Comparison of witness accounts to Rodriguez story: Time between impact, initial jet fuel explosions, and secondary explosions

In the next three pages I will present accounts from witnesses on many different floors in the towers that bear similarities – sometimes strikingly so – to what William Rodriguez experienced on the B1 level of the north tower. None of these people claim that bombs were responsible for what they experienced.

The person who describes the longest delay between feeling the building move and experiencing an explosion was in the B4 basement level. He did not hear the aircraft impact.

The sequence of events in both towers, as described by the official investigations and as we can partially piece together from these accounts, is as follows:

1) Aircraft impact, often described as sounding like a dull thud or a "whump," with a moderate vibration of the building. The aircraft, traveling at very high speeds, cut through the building exteriors easily. The buildings began to sway appreciably after they had absorbed and decelerated the majority of the aircraft mass.

2) After approximately one or two seconds, a strong explosion, often described as a bang or a boom, from jet fuel igniting at the impact zone, accompanied by a strong vibration and damage to windows, walls, ceilings, etc.

3) A fireball traveling down multiple elevator and ventilation shafts bursting onto floors near the impact zones.

4) Swaying back and forth of the building, strong enough to make people lose their balance, lasting 10 seconds or so. Many people thought the building would collapse at this point. The building movement caused further damage to walls, floors, and ceilings. Some people described the building "torquing" (twisting).

5) Some elevators freefalling in their shafts, some elevators near the impact zones trailing or surrounded by jet fuel, causing major damage from impact when stopping and from overpressures from igniting fuel.

6) Jet fuel flowing down shaftways and igniting on lower floors several seconds (up to 30 by one account) after the aircraft impacts.
This sequence would seem to fit Arturo Griffith's #50 freight elevator experience: impact from above –>elevator falling –>damage from elevator stopping (doors buckling inward, injuring his legs)–>heavy smoke (possibly pushed down by initial blast, possibly drawn down by falling elevator, or both –> fireball coming down shaft.

The following accounts also appear in the "Inside the towers" sections of this document.

North Tower

(Three floors below NT impact, first no movement, then the whiplash.)
The plane ripped a path across floors 94 to 98, directly into the office of Marsh & McLennan Companies, shredding steel columns, wallboard, filing cabinets and computer-laden desks. Its fuel ignited and incinerated everything in its way. The plane's landing gear hurtled through the south side of the building, winding up on Rector Street, five blocks away.

Just three floors below the impact zone, not a thing budged in Steve McIntyre's office. Not the slate paperweight shaped like a sailing ship. Not the family snapshots propped up on a bookcase. Mr. McIntyre found himself in front of a computer that was still on.

Then came the whiplash.

A powerful shock wave quickly radiated up and down from the impact zone. The wave bounced from the top to the bottom of the tower, three or four seconds one way and then back, rocking the building like a huge boat in a storm.

"We got to get the hell out of here," yelled Greg Shark, an American Bureau of Shipping engineer and architect, who was bracing himself in the swaying while he stood outside Mr. McIntyre's office. Source

A survivor from a floor in the 80s: “The entire corridor became an inferno outside our front door. Smoke began to enter our office. There was also debris falling. ... The fire on the corridor was at least 10 ft high, and it ran the … good length of the corridor. Then I saw a fireball come down the elevator shaft and blew the elevator doors. The fireball came right at me; it was a really bright color. Interview 1000055 (NIST 2004)

85th Floor
Corky Adams: "...85th floor of One WTC, where my company, [snip], has its offices. I begin preparing reports for another day of trading at the NYMEX,... horrific explosion. An immediate change in the air pressure. A ghostly column of air shoots like a canon into the office. The front door slams shut. Papers are whipped into the air. I'm thrown off my chair and to the ground. My boss jumps out of his office a second prior to the explosion. He had watched, in horrific disbelief, the entire event as the plane narrowly missed the empire state building and set a direct course for our building. The explosion sends the tower shaking furiously, lurching back and forth with sickening vengeance for maybe five or ten seconds. I think we may die. The building may topple over, or crumble. Finally it stops. The building is still standing. Everybody stares at each other, no idea of what happened or what to say. Speculations about an explosion, a bomb. No, it was a plane, our boss says. A commercial jet. Source

83rd floor:
Jeff Benjamin: Immediately before impact we could see images in the cockpit and the plane banked sharply. A split second later we heard an echoing shot, fell to the floor and observed a fireball followed by debris which struck the side of the building. At the same time you could feel the building sway every so slightly for a brief moment. We immediately retreated towards the main part of the office where we noticed a huge fireball shooting out of the elevator shaft which quickly disappeared. Fortunately, the glass door between our office and the elevator lobby remained intact as the drywall and ceiling tiles caught fire. The fire burned off leaving thick acrid black smoke some of which entered the office through the ceiling where some tiles had collapsed above the reception desk. Source

78th Floor NT Carmen Griffith (Wife of freight elevator operator Arturo Griffith)
Then the first plane hit. “The elevator doors closed, and I heard ‘Bang! Bang!’” says Carmen. “We were trying to get the door open.” With the door just half-open, Carmen squeezed out into a smoke-filled corridor. As she looked back to tell her passengers that it was safe to exit, a plume of fire seared her face, hands and legs.Source

Carmen Griffith again:
"They were so packed (in the elevators) — like sardines," she says.

