Inside the North Tower: Witness Accounts, Plaza Level & Concourse Lobbies, Basements

Plaza Level & Concourse Lobbies

At 8:48 a.m., Sept. 11, Capps was in a business meeting in a restaurant on the first floor of Tower 1 in the World Trade Center complex. He didn't hear an explosion, but when the chandelier above him began to shake, he was reminded of the earthquake he experienced in San Francisco eight years ago.

"...Narrator: ... At 9:30, they emerged from the cramped stairwell to a horrifying scene. Some of the elevators had become fireballs, melted beyond recognition."

Sue Zupnik: "It was all warped. My jaw dropped. I couldn’t believe it...."

Lakshman Achutan was attending a meeting on the ground floor of the north tower of the World Trade Center when it was attacked. He describes the initial impact, his escape, and his view of the second plane as it approached the south tower.
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. (Audio recording)

The scenes passed in surreal succession. Michael Zhu, a 33-year-old resident of South Plainfield, descended 51 stories of the North Tower and escaped before it collapsed, alongside fellow workers bearing burn victims in their arms. In the lobby, he smelled gasoline as the overhead sprinklers soaked his dusty clothing. "I feel like I am going to die," he said.

Tom Canavan: All the elevator doors were knocked off. They were almost crooked.

Earlyne Johnson: The communications specialist had just missed the elevator up to her 65th-floor office when she felt an explosion, followed by a hail of shattering glass. She covered her head with her arms, dashed for the exit, then set out to find her 51-year-old, asthmatic mother, who worked on the 73rd floor. She searched for twelve hours, before finding her safe at home in Newark late that night.

Elevator stalls on way up, just above lobby.
Ian Robb: It was a good day to be late for work. As Ian Robb, a Leeds-born personnel manager for a financial services firm, pushed into the lobby of the north tower of the World Trade Centre on Tuesday morning he was already running half-an-hour behind - it was already past 8.45am. His sense of flustered impatience must have been compounded when he just missed one of the express lifts for the upper floors. Mild exasperation surely mounted to irritated frustration when the elevator he did catch stopped moving almost immediately and lodged in the lift shaft. It was, classically, one of those "why me?" moments.

In the stalled lift in which Ian Robb was trapped, routine exasperation had given way to rising alarm as the sprinkler system slowly began to flood it. Those inside prised the doors open to discover that they were still on the ground floor. A fireman told him that the lift he'd just missed had crashed to the bottom of its shaft.

Erik O. Ronningen: The main lobby was a shambles. Chandeliers down; the marble walls in broken piles on the floor; the giant directional signage dangling from the ceilings; all the windows broken, the revolving doors broken and off kilter and the elevator doors all blown out. We walked through water pouring out of the ceiling like Niagara Falls, and sloshed through the darkened Mall in shin-deep water.

Below: Broken lobby windows, looking east at debris on outdoor plaza (before south tower collapse); marble knocked off north tower lobby core wall.

Graphic descriptions of injuries and fatalities follow.

Firefighter John Morabito of ladder 10, which is just 200 yards from the north tower.
“Just inside the front entrance, Morabito found two victims of the fireball. A man, already dead, was pushed against a wall, his clothes gone, his eyeglasses blackened, his tongue lying on the floor next to him. The other was a woman, with no clothes, her hair burned off, her eyes sealed.

“The woman, she sat up. I’m yelling to her, ‘Don’t worry, we’re going to help you,’” Morabito said. “She sat up and was trying to talk, but her throat had closed up. She died right there.”

Mercedes Rivera: I saw a burned woman in a sitting position in the lobby, as if she was still typing behind a desk.... She was already dead.”
Susan Hagen and Mary Carouba. Women at Ground Zero: Stories of Courage and Compassion. Indianapolis: Alpha Books, 2002. P. 22

Dave Bobbitt, Port Authority Operations
"It was quite hectic, and we did what we could to stay in contact with the elevator passengers while helping to direct other people out of the building and direct firemen to the stairs and the elevators," Bobbitt remarked. "When entering the North Tower, we saw the marble on the walls was severely cracked, and Riccardelli told everyone to stay back from the walls. Don (Parente) noticed that the doors of elevators number 6 and 7 had been blown out." –Courage Above and Beyond the Call of Duty: A Report of the September 11, 2001 Experiences of Port Authority Engineers at the World Trade Center

Lobby & 3rd floor: Firefighter Peter Blaich
As we got to the third floor of the B stairway, we forced open an elevator door which was burnt on all three sides. The only thing that was remaining was the hoistway door. And inside the elevator were about I didn’t recognize them initially, but a guy from 1 Truck said oh my God, those are people. They were pretty incinerated. And I remember the overpowering smell of kerosene. That’s when Lieutenant Foti said oh, that’s the jet fuel. I remember it smelled like if you’re camping and you drop a kerosene lamp.

The same thing happened to the elevators in the main lobby. They were basically blown out. I do’nt recall if I actually saw people in there. What got me initially in the lobby was that as soon as we went in, all the windows were blown out, and there were one or two burning cars outside. And there were burn victims on the street there, walking around. We walked through this giant blown-out window into the lobby.

There was a lady there screaming that she didn’t know how she got burnt. She was just in the lobby and then next thing she knew she was on fire. She was burnt bad. And somebody came over with a fire extinguisher and was putting water on her.

