Wacko 9-11 conspiracy theorists targeting woman and her Flight 93 crash photo

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has a story up today on Val McClatchey, a woman who took a photo of a plume of smoke she saw shortly after the crash of United Flight 93 in Shanksville, PA on September 11. Ms. McClatchey’s photo has been used in many major news publications, in in the Smithsonian Institution’s traveling exhibit, and proceeds from picture sales have gone to the Todd Beamer Foundation.

Unfortunately, this picture has also brought out the looney conspiracy theorists who are claiming her picture is a “fake.” Here’s more, via the Post-Gazette:

STOYSTOWN, Pa. — It was a remarkable shot that produced a one-of-a-kind image: a green pasture, red barns in the distance and, against a brilliant blue and cloudless sky, a lone mushroom cloud of dark gray smoke.

Taken the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, seconds after United Airlines Flight 93 plunged into a nearby field, the eerie photo was, and still is, according to the FBI, the closest thing it’s got to an image of the crash itself.

Val McClatchey snapped the single picture with her new digital camera. The wife and mother had been sitting on the edge of her sofa, clutching her second cup of coffee and watching the smoking towers of the World Trade Center on TV, when she heard the sudden surge of a plane engine, followed by a violent, house-shaking boom. Mrs. McClatchey grabbed the camera and ran onto the front porch of her house along Indian Lake.


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.”

Here’s what I found via the Google search engine – notice how many nutcases are questioning the authenticity of the photo?

Questioning whether or not a photo is real or not in and of itself is not a bad thing. It’s the targeting of this woman’s office, home – essentially invading her privacy, that is totally unacceptable.

Memo to the nutjobs: Confine your stupid conspiracy theories to discussions amongst yourselves and on your blogs. Stop harassing this woman just because you believe 9-11 was an ‘inside job.’

Hat tip: Betsy Newmark

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