A full elevator had just left the 78th floor, and Carmen was about to carry up six or seven stragglers. The plane struck as the doors of her elevator closed. They could hear debris smash into the top of the car; then the elevator cracked open, and flames poured in. Carmen jammed her fingers between the closed doors, pulled them partly open and held them as passengers clambered over and under her 5-foot-6 frame to escape.

Before finally throwing herself out onto the lobby floor, she glanced back to be sure the elevator was empty. That was when fire scorched her face with second- and third-degree burns, and literally welded her hooped right earring to her neck. Her hands were badly burned.

Carmen was helped down the 78 floors to an ambulance just as her husband was carried out of the basement on a piece of plywood and a hand truck, each certain — after seeing the burning buildings from the street outside — that the other was dead. Source

70th floor: Impact, then explosion
Kim King: After the plane collided with Tower One, it then exploded. The explosion seemed to have come about 10 seconds after impact. However, things were in slow motion and my mind was now in overdrive. I’m sure the explosion happened right after impact. The explosion was massive it only magnified the rumbling, swaying and shaking of the Tower, things began falling off my desk. It honestly felt like the floor fell at least a foot. I thought the building was collapsing right then and there. Parts of the ceiling were truly falling to the floor. I was still standing at this point and I looked out the window and I saw gigantic white chunks of debris falling to the ground from up above. I didn’t know what it was and my mind couldn’t even register what I was seeing. Source

77th Floor
On September 11, 2001, at about 8:48 A.M., I had just signed on to my computer at the office of the Inspector, suite 7767 at One World Trade Center. At the moment that the plane crashed into Building One, there were two rapid explosions, most likely the plane slamming into the building and the subsequent fuel explosion. The concussive shock knocked me from my seat onto the floor. When I rose to my feet, the building was rocking like a boat at sea. –Michael Shuhala, PAPD Detective Sourcepage 57.

68th floor
I was nearly knocked to the floor by the impact of the first plane, which slammed into the north side of Tower One more than 20 floors above me. I heard a loud thud, followed by an explosion. The building felt like it swayed about 10 feet to the south. It shuddered back to the north, then shimmied back and forth. Source

40th Floor: Jolt, sway, jolt, explosion.
Brendan MacWade: At 08:48, as I was sitting in my chair, I felt a tremendous jolt. My office chair rolled in one direction and then the opposite direction. During the sway, I could hear the grinding of concrete and steel.

A second jolt hit as I was standing on the ramp leading down to the reception area. Again, the building leaned one way and sprang back the next. This was also accompanied by the sound of an explosion.Source

36th Floor
Kemper Insurance Co. Survivor: “The whump turns to a lingering rumble as the plane continues to blast through the building and the fireball explodes.”Source

34th Floor
Jimmy Loughran : "The whole building began to sway about six of seven feet each way. It was like being rocked around in a boat," he said.

"Everybody froze, we didn't know what had happened. Then there was a massive explosion, it must have been the fuel from the plane exploding after the initial impact.

25th floor to Lobby: Rumble, then vibration, then swaying
Christopher Ferrer: I remember this so clearly. It started as a rumble in our seats, and then grew into vibrations from the ceiling to the floor. It moved the building so much that our desk drawers popped open. We all stood up immediately, but couldn't move. The building was shaking from side to side, and we froze just to keep our balance. My vision was even affected. It was no different than watching some old movie that shook the camera to give the audience a sense of what was happening.

James Cutler, a 31-year-old insurance broker, was in the Akbar restaurant on the ground floor of the World Trade Center when he heard “boom, boom, boom,” he recalls. In seconds, the kitchen doors blew open, smoke and ash poured into the restaurant and the ceiling collapsed. Mr. Cutler didn’t know what had happened yet, but he found himself standing among bodies strewn across the floor. “It was mayhem,” he says. Source

There was a very strong thud, and the chandeliers shook. And then there was a second thud or explosion, and more chandeliers shook, the lights flickered, and our group, which was about 175 people, stood up and ran for the exits. Source (audio)
“I saw a couple of elevators in free fall; you could hear them whizzing down and as they crashed, there was this huge explosion, like a fireball exploding out of the bank of elevators,” Kravette said. “People were engulfed in flames.” Source

4th Sub-basement: blast 30 seconds after impact.
Edward McCabe: I was in the refrigeration plant in tower 1 sub basement 4. I was passing through when I felt a slight shifting of the building. I froze right where I stood and listened....nothing.. about 30 seconds past (sic) and to my left about 30 feet from me was a stairway leading up to a door. this door explodes off its hinges and white smoke came into the plant. I later on found out the reason there was an explosion was the jet fuel filled the elevator shaft and seconds later a spark triggered an explosion.

