Conspiracy theorists blog that Flight 93 photo is fake
Sunday, August 06, 2006
By Caitlin Cleary, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
...During the next few years, the photo would appear in magazines and newspapers, from Newsweek to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette,
with Mrs. McClatchey's permission. It became part of a fund-raising brochure for the Flight 93 Memorial Fund. Copies are available
upon request, with proceeds going to the charity Heroic Choices, formerly the Todd Beamer Foundation.
Mrs. McClatchey's photo was included in the Smithsonian Institution's traveling exhibit, "Bearing Witness." And her personal
story appears to fit seamlessly into the larger narrative of the Shanksvsille crash site and temporary memorial, when, dozens
of times a day, volunteers such as Donna Schmucker tell Mrs. McClatchey's story and other witness accounts to the visitors
who stream onto the site, holding up her photo in the laminated pocket of a binder for all to see.
But Mrs. McClatchey's fame has recently taken a sour turn. The real estate agent has recently become a target of bloggers
calling themselves "9-11 researchers," who are seeking to prove that the U.S. government was complicit in the attacks that
brought down the Twin Towers, pierced the Pentagon and crashed United Airlines Flight 93. "The End of Serenity" has turned
out to be their smoking gun.
The smoke plume doesn't line up right, they say. It is too large in the frame. The smoke is characteristic of an ordnance
blast, not a jet fuel fire, further evidence that the government shot down Flight 93. They analyze wind direction, debris
patterns and camera trajectories, all in the service of the theory that the crash was faked.
They have visited Mrs. McClatchey's office and called her at home, posting satellite maps of her property and accusing
her of digitally altering her photo to insert a fake smoke plume. The bloggers have picked apart her story, highlighting inconsistencies
in different news accounts and questioning her motives. Others have described her as "surly," "hostile," "irate" and "defensive."
People have called her at home, accusing her of being anti-American and of "holding the photo hostage."
On a simple Google search, Mrs. McClatchey's name now pops up in the same sentence as "total fraud."
"Val McClatchey has made it unmistakably clear to us that she intends to milk her 9-11 claim to fame for all it's worth,
truth be damned," writes Lisa Guliani, of WingTV (World Independent News Group), who traveled to Stoystown to interview Mrs.
"If the smoke plume was photo-shopped on there, then that could mean either that the photo was simply a fraud by Val, or
it was a fraud by her and the FBI and/or other government agents since she did mention that the FBI did inspect the memory
card from her camera," writes a blogger identified as Killtown.
Mrs. McClatchey was taken aback by the personal criticism by those who, she said, "hide behind their aliases."
"This Killtown, whoever he may be, I find it very disturbing that this is a 16-page attack on me personally," said Mrs.
McClatchey, who opened her real estate company a year and a half ago. "My business is named. That hurts me personally. It's
pretty disturbing. My whole life is out there, a map to where I live, a map to my office. It's a safety issue for me. There's
some crazy people out there."
Killtown's blog links to hundreds of conflicting witness accounts and news stories, video and photos of suspicious damage
and debris, and other 9/11 conspiracy blogs, attempting to build up a preponderance of doubt about the government's claims.
Killtown posits whether the World Trade Center towers were brought down by explosives, and whether the Pentagon was hit by
a missile. (The blogger identified only as Killtown could be reached only via e-mail. He or she agreed to be interviewed without
ever revealing identity and never got in phone contact with this reporter.)
About Mrs. McClatchey's "End of Serenity," Killtown concludes that either the smoke plume in the photo came from a bomb
blast closer to her house, or that the picture was faked by Mrs. McClatchey or the FBI. Killtown writes: "If the first is
true, then Val may be off the hook. If any of the latter two are the case, then Val, you got some splainin' to do!" He then
proceeds to post her home address, phone number and personal e-mail information.
Mrs. McClatchey acknowledged that a lot of people are alleging she fabricated the photo, but she stands by its authenticity.
Days after Sept. 11, neighbors saw the image, still in her camera. The camera and computer were new, and she didn't have access
to Photoshop or any other photo-altering software...