Ashlanders are not convinced.

Six years have passed since the events of Sept. 11, 2001. So to have several governmental explanations, a 9-11 bipartisan commission, which released an official report, to address the unanswered questions that hang over what the U.S. government has classified as a terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon that memorable September morning.

Still, Ashland residents, and a growing number of American citizens, still have unanswered questions. Ashland residents, perhaps more so than the nation as a whole, aren't satisfied with the official account, or the lack thereof, about these events.

A recent Scripps Howard poll showed that more than a third of the American public suspects that federal officials assisted in the 9/11 terrorist attacks or took no action to stop them. An unscientific poll conducted on the Tidings' Web site indicated that 44 percent of responders don't believe the official story, or think the U.S. government was involved in planning the attacks.

"There's something really wrong with this picture," said Ken Becker, who founded an Ashland-based organization seeking the truth about what happened on Sept. 11. "The official conspiracy theory is so filled with holes. So what's the truth?"

Becker, the self-appointed leader of the local 9-11 truth movement, thinks it was an inside job, planned and executed by Vice President Dick Cheney and his neo-conservative cohorts in the White House.

"This isn't new, it isn't unfathomable. It isn't even unreasonable," Becker said. "But still a huge percentage of Americans still believe their government would never do them wrong."

According to Becker, a significant number of their constituents think like he does. He has an e-mail list with "a couple hundred" people from Ashland on it.

"I'm not telling anyone what to believe," he said. "Do your own research."

Becker helped bring noted author David Ray Griffin to Southern Oregon University at 7 p.m. Thursday to present a lecture on what he, and others, believe really happened that fateful September morning. Tickets cost $10; $5 for students. The talk is entitled, "Debunking the 9/11 Debunking." See Ashland resident Ken Becker's Web site 911truthnow.org for more information.

LOCAL CONNECTIONS

John Fisher-Smith is an active member of the Ashland community. Fisher-Smith studied architecture in college, where he took classes in civil engineering.

"I'm certain that the World Trade Center buildings were demolished by some other means than an aircraft," he said. "The nature of [construction] steel is that when it bends it gets stronger. Those buildings exhibited brittle behavior."

His wife, Dot Fisher-Smith, concurred.

"Just about everyone I talk with suspects something fishy happened," she said. "I know it's horrifying to think about, but it's even more horrifying not to think about it."

The Fisher-Smiths believe the attacks were staged so that the White House "has an excuse to take all these actions." They listed the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Patriot Act, torture and a worldwide war on the nebulous notion of terror.

Nancy Spencer, a retired musician and long-time Ashland resident, is what is known as a LIHOP, in the 9-11 truth movement. LIHOP stands for "let it happen on purpose. The other acronym in the truth movement is MIHOP, which stands for "made it happen on purpose."

"We need answers," she said. "I'm not willing to say the administration planned it, but why doesn't it all add up. I think it's possible we allowed it to happen to give us an excuse to invade Iraq."

She said she knows many locals who think like she does.

"Everybody in my book club," she said, of which there are 12 other members. "I probably know more than 30 people who don't buy the official story."

Spencer said Ashland has a high percentage of people who question the official account of Sept. 11 because "Ashlanders spend more time reading than they do watching 'American Idol.'"

Harriett Rex Smith, a well-known Ashland painter who questions the official account, thinks the reason Ashlanders are so likely to doubt the official account is because Ashland attracts free-thinkers.

"The beauty of this place has attracted a lot of creative people," she said. "Creative people are open-minded."

Smith has a master's degree from Notre Dame University, and has taught at Purdue and Indiana Universities. But some think she's taken the issue too far.

"My own family thinks I'm obsessive about this," she said. "I'm not a conspiracy theorist, but I believe the government itself entered into some sort of conspiracy. Other countries told us that there were going to be attacks. There must have been complicity at some level."

Staff writer can be reached at 482-3456 x. 226 or .