That’s the first thing that got me. That and in front of one of the big elevator banks in the lobby was a desk and I definitely made out one of the corpses to be a security guard because he had a security label on his jacket. I’m assuming that maybe he was at a table still in a chair and almost completely incinerated, charred all over his body, definitely dead. And you could make out like a security tag on his jacket. And I remember seeing the table was melted, but he was still fused in the chair and that elevator bank was melted, so I imagine the jet fuel must have blown right down the elevator shaft and I guess caught the security guard at a table, I guess at some type of checkpoint.

Brian Reeves, a 34-year-old security guard, was nearly killed while making the rounds in the lobby of 1 World Trade Center on September 11. He started to run after hearing an explosion that he said sounded like a missile, but he was knocked down by a fireball that roared down the elevator shaft.

Reeves suffered third-degree burns to 40 percent of his body before he was able to pat out the flames. He was one of 20 critically-injured patients rushed to New York Presbyterian’s burn unit that day.

Ronnie Clifford and Jennianne Maffeo
At around 8.45am, Ronnie walked into the lobby of the Marriott, which was connected to the lobby of the north tower by a revolving door. As he was checking his yellow tie in a mirror, he felt a massive explosion, followed several seconds later by a reverberation, a warping effect that he describes as the "harmonic tolerance of a building that's shaking like a tuning fork". He peered through the revolving door into the lobby of the north tower. It was filling with haze. People were scurrying to escape what had become a "hurricane of flying debris".

Then the revolving door turned with a suctioning sound followed by a hot burst of wind, and in came a mannequin of the future. A woman, naked, dazed, her arms outstretched. She was so badly burned that Ronnie had no idea what race she was or how old she might be. She clawed the air with fingernails turned porcelain-white. The zipper of what had once been a sweater had melted into her chest, as if it were the zipper to her own body. Her hair had been singed to a crisp steel wool. With her, in the gust of the door, came a pungent odour, the smell of kerosene or paraffin, Ronnie thought.

Then the mannequin became a person, crying for help. Ronnie had little idea what had happened to her, or where exactly she had come from, but he knew that whoever she was, she was his responsibility now.

With no medical training, Ronnie Clifford scarcely knew what to do with the helpless woman who stood before him. He sat her down on the cool marble floor, then dashed into the bathroom and ran water into a clean black garbage bag that he found. He hurried back out and dribbled the contents over her body. Then he sat down on the puddled floor and tried to comfort her. Despite her condition, she was lucid.

He took out a pen and notepad and jotted down her information. Her name was Jennieann Maffeo. She was Italian-American, from Brooklyn, single, 40 years old. She worked for USB PaineWebber. She was an asthmatic, she said, and had an extreme intolerance to latex. She could not adequately describe what had happened to her.

She had been standing outside the north tower next to a man she knew, waiting for a bus, when she heard a loud crash above. In an effort to protect them from falling debris, a security guard herded everyone inside the tower's lobby. Suddenly, she told Ronnie, something bright and hot enveloped her, a vapour maybe. She thought it could have dropped down the elevator shaft. She was worried about the man who'd been next to her. Surely he was dead, she feared.

“He thought he was the lucky one, but then tragedy struck” Irish Independent, Sept. 11, 2002. (The above is an excerpt. Ronnie Clifford was able to get Jennieann Maffeo to an ambulance. She died in the hospital on October 12, 2001.)

I have a badly burned lady at the lobby of …they need an ambulance ASAP…One World Trade Center.
(Port Authority Transcript WTC Ch. 15 EMS direct line, p. 5)

(Vasana) Mutuanot was in the lobby of Tower One when she heard the first explosion. Thinking it was a bomb like the terrorist attack in 1993, she turned to run, looking over her shoulder as flames leaped from a freight elevator shaft cooking her back and legs and right cheek. "It was a fireball with sand and heat, like a hurricane of fire," she said.

Mututanont ran out of the building then fell after flying glass sliced through a tendon in her leg. A wall of fire followed her outside.
“Swept to my back from my feet up and then I see fire all over, in my hair, also. A lot of people just blew away, you know, like that.”

David Kravette, a managing director of Cantor Fitzgerald, the bond trading firm that occupied the upper floors of the North Tower and lost about 700 people, or more than two thirds of its 1,000 U.S.-based employees addressed what he saw in the lobby as the first plane hit. I have provided this quote from the Mercury News New York Bureau since it is the only reference I have seen to the free falling elevators and the fire ball at the lower levels of the tower.

“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.”

Firefighter William Green: We entered in through the front doors of the lobby. The lobby was screwed. All the windows were already broken. Marble walls that surrounded the elevator shaft, they were cracked and broken. I’m still thinking a bomb went off.

We headed for the B staircase. It was pretty much in the center of the core. We had to go through these turnstiles. I remember there was a lot of rubble on the floor there. There was elevator doors ajar. There were elevator doors missing. I could see an elevator car twisted in the shaft.
I remember I looked up at the ceiling because I thought maybe the ceiling got charred because there was a bunch of rubble on the floor. It was about three feet high in the middle. The ceiling wasn’t charred. So I had thought the floor blew up.

I was telling guys afterwards the floor must have blown up. Maybe there was a bomb downstairs or something. But I came to learn that that was bodies. We had to climb over and around this pile.
Q. A pile of bodies, in the lobby?
A. I didn’t recognize it as bodies. I don’t know if my mind didn’t see it.
Q. Burned?
A. Burned.
Q. Near the elevators?
A. It looked like rubble to me.
Q. Right.
A. Right outside the elevators, in the core. We had to climb up and around it—it was like three feet high in the middle—to enter the B staircase.
(Green was the only member of Engine 6, which headed up the B staircase behind William Rodriguez, to survive.)

