William Rodriguez, Escape Artist

To a hero of 9/11, the truth is a straitjacket.

By Mark Roberts email: nyctours(at)gmail.com May, 2007

"An effectively good paper".–William Rodriguez
Comment by William Rodriguez is invited and will be published here if he wishes.
Bolding and highlighting of text indicates my emphasis, unless otherwise noted.

Read about William Rodriguez's various responses to this paper, and his reasons for declining to address its specific points, here. You can read my emails to Mr. Rodriguez here.

A summary of many of Rodriguez's false claims is here.

January, 2009: Contrary to William Rodriguez' repeated claims that his June, 2004 interview with 9/11 Commission staffers was covered up, the staffers' notes of that interview have been made available to the public, along with a great deal of 9/11 Commission documents, as scheduled. Mike Williams of 911myths.com has obtained, scanned, and made available those notes here and here.

In 2005, Rodriguez made this claim: "I met with the 9/11 Commission behind closed doors and they essentially discounted everything I said regarding the use of explosives to bring down the north tower." Source  Yet the handwritten notes by his two interviewers show no such claims about explosives, just as Rodriguez made no such claim in TV interviews in 2001 and 2002, in his statement to NIST, or in his 2004 conspiracy lawsuit against the United States.

Likewise, the notes show that Rodriguez made no mention of suspicions that the attacks were a U.S. government "inside job" and subsequent cover-up, or that his accounts of that day were censored by the anyone.


William Rodriguez was a janitor in the World Trade Center’s north tower. He risked his life on 9/11 to help people to safety. He nearly became one of the many 9/11 victims whose last moments we know little of. 

At 10:28 that morning, Rodriguez had just left the north tower to secure an ambulance for Ed Beyea, a quadriplegic whom he had helped carry from the 27th floor to the lobby. He was only about 100 feet from the north tower when it collapsed. He dove for cover beneath a fire truck as thousands of tons of steel and concrete rained down around him. He credits his training as a stage magician and escape artist with helping him endure the choking dust and confinement that followed. 

He was pulled from the rubble with only minor injuries. (The amount of time he was beneath the truck is unclear. In his presentations he says it was about two hours. In his 2006 sworn court affidavit he says, "I emerged a few moments later, when the collapse, which lasted but seconds, was complete.") He says he stayed at the scene to search for survivors. Rodriguez had worked at the Trade Center for over 19 years. Many of his friends were murdered on that hellish day.

I’m glad that William Rodriguez is around to tell his story, which he does passionately and articulately. When I met him at Ground Zero in September, 2006, I shook his hand and thanked him for his selfless concern for others that day. He was very sincere and personable.

Me (left) and William Rodriguez

Rodriguez has been lauded by the White House several times. He received a National Hero award from the Senate of Puerto Rico, his homeland. As president of the Hispanic Victims Group, a director of the 9/11 United Services Group, and a member of the Family Advisory Council of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, he has worked for 9/11 victims’ rights and financial aid. As for his own financial support, he says he never applied for the Federal Victims Compensation, for which he may have been eligible. Along with the families of victims, he successfully pushed for the formation of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, better known as the 9-11 Commission.

Rodriguez believes he heard an explosion in the basement of the north tower an instant before American Airlines flight 11 slammed into its upper floors. However, since he was in the windowless B1 basement at the time, he had no way of knowing when the plane actually hit the building. His supervisor, who was with him in the maintenance office when the building was hit, says, "Being inside, we didn't know that there was anything wrong from the upper levels." Source

Rodriguez ignores rational explanations for the explosion in the basement, which will be examined in depth here. He also says that he heard suspicious noises and small explosions while helping with the evacuation. Again, there are rational explanations for these events. He thinks his story hasn’t been given the attention it deserves. He feels rebuffed by the 9/11 Commission, by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST, which investigated the cause of the collapses), and by the press.

I join Rodriguez in dislike of the G.W. Bush administration. In 2002 and early 2003 I protested against what I thought (and think) was a reckless drive to invade Iraq, and I was very angry when Bush was reelected in 2004. But Rodriguez has taken his dislike of Bush & co. to a remarkable level. Since 2004 he has used his status as a hero to travel widely and spread the conspiracy theory that the U.S. government orchestrated the 9/11 attacks and murdered his friends.