South Tower
South tower, 84th floor. Brian Clark:
There was sort of like a double noise, like a bang, thump. With the second thump everything just fell apart in our room. The first noise was the impact; the second noise was the explosion and the shock wave of the fuel igniting. Source

South tower 68th Floor, Charles Caraher
...I started to leave a message and as I did so, the building jolted. The force of it tossed me around my cubicle. I remember thinking, “Finish the message or Catherine will worry.” I finished it as quickly as I could. Later that day, I would learn what I said. I said: “Catherine, this is Chaaa-arrr-rll-lie. I want to come see you. I want to hold you. And then I want to go home.” But at that moment in time, I didn’t know what I was saying. I was trying to process what was happening around me. Once again I heard a “whoosh” surging through the ventilation ducts. This one was much, much more pronounced than the first one [that he had experienced from the north tower exterior fireball]. It also sounded like large pieces of furniture were being moved across the floor above me. Source (Rodriguez, on September 11, 2001: "I was in the basement, which is the support floor for the maintenance company, and we hear like a big rumble. Not like an impact, like a rumble, like moving furniture in a massive way. And all of sudden we hear another rumble, and a guy comes running, running into our office, and all of skin was off his body. All of the skin.”)

South Tower 52nd floor
A gigantic blast of hot air shot up the stairwell with the vacuum created by the blast and the chaos returned in a hellish instant. Source

South tower lobby, An Elevator Engineer:
As I turned around to go back toward the core of the building in the lobby, the second plane hit, and that shook the building.

We heard the explosion and within a matter of seconds after that impact, I heard – and as well as everybody else heard – this noise, this increasing sound of wind. And it was getting louder and louder. It was like a bomb, not quite the sound of a bomb coming down from a bomber. It was a sound of wind increasing, a whistling sound, increasing in sound.

I’m looking from the lobby up to a mezzanine area or the second floor where they lined up all the people to go up to the rooftop, and I’m looking up expecting something, building parts to be coming down, because I wasn’t quite sure what that noise was.

But I found out later, when the plane came through the building, it cut the hoist ropes, the governor ropes, of (the) 6 and 7 cars, which was the observation cars.

What we heard was 6 and 7 car free-falling from the 107th floor and they impacted the basement at B-2 Level. And that’s the explosion that filled the lobby within a matter of two or three seconds, engulfed the lobby in dust, smoke.

And apparently from what I talked to with other mechanics, they saw the doors, the hatch doors blow off in the lobby level of 6 and 7 car.

... And the noise, the wind noise we heard was, you have to picture that there are two cars or cabs in a hoist length. And a hoist weighs only so big, and it’s encapsulated by walls, so as these two cars came, fell together, the air pressure underneath would cause that sound that we heard." Source

South tower lobby, Tilly:
What followed was unlike anything I have ever experienced, or could imagine experiencing; the only thing that comes close is the movie Die Hard. When that plane blew through upstairs the repercussions only took about 25 seconds, but it all seemed in slow motion to me, as if I was watching myself on a movie screen. All of the oxygen was sucked out of the building and my lungs (like being in a vacuum). I felt doomed because the turnstile exiting the elevator bank would not unlock for me to get out and run for the revolving doors leading out of the lobby and into the mall under the plaza level. I could not have known at that panic-filled moment, but that locked-up turnstile would save my life. Instead I'm thinking, "This is where I will die," because I can hear an explosion roaring downward inside the building. Yet somehow I looked over to see that the end turnstile wraps around a support beam forming about a two-square-foot space, but there is only about six inches to squeeze through between the end of the turnstile and wall beam. Something inside me told me to get in there. I'm about 100 pounds soaking wet, so I pressed myself through and balled up facing the support beam with the steel barrier wrapped around my back giving me a little protected cubby hole.

This is when the explosion came.

It progressed down the building, breaking the windows as it went; the entire building was groaning, an unnatural, unearthly sound, much like a can squeezing, or cracking uncooked spaghetti. By the time it reached the lobby, the marble veneer was cracking and falling off the walls; the chandeliers shattered on the floors along with the plaster ceiling, and the force imploded in at about 50 mph, pulling metal, balled safety glass, and other material with it. The pipes were bursting over my head and dense materials were flying around me as if they were being pureed in a blender. In the next instant came a horrible noise and a flash of extreme heat and light blown directly over my head. I concluded later in the day that this was from the huge airplane fireball sent down the 78-110 elevator shaft that exploded out into the lobby, and blew around the walls and curled into the center vestibule where I was taking cover.
...The two officers and I were the only ones who made it out alive.

...As the debris and dust settled, water started to rain down, and black smoke began to roll through with the strong smell of jet fuel in what was left of a once beautiful lobby.Source