Firefighter Geroge Kozlowski: We did see bodies that got pulled out of the elevators because all the elevators fell.

Firefighter Craig Dunne: We proceeded to go into the lobby of tower one. We got in there. The glass was down in the front. There was a gentleman -- you saw people that were jumping from the building. You had to look up and make sure you didn't get hit by any jumpers or anything. We saw a couple of people that were burnt on the outside of the building. There was a gentleman that was burnt inside when we went in.

Firefighter Peter Fallucca: Before we got in, all the elevators were crashed down in the lobby, and we were going to the stairwell. See all the elevators were crashed down, big slabs of marble on the floor, all the ceiling tiles of the dropped ceiling was falling down, wires hanging. You see wires and stuff hanging inside the elevator shafts, because the doors were blown right off the elevators.

FDNY Lieutenant William Walsh: In the center of these two elevator shafts would be the elevators that go to the lower floors. They were blown off the hinges. That’s where the service [freight] elevator was also. …They were blown off the hinges, and you could see the shafts.

As he waited for orders, Meldrum, the chauffeur (Fire engine driver), noticed that all windows in the high lobby were blown out. Glass and marble from busted walls littered the floors, crunched underfoot. He caught an occasional whiff of jet fuel, a smell like kerosene, wafting from elevator shafts. On the floor by the elevators he saw burned people.

Firefighter David Sandvik: We got down to the lobby, and when we got out of the stairwell, the lobby was deserted. Nobody was down there except the people coming out of our stairwell. We were walking through and the elevator doors were blowing [blown?] off. The lobby was just like a complete mess. I remember grabbing the proby that day and we were looking down the elevator bank and I said, man, this would make a hell of a picture.

Firefighter John Moribito: I noticed that some of the elevators had been blown out of their shafts. They came down and crashed out of the shaft. They were buckled, and I had noticed that there were people still in the elevators. I believe that they were at that point deceased. Then I saw the lights in both buildings went out, and I heard the rumble. At that point, I didn’t know what was happening, but 2 World Trade Center was collapsing.

Firefighter Keith Murphy: To my immediate left is a bank. If I had to guess I would say it was maybe 75, 80 feet long. It was a pretty long elevator bank and it was big sky lobby elevators. They were like floor to ceiling, the ones that hold, I don’t know, 60, 70 people. There was tremendous damage in the lobby. There was already things that were like fallen or cracked. A lot of structural wall damage and ceiling damage that I could see. There was also about four or five inches of water on the floor.

At the end of this elevator lobby, there was – it just looked to me like something had exploded. I don’t remember how I heard it or who said it, but someone said I think it was an elevator – when the plane hit, it severed the elevator cable and it came all the way down and crashed. I don’t know a hundred percent if that’s what happened, but it looked to me like that could have been true. It looked like something had fallen down, hit, and exploded out. I mean the whole area around it was maybe 25, 30 feet of really severe damage.

I remember thinking, I looked at the elevators and I still wasn’t feeling good about them, because the damage that I spoke about was more severe or at least up close I got to see it. There were pieces of marble, like ornamental marble I guess, on the walls that were maybe 2 foot by 3 foot pieces, maybe even a little bigger, that had split and cracked and some had actually fallen.

Some of the doors – they were silver colored elevator doors and they were almost like hanging out of plumb. They just didn’t look right.

Firefighter John Ottrando: After I hooked up, I went into the lobby of the north tower and I saw the command post being set up there. I noticed some people on the floor that were badly burned. One man was deceased, and there was a woman there that was very badly burned.

Deputy Commissioner Thomas Fitzpatrick: The lobby didn't look too good. The integrity of the elevators - I started to think about the elevators. They had either blown out, cut off or could possibly have the cars coming down. The lobby was becoming an untenable place, especially if we wanted to continue operations.

Firefighter Terence Rivera: As I got off the back -- the back step, there were a few individuals that were civilians that were outside that were burnt. There was a -- he wasn't a regular security guard. He had a weapon on him. I don't know if he was FBI or Secret Service and he was trying to put the pants out on one individual that was conscious. His pants were still smoldering. I took the can, fire extinguisher off the truck and then sprayed down the pants on the person that was still conscious.

At that time, I had asked him where did this individual come from. He told me when the plane had hit, a fire ball had shot down the elevator shaft and had blown people out of the lobby.

Pfiefer arrived at the west-side entrance to 1 World Trade Center. Entering the tower he walked to the fire command station located in the northwest corner of the lobby. Many of the large windows in the lobby were broken, and pieces of marble in the elevator lobbies were cracked or had fallen from the impact of the jet between the 96th and the 103rd floors. Pfiefer was advised that numerous people were trapped in nearly 25 elevators, the highest was at the 71st floor. The elevators were not working. Apparently, jet fuel had poured down the elevator shafts. Some of the elevators were on fire. Signs of smoke and fire damage were visible at some elevators. Many of the elevator doors were missing.
Other firefighters reported finding additional burn victims on the first floor of the north tower.

Firefighter Kevin Murray: The elevators looked like they were on fire in the lobby. There wasn't smoke coming out of them, but it looked like they all bubbled up and everything and there was a fire in there.

Firefighter Gregg Hansson: We went past the elevator banks. You could see that they were all blown out.

Firefighter Joseph Casaliggi: We went into the lobby. The lobby actually looked like the plane hit the lobby. From what I understand, I was told afterwards, that a fireball shot down the elevator shaft and blew out all the windows in the lobby and blew out the elevator doors.

