Urban Legends and Hoaxes:
The Urban Legends of September 11th

The tragedy that struck U.S. soil on September 11th, 2001, as well as the events that followed, will forever live in the minds of all Americans, young and old. But, it is from those events that many captivating, titillating, and incredible urban legends have spawned. Whether these legends, be them fact or fiction, Americans and people all around the world have taken a special interest in them either as a means of answering unsettled questions or as a twisted form of amusement and entertainment. But, the fact remains, that legends behind September 11th do exist. We'll show you several of these legends. Some are plausibly and undeniably true, some completely fabricated, and others are just plain questionable.

The "Voter Virus"
In September, a new bug, dubbed the "Voter Virus" or Win.32.vote, struck. Though not as sophisticated as the Nimda worm, security experts cited that the bug was much more harmful, as it preyed on unsuspecting computer users that inadvertently helped spread the virus by transmitting an email titled, "Peace Between America and Islam" and body that contained the message, "Hi. Is it a war against America or Islam? Let's vote to live in peace!" It was when the recipient executed the attached file, WTC.exe, that the program sent a copy of the email, with a copy of the bug, to those listed in the recipient's Microsoft Outlook address book, as well as deleting files from the hard drive of the computer.

It was believed that the bug, which harmed only a few computers due to early detection, was created by a single individual who was wishing to capitalize on all the news and attention surrounding the events of September 11th. This was one of several viruses aimed to take advantage of the same incidents.

Don't Drink Coca-Cola or Pepsi
The State police of Pennsylvania were trying hard to put an end to this urban legend that presented a stranger, out of kindness, warned a Good Samaritan to not drink Coca-Cola that was supposedly poisoned by terrorists. The story went that a person in a check-out line at a store was behind a person of Middle Eastern origin, who was a few cents short on his purchase. The person behind him offered to make up the difference. Later, the Middle Eastern person commented on the act of kindness because of the events of September 11th and stating how mistreated he had been since that day. And, out of appreciation, he offered a bit of insider information, being not to drink a certain brand of soft drink.

A state police release stated that "stories of terrorists giving safety tips in return for good deeds are very common during times of unrest." However, law enforcement authorities have no evidence that this scenario ever occurred.

Even though earlier rumors targeted Coca-Cola, throughout most of the summer of 2002, later versions changed to Pepsi, around August 1st, 2002 and then, August 20th, 2002. Rumors spread via email were always dated not more than a couple weeks later than the date of the email. This was one way of maintaining on-going unease that more terrorist attacks were imminent on a less direct nature than through bombing, hijacking or shooting. Since some versions of the rumor don't specifically mention anything about Arabs, Middle Eastern or terrorists, and, with Coca-Cola and Pepsi being the world's biggest and most famous brands of soft drinks, it was believed that these warnings were started by mischievous pranksters.

Osama Bin Laden, Time Magazine's Man of the Year?
Yes, it's true! Time Magazine considered making Osama Bin Laden "Man of the Year" and featuring him on the cover. Time Magazine had been featuring their "Man of the Year" every year since 1927. The person chosen is designated as someone with the most influential events in the preceding year. It is a designation that is not limited to a man, a single individual or person. Women, couples, groups, teams, and even non-specific group representatives and machines have been assigned this designation. There is, however, a misconception, among the public, that this designation is a type of award or honor for praise of a good works because it is usually achieved by a person of political, military or scientific significance who made accomplishments considered to be of an overall benefit to mankind. However, it is simply a recognition given to those who, for better or worse, have had the most influential events in the preceding year, as perceived by Time Magazine.

It should be known that to avoid controversy, Time Magazine named New York mayor, Rudy Guiliani, as "Person of the Year" for 2001.

You Only Get Lucky Once
When terrorists struck the World Trade Center on September 11th, 2001, Hilda Yolanda Mayol was fortunate to escape from the ground floor restaurant where she worked. Unfortunately, her luck only lasted two months. She was one of those aboard the doomed American Airlines flight 589 that crashed in the New York borough of Queens on November 12th, in which all 260 passengers were killed.

The 26 year old, Mayol, was headed home to the Dominican Republic to vacation with her mother and her two children, who happened to have taken a flight out of New York two weeks prior.