Like other 9/11 conspiracists Rodriguez has no evidence to support, nor will he take the time to research, his own claims. The keystone – nearly the only stone – of his argument is that the explosion he heard in the basement could not have been caused by jet fuel in the elevator shafts.

Rodriguez addressed this issue in August, 2006:
“(911myths.com) says 'A jet fuel fireball erupted upon impact and shot down at least one bank of elevators.' ...Very strange indeed, since there were only one elevator shaft (the 50A car) that went all the way to B6, the operator was inside, Mr. Griffith and he survived with a broken ankles. He should have died burnt since on this theory the ball of fire went down. He is alive and well and I will interview him in the future to clear the disinformation.Source
Rodriguez, in December, 2006:
"Last, funny everybody brings the position that the ball of fire went down the center elevator shaft and exploded in the basement, since the actual elevator operator of the 50A car is alive and after braking both ankles did not get burned by any of this. He should have been burned alive. He was never called to testify." Source
As do most 9/11 conspiracists, Rodriguez first forms a conclusion and then hopes that the facts will support him. They don't. He should have investigated this "disinformation" before he began touring internationally to accuse his government and military of the mass murder of nearly 3,000 Americans.
Elevator operator Arturo Grffith was in freight car 50A with carpenter Marlene Cruz: "The whole car shook and juddered as he heard an ominous noise from above." Source
"'I felt the explosion and the elevator dropped,' Griffith said at St. Vincents Hospital in Manhattan, where he's being treated for a broken leg." Source
"Arturo Griffith was in a freight elevator when the building was attacked. The elevator dropped to B1 (the basement level), fell below the landing. He was trapped in the elevator beneath debris and unconscious. He remembers seeing a beam of light. He called out. The smoke was so thick; Arturo could not see his own hand. So his rescuers had to follow his voice to find him. 'I don't know who saved me. It was so black and smoky. I couldn't see nothin',' Arturo said. 'When they got me out, I told them there was someone else down there, a woman. They went back to get her. Seconds after they pulled her out, a ball of fire came down the shaft. They almost got killed.' " Source

Carmen and Arturo Griffith. She was burned while operating an elevator on the north tower's 78th floor.

Mr. Rodriguez, is it really easier to tour the world, claiming that the official version of 9/11 is a lie, than to do a bit of internet searching or to make some phone calls?

The descriptions of explosions in the basement levels are entirely consistent with jet fuel traveling down the elevator shafts and entirely inconsistent with the effects of high explosives. On the B-4 level, three stories below Rodriguez, Hursley Lever says, "I heard a bomb." But in his next sentence he makes it clear that he didn't think it was a bomb: "So, I says, 'Probably a transformer again blew up.' So I step back, finish what I had to finish, and I started towards the door again. And there came a big blast with a big ball of fire." Source

In this paper I present over 220 witness accounts from inside the towers, from below the aircraft impact zones. Below the 92nd floor of the north tower, one or more of the following conditions was reported on at least 50 separate floors, all the way to the lowest basement level: fireballs from the elevator shafts, fires, presence of jet fuel or fumes, blown elevator shafts or elevator cars, burns or other injuries from elevator shaft explosions and fire, and interior damage caused by the aircraft impact, fuel ignition, and falling elevators. More than one of those conditions was reported on many of those 50 floors. What William Rodriguez and other conspiracists say couldn't happen, did happen: to real people in the real world.

Rodriguez's main complaint is that his account has been ignored by official investigative bodies. Yet when he had the chance to go on the public record at a 2004 meeting held by chief investigators from NIST, he spoke about problems with keeping the stairwells clean, about some preexisting damage in the stairwells, and about the elevators not working properly after the attack. At a public meeting, to the people charged with finding out why the towers collapsed, Rodriguez said nothing about what is today his major claim: that he knows there were explosives in the north tower basement.