Firefighter Thomas Piambino: When I got down to the lobby -- the lobby was in bad shape when I went up. It was worse when I came back down. All the elevator shaftway doors were blown out, and there was stuff coming down the -- just falling down the shafts, and the civilians had bogged down at the bottom of the stairs, because they were afraid to pass the elevator shafts, and there were piles of rubble all over the place.

Capt. Jay Jonas, FDNY Ladder 6: Jonas walked over to his guys and said, "OK, here's the deal. We're gonna go upstairs and we're gonna perform search and rescue. The deal is, we're gonna have to do it on foot." He wasn't comfortable using the elevators after seeing them disgorge burned people. "We're gonna take 10 floors at a time, take a quick breather, and push on for 10 floors."

Greg Manning: For those of you who may not know the story, she was entering the lobby of the North Tower of the World Trade Center when a fireball exploded from the elevator shaft. She and two others managed to run out of the building, all three of them on fire. A passerby across the street ran to them, reaching Lauren [Manning] first, and put the flames out. He then put Lauren in an ambulance, so she was the first person evacuated. He certainly saved her life.

Lauren Manning: Building one. And as I walked into the building, the plane had hit -- I imagine as I was getting out of the cab -- and the fuel just poured down.

LARRY KING: You never got into the building?

L. MANNING: No, I got into the building. I walked into the lobby. As I was turning toward the elevator banks, the fireball exploded out and caught me from behind, and literally pushed me toward the doors as I was running, and...

KING: You kept running?

L. MANNING: Oh, I kept running through the initial panel of doors, through the revolving doors, outside, and my only desire was to -- you know, you think of anything having to do with fire is try to find a way to put it out. So I was running across the street to this grassy median area, and...

KING: You remember all this?

L. MANNING: I remember everything vividly. The, you know, people around me, the debris that began falling, and it was...

KING: Did you pass out eventually?


KING: Never passed out?

L. MANNING: No, I didn't. Because as I was running I was, you know, praying, probably screaming to God, Please, you know, help me. Help me. You know, I can't -- I can't leave now. It's not my time to leave.

KING: You kept thinking that?

L. MANNING: I did. I had to make a decision. I could feel myself going under. And losing consciousness, and I would not. And I didn't, so this wonderful man came and helped me.

KING: Put the fire out?

L. MANNING: Yes, he did, and I was able to give him Greg's phone number.

According to the accounts I have heard, Debbie was in the lobby waiting for an elevator when AA Flight 11 hit on 93. The jet fuel from the plane poured down the elevator shafts. Owing to the way the elevators are laid out, I don't understand how the fuel got into the elevator that she was waiting for. There are / (were) "Sky Lobbies" on 44 and on 78. So to go above those floors, you took an express elevator to the appropriate sky lobby and then transferred to a local elevator. The elevator machinery was located on the floors above the sky lobbies; only a very few shafts continued all the way up. Anyway, apparently she was in the lobby, the elevator shaftway doors opened and a fireball hit her with full force. She survived and was taken to a hospital with 90% burns. After lingering for about 50 days she died.

Bill Pekrol: Bill is one of those survivors and was on the 72nd floor of the North Tower when that first plane hit at 8:47 a.m. attending a meeting with thirty people. The public address system issued its "all is safe" announcement. Bill and two attendees left the meeting after the building swayed and shook and numerous explosions set off by the jet fuel. Bill climbed down all 72 floors but when he arrived in the lobby of the Tower, 20 elevators exploded from the plane’s jet fuel... the noise was horrendous and the tower was beginning to collapse.

Bill spent the next three months in St. Vincent's Hospital where he clinically died twice but was resuscitated. He saw "the light," the tunnel, angels, and his sister who died seventeen years ago. He was unconscious the first twenty days he spent in the hospital and was told he would probably not walk again. Bill sustained fuel burns on the dorsal sides of both hands and suffered three skull fractures, a crushed knee, a broken jaw, burned corneas, and a lacerated abdomen that required 200 stitches to close. His injuries were sustained from steel beams that were blowing apart. Later, Bill was told that he was brought out of the North Tower unconscious and less than five minutes before it collapsed.

Mike Pecoraro: "When I walked out into the lobby, it was incredible," he recalled. "The whole lobby was soot and black, elevator doors were missing. The marble was missing off some of the walls. 20-foot section of marble, 20 by 10 foot sections of marble, gone from the walls".

The west windows were all gone. They were missing. These are tremendous windows. They were just gone. Broken glass everywhere, the revolving doors were all broken and their glass was gone. Every sprinkler head was going off. I am thinking to myself, how are these sprinkler heads going off? It takes a lot of heat to set off a sprinkler head. It never dawned on me that there was a giant fireball that came through the air of the lobby. I never knew that until later on. The jet fuel actually came down the elevator shaft, blew off all the (elevator) doors and flames rolled through the lobby. That explained all the burnt people and why everything was sooted in the lobby."

Below: WTC Plaza. Left to right: South tower, Marriott Vista Hotel, Fritz Koenig's sculpture "Sphere," North tower with performance stage.

Below: WTC Concourse level.This level (street level) includes the large shopping mall that covered much of the WTC site., not only the tower areas. People who were in the concourse when flight 11 hit but did not feel an explosion may have been far from the north tower. The WTC plaza, one level above, was a large elevated platform.

Above: Evacuees on escalator from plaza level to concourse level.
Below: Warner Brothers WTC concourse store at Church Street, before and after 9/11.