In a similar situation, another passenger, a survivor of the war on terrorism, also perished in the flight 587 crash. Ruben Rodriquez, 32, was returning from a 6 -month assignment aboard the carrier Enterprise, where he refueled planes. Rodriquez, along with the rest of the Enterprise crew, had arrived safely in the US on November 10th. Two days later, he boarded flight 587 for Santo Domingo, where he was hoping to reunite with his wife and four children.

The Seven Sniffing Women
In mid-October 2001, an email surfaced telling of how seven women had died after smelling a free perfume sample that was mailed to them. The perfumes were believed to be poisonous. It also warned that, if you received free samples in the mail such as lotions, perfumes, diapers or etc., they were to be thrown away immediately. The email stated that the government was afraid that it might possibly be another terrorist attack and that the possible threat wouldn't be announced on the news because they didn't want to alarm anyone. However, there was completely nothing to the warning. No such death had occurred. And, if they had, the government couldn't have been able to keep the grieving of seven families silenced.

It is believed that this urban legend developed from a combination of two older and, equally, fabricated pieces. The first piece was the perfume robbers' tale, which told of women in parking lots being lured into smelling perfume that made them lose consciousness in order to be robbed. The other piece was the Klingerman virus scare, where blue virus-laden sponges were mailed in envelope marked "a gift for you from the Klingerman Foundation." This virus scare caused 23 deaths.

The Gift of Early Warning
This urban legend fits comfortably in all those rumors that tell of terrorists and compassionate Arabs offering specific warnings about upcoming attacks.

Surfacing and circulating on October 5th, 2001, an email told of how a friend's friend had been dating a man from Afghanistan, until around September 6th, 2001, he stood her up. Upset, the girl went to his home and found it completely empty. It wasn't until September 10th, 2001, that she received a letter from him explaining how he wished he could explain, things could be different and how sorry he was. He also begged her not to get on any commercial flights on September 11th and not to go to any malls on Halloween. The email went on to tell that the girl reported this to the FBI, as well as turned over the letter to them.

Why this woman took stock in the words of the friend's friend, who knows. This story was completely false, as noted by the FBI, who fielded many phone calls about the message, checked it out and received no such letter of the warning from the girl and Afghan boyfriend.

The Signs Were There. We Ignored Them.
This tale really makes us do some soul-searching. Makes us wonder what we could have done to prevent September 11th's events from happening. How did we miss the signs? And, what were they?

Well, one week before the World Trade Center attacks, there were some signs and actor, James Woods, saw one of them. In August 2001, just one week before the attacks, Woods was taking a flight from Boston to Los Angeles, where he was one of only five people in first class. The other four were men of Middle Eastern origin, who, during the entire six-hour flight, did not eat or drink, nor read or slept. They simply sat in their seats uprights, occasionally whispering to each other. Disturbed by their behavior, Woods, told a flight attendant and authorities about his suspicions when he landed. Unfortunately, his suspicions weren't good enough to be taken seriously. So, nothing was done. On September 13th, Woods was called in by FBI agents for an interview.

Healing With Humor: Tale Of A Husband's Alibi
Immediately following the tragedies of September 11th, Americans lost much of their sense of humor. For several weeks, the terrorist attacks and the abundant loss of human life silenced all our laughter. However, as we came to terms with our loss, whether personal or worldwide, we began to use humor as a means of healing.

This story was an example of that humor as it derived from the destruction of the World Trade Center and a tale of marital infidelity. This version, which circulated the Internet in May 2002, is as jaw-dropping as it is false.

The first divorce directly related to the September 11th terrorist attacks has been filed in a NY court. It appears that a guy, with an office on the 103rd floor of the World Trade Center, left home for work on September 11th. When he got to Manhattan, he decided to spend the morning at his girlfriend's apartment in the village,. When he got to her place, he turned off the phones, TV and radio and spent the entire morning in bed with her. At about 11:00am, while still at her place, he turned his cell phone back on to retrieve his messages.

A second later it rang. His wife was on the phone crying and screaming at him, "I've been trying to call you for over two hours!! I've been worried sick about you! Are you OK?!?" He answered calmly that he was fine.