However, Rodriguez did say this to NIST:
"The fire, the ball of fire, for example, I was in the basement when the first plane hit the building. And at that moment, I thought it was an electrical generator that blew up at that moment. A person comes running into the office saying 'explosion, explosion, explosion.' When I look at this guy; has all his skin pulled off of his body. Hanging from the top of his fingertips like it was a glove. And I said, what happened? He said the elevators. What happened was the ball of fire went down with such a force down the elevator shaft on the 58th (50A) – freight elevator, the biggest freight elevator that we have in the North Tower, it went out with such a force that it broke the cables. It went down, I think seven flights. The person survived because he was pulled from the B3 level. But this person, being in front of the doors waiting for the elevator, practically got his skin vaporized." Read his entire statement here.

That wasn't a slip. On September 11, 2002, Rodriguez was interviewed by CNN:
“And at that terrible day when I took people out of the office, one of them totally burned because he was standing in front of the freight elevator and the ball of fire came down the duct of the elevator itself, I put him on the ambulance.” Source

In October, 2004, Rodriguez filed a 237-page lawsuit (since dismissed) against the United States of America, the Bush family, and many others, alleging a massive conspiracy to commit and cover up the crimes of 9/11. The suit covered the gamut of 9/11 conspiracy theories, and for good measure threw in accusations of election fraud, drug running, and other crimes. It even suggested that United flight 93 may have been shot down with a “high-powered microwave weapon.”

Yet the lawsuit made no mention of what today is Rodriguez’s most important “evidence”: the basement explosion. Rodriguez had to throw that claim into the stew pot in an affidavit in 2006.

People are entitled to change their minds and to form new hypotheses. But Rodriguez’s current argument is based solely on incredulity: he says he (now) doesn’t believe that things could have happened as the official version states. Therefore the official version must be wrong. End of debate. Tell the world about the big lie. That fallacy is the basis for most 9/11 conspiracy theories.

"I was there!" is Rodriguez's defiant cry. Yes, but he was not everywhere, and I will demonstrate that he shows a very poor understanding of some of the events of September 11, 2001. That wouldn't be an issue if he wasn't using that misunderstanding to spread misinformation. If I wanted to know the status of a military campaign, I wouldn't ask a solitary soldier in the midst of battle. The 9/11 conspiracists would, and they would carefully choose a soldier whose story supports their preconceptions. The moral of the story of the blind men and the elephant is lost on them.

Rodriguez has changed and exaggerated his story, which needs no embellishment. In his public presentations he repeats many falsehoods about the events of 9/11 and about the subsequent investigations. It only requires a few minutes of fact-checking to correct these errors, but Rodriguez will not take the time to do that. Instead, he relies on incompetents and liars for support and information about 9/11.

I would like Mr. Rodriguez to think about this: suppose he was falsely accused of murder. Would he want the prosecutor to use the "Rodriguez standards of evidence?"

William Rodriguez has much to offer the world. I fear that these valuable things have been subsumed by misdirected anger. I can't begin to imagine the pain of the nightmare he's been through, but accusing the wrong people of murder won't bring his friends back. Traveling to places where the U.S. is unpopular and using his hero status to accuse the U.S. of perpetrating the 9/11 attacks shows colossally bad judgment.

This is a difficult story to write. Rodriguez is a complex person: a victim of terrorism who shines in the limelight; a man with a generous heart who senselessly accuses people of horrible crimes; a man who claims his words have been twisted or ignored by the press, but who says he knows how to manipulate the media; a likeable hero who sometimes behaves abominably; a leader of the "9/11 truth movement" who is an ardent activist against the truth.

I hope this paper can help to put some of the events of 9/11 in context for Mr. Rodriguez, to help him see through the "fog of war" that he experienced, and to point him towards the path of rational thinking and ethical behavior.