John Morabito: They turned right onto West Street, nearing the entrance to the north tower. A man — in shock, his clothes on fire — crossed in front of them.

“He’s completely engulfed in flames, and he’s looking at me because now he thinks I’m going to run him over,” Morabito says.

Morabito skidded the truck sideways to stop the man from running and got out as another man came charging off the sidewalk and tackled the burning man, damping out the flames with a jacket. They were 100 feet from the tower entrance.

As Morabito and off-duty firefighter Terry Rivera doused the burn victim, wrapped him in a burn blanket and got him into an ambulance, Lt. Harrell led his inside team, firefighters Tallon and Jeffrey Olsen, into Tower One.

“What we didn’t know, and found out later, was that when the plane hit, the jet fuel came down the center elevator shaft, and it lit up in a big fireball in the lobby so that people in the lobby were incinerated,” Morabito said. “This man must have been close by and he was burned.”

Later, they would learn the burn victim survived.

The Port Authority's on-site commanding police officer [Captain (now Deputy Chief) Anthony Whitaker] was standing in the concourse when a fireball erupted out of elevator shafts and exploded onto the mall concourse, causing him to dive for cover.

"At the time of the attacks, Chief Whitaker was the police captain responsible for all Port Authority officers assigned to the World Trade Center. He played a major role in directing the evacuation of the complex after the attacks. He also narrowly escaped death by dodging a fireball of jet fuel that exploded from an elevator shaft."

"Whitaker saw a fireball burst through the front doors of the north tower. It chased some people, engulfed others."

[Whitaker] "When Flight 11 hit, he had been standing in front of a Banana Republic store in the enclosed shopping mall and concourse beneath the two towers, a spot he occupied four mornings a week and where thousands of people exiting the subways could see him. Whitaker had been stunned by a fireball that ran down an elevator shaft in the north tower." 102 Minutes: The Untold Story of the Fight to Survive Inside the Twin Towers, Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn, 2006. MacMillan, New York. p. 78

Carl Andreason: "Sheetrock fell from the walls," says Andreasen. "Elevator doors were melted and twisted. I knew there must be a terrible fire in the elevator shafts."

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.

Akbar Emani, owner of Akbar's restaurant: "Last Tuesday at about 8.50 in the morning I got a phone call from one of my employees that the kitchen back wall had come down, and the fire alarm panel, which is located in the back of the store, was also on the floor. And while I was talking to him on the floor, he mentioned to me that the ceiling has also come down a little bit - a part of the ceiling. And that alarmed me, and I asked him to go and call the police. He said that there are no police available over there, and I said that's not possible, because normally there are about 25 to 30 police officers - there is a command post right next to the restaurant. At that time I knew something was terribly wrong, and I asked my general manager to get out of the restaurant immediately - we had about 37 employees. He wanted to stay back and, you know, collect the sales, and, but I asked him, you know, just don't waste your time, I think there is something wrong - let me find out - just get out this minute, right now, and that's what he did."

Tim Pearson, NYPD (After ST collapse): As we’re going down, I can see the floor had collapsed. The south tower had collapsed the south side of the north tower. And I see nothing but fire all along there. It’s all fire down in the basement concourse, too, where we went in with the swinging doors, where they’ll take you out of the plaza. ...Eventually we make a right and go through the middle of the elevator banks, but on the other side of the banks is a big, open area filled with debris and fire. Now I can see, and obviously smell, the jet fuel that had come down the elevator shaft and that was all over the floor."
(Smith, Dennis. Report From Ground Zero. New York: Viking Penguin, 2002. p. 137)

The Port Authority’s on-site commanding police officer was standing in the concourse when a fireball exploded out of the North Tower lobby, causing him to dive for cover.

Linda Tollner: I was in the World Trade Center headed for a 9:30 meeting on the 72nd floor of Tower One. I was about 15 minutes from getting on the elevator. I was still on the concourse level (ground) when the first plane hit. There was smoke, but people were calmly walking to the exits. We didn't know what happened. Out side was a kind of surreal atmosphere. Lots of debris. I saw the building on fire, big holes, and then ran for cover. When the second plane hit, I was just below and had just walked into the lobby of a building across the street from the south side of Tower Two where the plane hit. The noise was incredible. There was a lot of panic in there. I thought I was going to be buried by a falling tower. I held on to the people next to me, they were praying.

Alison Summers: Afterwards, I withdrew some money at the HSBC bank and took the escalator downstairs to the main concourse and joined an incredible throng of people. It was 8:45 am, and thousands were coming to work.

I stopped to get a paper and cut diagonally through the crowd, weaving and dodging my way towards the subway station. I had almost reached the Uptown 1 and 9 station when there was an enormous explosion. The building shook. I heard people say, "Oh, no." Some, not many, were screaming.

We all knew at that moment that we were under a terrorist attack. Most of us assumed it was a bomb.

I looked ahead past Banana Republic, past Citibank to the plaza outside. At that moment, there was a terrifying tidal wave of smoke filling the doorway. It began to shoot forward. The smoke had this enormous momentum that started to come towards us, as if it had a will of its own.

We ran. We ran together past the Coach store. We ran to get out of the path of this enormous wave of smoke. It was like we were being chased. All the people on the concourse ran. We turned right, heading toward the PATH trains.

As we ran, shop assistants were calling in doorways, "What happened? What happened?" But we were running so fast we couldn't answer them and they ran with us. Some people were crying; some people were screaming.

We moved as one body. No one pushed and no one shoved. We all had the same intention: to get out of the building.

