The Arizona Republic
Jun. 9, 2008 12:00 AM
Blair Gadsby, the 45-year-old former owner of an adult-care home and an adjunct professor of religious studies at a community college, never figured he would be the type of person to stage a hunger strike outside the Phoenix office of U.S. Sen. John McCain.
But about a year ago, Gadsby convinced himself that the U.S. government, not terrorists, demolished the World Trade Center buildings in New York on Sept. 11, 2001. And that belief has turned him into a fasting activist.
“I’ve never been politically active until the 9/11 subject came up,” he said, sitting on a fabric folding chair last week along 16th Street, outside the complex that houses McCain’s Phoenix office.
Gadsby’s vigil on the sidewalk goes from sunrise to sunset. He holds up a sign that features a Canadian tabloid’s front-page photo of a jet hitting one of the towers. Underneath is his count of the days he has been fasting. Today, it will be Day 15.
He has dropped 15 pounds. He feels weak by the end of the day. He has had eggs thrown at him by taunting motorists. His wife is not happy with him. He worries whether he’ll lose his teaching job.
Still, once he locked in on the idea that the government planned the murder of thousands of its citizens, it became his overriding priority. He wondered why it wasn’t getting more attention, so he got the idea to sacrifice himself for some attention.
“I felt we needed the coverage,” Gadsby said. “We’ve just been ignored, if not downright suppressed.”
In May 2007, Gadsby, who was already skeptical that terrorists caused the attacks, found a video online that showed the collapse of World Trade Center 7. He believes the government has ordered media outlets not to show the footage, which shows the building falling in on itself, much like a building does when it implodes.
The footage clinched it for Gadsby. He had to rethink all he had accepted about the terrorist attacks. He spent sleepless nights thinking about how the government planted explosions in Building 7 and then, most likely, the twin towers. Then, how they must have hired men to pilot the planes. And then ordered the media to cover it all up. And so on, and so on.
“It begins to snowball on you,” Gadsby said.
He said he plans to go without food until McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee for president, agrees to meet with him. Last week, two McCain staffers offered to meet with him and get his information to the senator, but Gadsby refused. Gadsby, who was raised in Ottawa, Canada, and moved to Phoenix in 1992 to be in the sunshine, starts his day around 6 a.m. He wears a sweater to ward off the morning chill and sets up underneath the office complex sign that lists McCain’s name.
Besides the sign he holds that marks the days of his fast, Gadsby has other signs he tapes to or leans against his chair.
Gadsby uses the restroom in the car wash across the street, buying a bottle of water every third time he goes, he said. He has handed out literature there and believes he has a few converts.
Other than that occasional trip, Gadsby sits. “I thought at first I’d have to bring books or something to read,” he said, “but the days go by rather well, rather quickly.”
Around midmorning, when the summer sun starts to heat up the sidewalk, Gadsby moves a few feet north to be shaded by the building that houses McCain’s office. “What a difference, eh?” Gadsby says, after moving his chair to the shade and sprinkler-dampened grass.
A man getting on a bus across 16th Street shouts, “Get a life.”
For a while, Gadsby’s bid for attention got him just a few interviews with online radio hosts. But last week, state Sen. Karen Johnson, a Republican from Mesa, visited Gadsby and delivered a letter to McCain’s office asking him to meet with Gadsby. That garnered coverage in The Republic, as well as a major news radio station and two television stations.
Gadsby was gratified.
“This is one of the few times that we at least got a hearing and weren’t portrayed as bananas,” he said.
It also helped him get out of the doghouse with his wife, who asked that her name not be included in this article. Gadsby said his wife, a nurse, did not want him to go on his hunger strike and was in tears when he returned home the first few nights.
Gadsby said his wife does not subscribe to all his theories, although she is open to the possibility that the whole story hasn’t been told. Gadsby did his own research online and has developed his own narrative of the attacks: Hijackers hired by the government, and protected from police scrutiny by the FBI during their time in America, drove the planes into the World Trade Center towers, setting off explosives that had been planted months earlier, perhaps during elevator maintenance.
Some of Gadsby’s theories, and those of the 9/11 Truth Movement, were looked into by Popular Mechanics in a 2005 article and a subsequent book. The magazine found that the theories had no merit and called them “poisonous.”
“What we saw was that the errors and misrepresentations of the conspiracy movement were not simply innocent errors,” said Jim Meigs, editor in chief of Popular Mechanics. “In many cases, they were very, very deliberate distortions.”
Meigs asked McCain to write the forward to the book, and the senator agreed.
Gadsby clutched a copy of the magazine’s book, Debunking 9/11 Myths, marked up with his own notes.
“I’m accusing Popular Mechanics as being part of the cover-up,” he said.
On the cover, where McCain’s name is mentioned as writing the forward, Gadsby had written a note theorizing that McCain was either lying or was lied to. He said he respects McCain, so he was clinging to the notion that the state’s senior senator was lied to.
Gadsby knows it’s a long shot that McCain will meet with him.
But Gadsby has no end date for his protest. Except he hopes that by August he could return to teaching religious studies at Chandler-Gilbert Community College.
He figured his fast would end with him passing out and being carted away by supporters.
“I won’t do this again,” he said. “I’ll just say, ‘I did my best.’ “