Part 1: A Summary of William Rodriguez's Statements and Claims

Please click on the blue links for much more information about each topic

“The Mindset of the Malaysian people has been changed forever on the 9/11 events after seeing the latest evidence.” –Malaysia's National News Service
Rodriguez travels with crackpots and Holocaust deniers to tell the world that 9/11 was an inside job. Citing this information, Muslim clerics march on a U.S. embassy. Venezuela's National Assembly calls for a new investigation to include the possibility of U.S. complicity in the attacks. Rodriguez is proud of these achievements. Back in the U.S., Rodriguez speaks at a neo-Nazi conference and, not surprisingly, gets a speaking invitation from the world's top anti-Semites. In December, 2006 he announces his conversion to Islam and says
that the aim of American media is to criminalize Muslims.

“Criminal minds within our own government were involved in this pre-planned process. ...the official story is a lie...it was a complete whitewash...9/11 is a giant illusion"

Then he claims that he withdrew from the suit, and that the suit was not dismissed by the court. Those claims are false.

These claims are false. Rodriguez's story is dramatic enough and needs no embellishment.

That's one of several false claims Rodriguez makes about the 9/11 Commission and its hearings. Very few of the people who appeared before the Commission did so at public hearings. Was he the only person to testify behind closed doors? Was his account edited out of the final report? Did Bush say, "We don't need an investigation?" Did the Commission only answer a few of the Family Steering Committee’s questions? Did the Commission not interview rescuers who were in the building?

"He was offered a congressional seat and millions of dollars in campaign finance."
"It wasn't long before the Republicans recognised the power of his appeal..." But, "I will be set for life if Hillary wins."

Two incompatible statements followed by a false statement. Rodriguez does say that there were bombs in the WTC towers, and several aspects of his story have changed drastically. His account of what he heard in the basements has changed. Perhaps the greatest change is that Rodriguez used to blame al Qaeda for the 9/11 attacks. Now he blames George Bush for sponsoring the terrorist attacks as an excuse to invade Iraq. His distrust of the government began more than a year after the attacks when he learned that the 9/11 Commission wouldn't include any family members of victims...or did that distrust begin within days, or weeks?

"Once my story came out, some people even joked, they say “Oh, this is Superman. This is a false story because the guy did incredible things on that day."
This is less a criticism than an observation about the "fog of war" that may explain the incredulity that some people felt when hearing Rodriguez's story: in his retellings, his timeline of certain events is off by nearly an hour. It would have taken superhuman effort to do what Rodriguez actually did, in the time he allots for those achievements.

Rodriguez's ascent in the north tower: mysterious smaller explosions?

Suspicious activity on the 34th floor?
"Oh my God, that's an empty floor, what's going on?" "No construction had been underway and, in fact, a special access key was needed to make an elevator stop at that floor." These statements are false.

21 Floors of the North Tower collapsed when Rodriguez was on the 39th floor? Preposterous!

More claims by Rodriguez:
NORAD "stood down?" WTC 7 had only small fires? The official collapse explanation is that jet fuel melted the columns? No steel frame building ever fell due to fire? Only FEMA was allowed to investigate? Steel was whisked away to hide evidence? The Patriot Act eliminated 50 years of civil rights? Rodriguez only deals with "doctorates in the matter" and has spoken with many research institutions? The elevators prove that the explosion came from below? The sprinkler system shouldn't have been activated? It would "explain a lot" if I were gay?

Part 2: Information about the towers, elevators, shafts, jet fuel dispersion, and similarities between other accounts and Rodriguez's

WTC elevators and elevator shaft continuity

Descriptions of the jet fuel dispersion in the towers

Accounts of structural instability in the towers and their expected collapse

Comparison of witness accounts to Rodriguez story: Timing of explosions

Comparison of witness accounts to Rodriguez story: burn injuries

Some people near the aircraft impacts didn't hear them

Part 3: Eyewitness Accounts From Inside the Towers

Inside the Towers: Summary of Witness Accounts: Reports of Jet Fuel/Kerosene, Fireballs, Damage to Elevators & Shafts, Injuries In and Near Elevators, Fallen Elevators, Fires, Damage Below Impact Zones

Inside the North Tower: Witness Accounts, Floors 91-60

Inside the North Tower: Witness Accounts, Floors 59-02

Inside the North Tower: Witness Accounts, Plaza & Concourse Lobbies, Basement Levels

Inside the South Tower: Witness Accounts

Conclusion: Will William Rodriguez do the right thing?