S. Alexander: My normal commute involves taking the PATH train from New Jersey to WTC in New York. I reached WTC around 8:57 am and as soon as the doors opened we were engulfed by some chemical that smelled like kerosene and smoke. Not realizing what had happened I walked up the escalator to the ground floor of the WTC where Police officers were directing all commuters to leave the building as soon as possible. Emerging outside of WTC, it looked like a bomb had exploded because there was debris everywhere, paper, fibre-glass insulation and numerous other office stationary material. In my mind I recalled the bombing from 1993 and thought this was something very similar.

Basement Levels

Basement, level unknown.
Bobby Hall, ABM: The engineering crew often worked in lower level mechanical rooms near the ventilation and elevator shafts of the complex. Jet fuel flowed down those shafts, causing explosions and fires near those rooms.

Bobby Hall, of Staten Island, was near a mechanical room floor 50 feet underground when the impact of a falling elevator threw him against a steel door. He struggled to his feet, and assisted two other injured men. Outside, he borrowed a cell phone from a man on the plaza to call his wife. Moments later, the man was killed by falling debris, Hall said.,0,1597086.story?page=2&?track=sto-relcon

“We were going to our shop to make a call and find out what the first explosion was and the place just came apart on us,” Bobby said. “What we found out later was the hot wind was the number 50 freight car falling from the 88th floor and it just came into the area where we were and just blew us back out into the parking lot.”

Basement, B1 Level (this is confirmed by Anthony Saltalamacchia's account, below)
Kenneth Johannemann, ABM Janitorial Services (Note: this quote gives the impression that Johannemann was on the 30th floor. He wasn’t, as he says in the video that follows the quotes.)

My shift is from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. I’m always on time, but today I got lucky because I went to the 30th floor to get a cup of coffee. If I hadn’t gotten that cup of coffee, I would have been blown up on the elevator. I was waiting by the elevator to go to the restrooms, and then there was a big bang, and the whole building shook. The elevator door flew open, and a guy stumbled out, and he was badly burned. He was a delivery guy. The skin from his wrist was hanging down past his fingertips.

Kenny Johannemann was in the number one tower of the World Trade centre, waiting for the elevator in the basement.

It was shift-change time, the time of day when the building is most crowded.

"The lift door exploded open. there was a man inside half burnt. His skin was hanging off.

"I dragged him out of the lift and somebody helped me get him out for the building.

Johannemann video:
"What happened was, I was down in the basement, all of sudden we heard a loud bang. And the elevator doors blew open, some guy was burnt up, so I dragged him out, his skin was all hanging off, so I dragged him out and pulled him outta the parking lot [inaudible]" See video:

Basement, level unknown.
Male: (inaudible) try to round up anyone that was in subgrade. I’m with Tony, and Myron, and Petri, and Phil, right now. PA Transcript, WTC channel 25 Radio Channel B – Maintenance and Electric (p. 8)

B1 Level, about 5 minutes after north tower impact
Male: (Inaudible) B-1 level, One World Trade Center. It’s (inaudible), we had a minor explosion or a major explosion, something happened down here.

Male: Roger, there was an explosion on the upper floors. PA transcript 047 – WTC Radio Channel 26 Radio Channel W – Police

Basement (or lobby?)
One particular memory sticks with Pecoraro: He was in the lobby of the north tower when the force of the south tower collapse knocked him over and separated him from colleague Arthur DelBianco. (Note: Delbianco says he was in the basement when the south tower collapsed.)

It was very dark and quiet, he said, except for the feathery descent of ash and dust. He thought he was alone. "As soon as I hit the flashlight button, people were all over me," he said. "They were yanking on my shirt. They had their hands in my mouth. I turned the flashlight off."

Pecoraro found a cluster of firefighters. "They asked me who I was," he said. "I said I'm an engineer in the building. They said 'Good. How the -- do we get out of here?'"

Meanwhile, DelBianco was buried in debris. "I said to myself, I'm dead," DelBianco recalled. "I can't believe I died. And it was so dark I thought I went to the wrong place. I thought I had been a good guy."

From the floor, he grabbed a firefighter and asked for help. The firefighter said, "Let go, let go. I got to get out," DelBianco recalled. "He's beating my hand. I'm holding on."

The duo staggered out, collecting other injured people along the way, one person gripping the next.

DelBianco finally found Pecoraro and they embraced. "He's crying. I tell him, look at us. We worked together 15 years, and we fought every day."

Basement levels, after both planes hit, Arthur Delbianco:
I went downstairs looking for my fellow workers, because at that time I didn't know the extent of the explosion. I thought that it was just an explosion, not that it was two planes that ran into the building. So we were looking sub-grade for fellow workers.

And I got out of the building at one point, and saw the two planes and the building burning, and people jumping out of the building, and started to round up guys on the radio, to see who's out, who's missing. You know, because we work below ground. There's six levels below ground. And it traverses throughout the complex, throughout the five buildings.

I went looking for my friend Hursley Lever over here, and couldn't find him. Myself and Mike Pecoraro were back in the building looking for him, and we couldn't find him. We helped the paramedics to, uh, work their way down, and the firemen to work their way down, because Marlene (Cruz) was hurt on the second level below ground.