The wife then asked, "Where are you?"

The guy said "Where do you think I am? I'm in my office!"

This joke began circulating as a newspaper clipping in June 2002.

What's In A Domain Name
There are many urban legends surrounding the September 11th terrorists attacks, that incorporate the idea that those who planned the attacks, intentionally or inadvertently, gave signals the went unrecognized until after the event. This legend has it that several Internet domain names, relating to September 11th, were registered well in advance on the events that occurred, which gave the belief that the person who registered them knew of the impending attacks and desired to profit from them.

It is reported that 17 different domain names, now expired, were registered up to 15 months before September 11th and related to the World Trade Center attacks. These domain names included:


Though these domain names include terms that would lead you to believe this story, none of them are truly connected to the events of September 11th. It was just a story written to make something out of nothing.

It should be known that some people who owned domain names that did not specifically relate to the events, but to the day's event, did put those domains up for auction. And, people who did not already have domain names relating to the attacks, rushed to register them in order to make profit.

In any case, many of the auction sites cancelled listings; while, many registrars declined registration processing. Verisign, for example, banned some domain names altogether.

On September 11th, at 8:48am, it was American Airline flight 11 that slammed into the north tower of the World Trade Center. Eighteen minutes later, at 9:06am, United Airlines flight 175 collided with the south tower. Hijacked by terrorists, on a suicide mission, both planes were destroyed on impact, leaving Americans shocked and full of remorse.

We will probably never know the details of how the hijack missions of these two aircrafts came about or what the last moments of those people were like. Information is very hard to come by, and, will probably remain that way. And, the findings that are reported, sometimes, leave you not wanting to know anymore.

Investigators retrieved a pair of severed hands bound together with a set of plastic handcuffs. While, rescue workers found the body of a flight attendant with her hands bounded. These findings were taken from the World Trade Center debris on September 14th, 2001. Police said that the severed hands were found on the roof of the building near the collapse site. The hands were catalogued and taken to the medical examiner's office. Plastic handcuffs, which are often known as "Flex-Cuffs", are used by law enforcement agencies, quite often during large-scale protests. It wasn't until recent that airlines started using these plastic cuffs as a means of restraining disruptive passengers.

The urban legends of September 11th, 2001, whether they are fact or fiction, true or false, it doesn't really matter. Like all urban legends, they are incredible stories that will carry on from generation to generation, just as the memory of September 11th, 2001 will forever live in our hearts and minds.

The Unlucky Tourist
Do any of you remember this widely distributed picture of an unlucky tourist who was on the top of the north tower of the World Trade Center just moments before American Airlines flight 589 crashed into it? Quite an amazing picture, wasn't it? But, it was also a picture full of deceptions.

September 11th, 2001 was a warm and sunny day. There wasn't a need for winter coats and hats on that day. Another thing is that the airplane is approaching from the north (see Manhattan stretching out to the north), making it American Airlines flight 589 (see the stripes on the nose of the plane), which crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center. The north tower of the World Trade Center didn't have an outdoor observation deck. The south tower included an indoor observation deck on the 107th floor and an outdoor observation deck on the 110th floor. One other thing very deceptive about this picture was that the hours of operation for the south tower observatories were 9:30AM - 9:30PM, making it impossible for the tourist to be present on the observation deck during the time in which the airline hit the tower at 8:49AM. Quite possibly the plane in the background was taken from this photo of a Boeing 757, which has a smaller body than the Boeing 767 that actually crashed into the north tower.

But, if none of this helps explain this picture, then this will. The man pictured in the photo is a 25-year-old Hungarian man called Peter. He preferred that no one know his last name. Originally, this was a joke that was meant for his friends. However, it turned up being spread worldwide. Peter took at picture of himself on the observation deck of the World Trade Center that was taken on November 28, 1997 and, simply pasted a plane in the background. So amused at the sight of it, he sent it to his friends. He didn't expect it to spread like rapid fire through the Internet. However, afraid of becoming one of the international laughing stock of the Internet like Mahir Cagri or Clair Swire and the possibility that some people might misunderstand his intentions, Peter kept a low profile. It was when a Brazilian man claimed to be the tourist that Peter's friends exposed him to a Hungarian online news site.

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