Jordan Nilsbud thought he stumbled upon a darn cool idea one morning when he was making his ritualistic cup of coffee. After weeks of tinkering, his idea was transformed into a physical product, thanks to Nilsbud’s advanced craftsmanship and his years of working as an engineer. Nilsbud’s next thought was also as seemingly innocent as his idea that early morning. What if he showed his invention to the nation?
He’s since been called “anti-American”, “a shit wipe”, and “a terrorist”. Nilsbud insists he’s none of the above as he holds up his creation. A simple, yet perfectly detailed representation of the World Trade Center 7 building. WTC7 fell on September 11, 2001, around five-thirty in the afternoon. It was not hit by a plane, but scattered office fires that resulted from the nearby attacks weakened its massive iron frames until the building fell into its own footprint.
He calls it a toy. It’s an impeccable version two inches tall and scaled to the real building at 1/4446. The toy’s shiny sides, made up of what appear to be hundreds of windows, reflect a light blue sky and fat white clouds. A few rows of windows have orange and red flares painted onto them to show the scattered office fires. The miniature building sits on a flat grey surface.
“It’s a building a lot of Americans have forgotten about since that terrible day,” he says. “I saw the WTC 7 fall and was astonished how it collapsed in on itself. Like a free fall. Like kicking the legs out from under a person. Absolutely no structural resistance.”
A tiny black button is built at the foot of the toy. One centimeter tall and wide, the button is what has caused the backlash. Nilsbud covers the button with his scarred thumb, and the building collapses. One must admit, the toy almost exactly mimics the way WTC 7 dropped.
What’s the controversy? Nilsbud thinks the way building 7 fell was beautiful and breathtaking. “Yes of course the whole thing was a tragedy. All the people and their families affected that day,” he says, shaking his head. “But ain’t nobody going to change it.”
When he releases the button, the building erects itself again with a tiny clatter of finely-cut plastic pieces. Nilsbud thinks life would be all right if tragedies were that easy to cause and take back.
Ever since he created a video on YouTube showing his toy and how it worked, Nilsbud’s creation has gone from a personal novelty to a hated Internet sensation. “There are people out there who do like my invention,” he says, “but mostly I’ve been viewed about as kindly as Osama bin Laden.”
He has since removed the video and moved out of his home in the suburbs of Miami to a small trailer in rural North Dakota. He fears for his life. The late night phone calls threatening his well-being. The attempt to burn down his house when someone threw a Molotov cocktail in his yard while he still lived in Florida.
“I’ll make the other two towers as well,” he says softly, “but I don’t know yet how I’ll justify making them fall into their own pulverized footprint, because I don’t know how I’ll incorporate the passenger planes streaming through the air.”
That’s what was so magical about WTC7, he admits. “Hardly touched, yet miraculously it squashed itself, like it was under the pressure of the Devil’s hot throbbing thumb.”
Here’s the video of WTC 7’s collapse, which has inspired Nilsbud.