At that point we got out, because the smoke and the water was getting too heavy, and when I got up to the concourse level, it was just like, gunfire, and then just three big explosions, and the elevator banks came down, and the windows and the glass and the stainless steel and the marble, just started pushing us. So we started running to get out of there, and it pushed us through the rubble, like, 25 to 50 feet. And I wound up hanging by an elevator pit with my hand on a turnstile. When I awoke, when it stopped, I felt someone over me, and it was a firefighter. I heard his Scott pak, or his tank, and I just reached up and grabbed for anything going by me, and I grabbed his belt. And he helped me to my feet. And as we went along, trying to find our way out to Liberty Street, we just grabbed people along the way. And just said, 'Hold on, hold on. Don't let go. Caravan out. Everybody follow each other out. Hold on to each other.' When I got outside, the building come down."

Matt Lauer: "So how far from the building were you when it actually collapsed?"

Delbianco: "We just stepped across the street by the Financial Center."

Basement, when south tower collapses (Note: according to Cruz, she was removed by co-workers after about 40 minutes of lying injured in the basement. It is unlikely that she was running anywhere.) Arthur Delbianco, ABM: They rushed people into the cramped elevator and rode down to the lobby. But that wasn’t enough for Delbianco. He had to find his coworkers in the basement and make sure they got out, too. As people ran from the building, he descended into the subterranean levels. It was dark. The sprinklers sprayed ice-cold water. Ceiling tiles collapsed. Somehow, Delbianco found his friends, carpenter Marlene Cruz and mechanic Hursley Lever. They were running through the chaos when something exploded. “The blast came from behind us and just pushed us down,” Delbianco said. “We just slid like 25 or 50 feet.” Delbianco’s calm demeanor gave way to terror as his shoulder separated and his knee shattered. “I just started screaming at the tops of my lungs. The noise was so loud. I kept saying, ‘Oh, my God, this is it. This is the day that I’m going to die.’” Then salvation. A firefighter stepped on him in the dark. Delbianco reached up and grabbed his belt. “I just thought, ‘Hang on.’” The firefighter hoisted Delbianco to his feet. But he had no idea how to get out of the dark labyrinth. Delbianco had to lead the way. Together, they limped to safety.

Basement: level unknown
A survivor in the basement: “I saw a big bright orange color coming through the basement with the smoke ... A fire ball came shooting out of the basement door.” Interview 100760 (NIST 2004) 
B1 Level, Anthony Saltalamacchia, in maintenance office with William Rodriguez
My position was morning supervisor, from the hours of 6 am to 3 pm. I would supervise over a hundred workers and designate their work for the day. On the mornig of September 11th, I was in my office. I was just getting the work handed out to all the employees when I received a phone call from William Rodriguez saying that he wasn't going to make it into work that day. I then kind of pleaded with him to come into to work, because, how you say, his job is very difficult, to where he had to clean 110 floors of stairs.

...He then came in. We then were talking about the day's work, and what needed to be done, when we heard a massive explosion that was in the World Trade Center at about 8:46 in the morning. (video is edited here)

Um, the explosion came from, I believe, we believe that it first came from the mechanical room. Then we heard a series of other, uh, explosions that sounded up on the above levels of the building, to where we then realized that there was something wrong, and there was a major problem. (video edited)

And, I'd say, about 14 or 15 people came running and screaming into our office. We then, uh, got together as a group, and William kind of, basically got everybody settled down. You know, try to help everybody relax. Then right after that (video edited)

The floor started shaking. The tile from above, which was above us, started coming down, falling on us, and we knew that there was something seriously wrong happening (video edited)

A man came into the office. He was a black man. Very shaky, very, like, in shock. He had multiple wounds. His arms were bleeding. His skin was peeling off. You could just see, basically, his flesh. Um, it was a very tough thing to see. Then William grabbed a cloth and wrapped it around him. And at the time nobody really wanted to go near him because he was covered in blood. But, you know, uh, William did what he had to do, and get him to safety. (video edited)

As we're standing there, more explosions were happening. A lot of screaming, confusion. And then William said that it's time, like, we have to get out of the building. In that manner, all of us departed out. It was very smoky, very cloudy. It just looked like (video edited) very serious, that we knew we had to get out of the building.

Um, we then ran towards the truck dock area, which was pretty much our only way out, because in the beginning, William led us to the fire escape, which led us to the lobby. But that was just completely under smoke, and it was just a bad situation. So we went the opposite way towards the truck dock, carrying this man with us. We then got to the truck dock, ran up the truck dock, and got outside, finally. I'm not sure what time that was, but we then saw the ambulance, and William and Kenny (Johannemann) directed the man, carried him over to the ambulance, and made sure that he got to safety. (video edited)

I remember Willie wanted to go back into the building. I told him, 'No, stay out here with me. Let's get things more, let's get everybody together, get everybody calmed down.' He just refused and was screaming, you know 'We have to go back in the building, we have to go back.' I'm sure he, you know, he had a lot of ties to a lot of people in there, and he wanted to make sure that they were all right. So I did my best to try to persuade him to stay with us, you know, be safe, but he just didn't listen and ran back into the building. (video edited)

...The amount of explosions I've heard, uh, from 8:46 to the time we got out, was so many, at least 10. It was just like multiple explosions to where I felt like there was different grenades.That's what it sounded like, it was just different grenades being set off, like, in the building. It was, like, there was one major explosion, and then there was different explosions throughout that time period, until we got out. (video edited)

...Being inside, we didn't know that there was anything wrong from the upper levels. We didn't know what to expect, what to see.

B1 level: William Rodriguez

CNN live broadcast, September 11, 2001: “RODRIGUEZ: 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.”

Quoted by CNN 9/12/01: "We heard a loud rumble, then all of a sudden we heard another rumble like someone moving a whole lot of furniture," Rodriguez said. "and then the elevator opened and a man came into our office and all of his skin was off."

