absurd” and said his city “doesn’t want to be part of the @realDonaldTrump hate campaign — we aren’t about that.”
Trump first made his comments Saturday night in Birmingham, Ala., while arguing for surveillance of “certain mosques” and saying he would “absolutely take” a database of Syrian refugees coming into America “if we can’t stop it, but we’re going to.”
“Hey, I watched when the World Trade Center came tumbling down,” Trump said. “And I watched in Jersey City, N.J., where thousands and thousands of people were cheering as that building was coming down. Thousands of people were cheering. So something’s going on. We’ve got to find out what it is.”
Then, Sunday, Trump repeated the claim in an interview with George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “This Week” — when Stephanopoulos told Trump that police had refuted similar rumors at the time.
“It did happen. I saw it,” Trump said. “It was on television. I saw it. … There were people that were cheering on the other side of New Jersey, where you have large Arab populations. They were cheering as the World Trade Center came down.”
The Anti-Defamation League told Buzzfeed this week, “It is unfortunate that Donald Trump is giving new life to long-debunked conspiracy theories about 9/11.”
“This seems a variation of the anti-Semitic myth that a group of Israelis were seen celebrating as the Twin Towers fell. “His comments are irresponsible — not to mention factually challenged,” the ADL said in a statement to the site.