CNN broadcast aired September 11, 2002: 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.

But since he was late, Rodriguez found himself checking into work in an office on sub-level 1 when the north tower was hit, seemingly out of harms way. However, the sound and concussion of a massive explosion in the sub-levels right below his feet changed that.

"When I heard the sound of the explosion, the floor beneath my feet vibrated, the walls started cracking and it everything started shaking," said Rodriguez, who was huddled together with at least 14 other people in the office.

Rodriguez said Anthony Saltamachia, supervisor for the American Maintenance Co., was one of the people in the room who stands ready to verify his story.

"Seconds after the first massive explosion below in the basement still rattled the floor, I hear another explosion from way above," said Rodriguez. "Although I was unaware at the time, this was the airplane hitting the tower, it occurred moments after the first explosion."

But before Rodriguez had time to think, co-worker Felipe David stormed into the basement office with severe burns on his face and arms, screaming for help and yelling "explosion! explosion! explosion!"

David had been in front of a nearby freight elevator on sub-level 1 about 400 feet from the office when fire burst out of the elevator shaft, causing his injuries.

"He was burned terribly," said Rodriguez. "The skin was hanging off his hands and arms. His injuries couldn’t have come from the airplane above, but only from a massive explosion below. I don’t care what the government says, what scientists say. I saw a man burned terribly from a fire that was caused from an explosion below.

"I know there were explosives placed below the trade center. I helped a man to safety who is living proof, living proof the government story is a lie and a cover-up.”

B1 or B2 levels:
Felipe David, who had been standing in front of a freight elevator on sub level 1:
“Standing in front of a freight elevator on sub level 1 near the office where Rodriguez and 14 others were huddled together when the explosion erupted below, David said in the taped interview:

"That day I was in the basement in sub-level 1 [note: Rodriguez says David was on B2, and came up the stairs to get to the office] sometime after 8:30am. Everything happened so fast, everything moved so fast. The building started shaking after I heard the explosion below, dust was flying everywhere and all of a sudden it got real hot.
"I threw myself onto the floor, covered my face because I felt like I was burned. I sat there for a couple of seconds on the floor and felt like I was going to die, saying to myself 'God, please give me strength.'"
Although severely burned on his face, arms and hands with skin hanging from his body like pieces of cloth, David picked himself up, running for help to the office were Rodriguez and others were gathered.”
"When I went in, I told them it was an explosion," said David, who was then helped out of the WTC by Rodriguez and eventually taken by ambulance to New York Hospital. "When people looked at me with my skin hanging, they started crying but I heard others say 'OK, good, good, you made it alive."

In 2002, David described that incident differently, but it sounds as though he’s exaggerating a bit (I don’t think there’s any doubt about him being helped by William Rodriguez and others, and six blocks to find an exit simply makes no sense):

“When the first plane crashed, David was taking inventory of the vending machines in the center's basement. "I asked God to give me strength. And I was able to get up and run six blocks to find an exit," he says.”

Rodriguez visits David in the hospital in this video (in Spanish):
In the video, Rodriguez blames Osama bin Laden for causing his “great pain,” and David calls bin Laden an “animal.”

B2 Level
Male: ASAP, six-three, be advised, I have two ABM workers down here on the B2 between the red and the yellow lots.

Male: Where do you need the assistance for the ABM workers?

Male: B2 between the red lot, and the yellow lot, the walkway where the ABM office is. WTC Ch, 22 SHO PD Desk – 2131 (P. 4)

B2 Level
Female: (inaudible) be advised, there is so much smoke on B2 west, we’re evacuating and we’re coming up! WTC Ch, 22 SHO PD Desk – 2131 (P. 14)

B1 to B3 level
In the taped interview, (Salvatore) Giambanco told Gurisatti, the Colombian reporter:

"We heard the explosion and the smoke all of a sudden came from all over. There was an incredible force of wind that also swept everything away. I remember hearing a scream of a woman, but I couldn't see her. I had just gotten off the elevator and I was standing by it with another man but didn't know his name.

"The doors of the elevator were still open and, I don't know why we did, but we both jumped back in maybe because of the wind whipping everything around in the hallway. "Then, suddenly, the elevator doors closed in front of us and we started going down. It all of a sudden stopped and I could see through the cracks we were between B-2 and B-3. We were both screaming and afraid. I remember seeing through the slot of the elevator and seeing other people running and screaming.

"Then water started gushing in the elevator and I remember saying, 'God, please help us.' At that point, I was resigned to the fact I was going to die"

But like a miracle, Giambanco's plea to God was answered as all of a sudden he heard someone yelling from above, "How many people are down there?"

The miracle above turned out to be Rodriguez who had returned into the WTC after helping David to safety in order to help others after disobeying police orders to remain outside.

"I remember rushing past police, telling them to go to hell as I was going back to help my friends no matter what," recalls Rodriguez about his basement search for survivors before eventually only making his way to the 39th floor before being turned back in a desperate attempt to reach the top floors.

In the basement, Rodriguez managed to find a construction ladder, miraculously lowering it into the elevator after courageously entering the darkened shaft and opening the top hatch on the elevator where Giambanco and the other unidentified man now were standing thigh-deep in water from the broken or activated sprinkler system spewing water into the elevator shaft.

"I don't know he did it, but I felt him just pick me up and pull me out," said Giambanco about Rodriguez's rescue efforts. "I didn't know who he was then, but I do now and he definitely saved my life. If it wasn't for William Rodriguez, I wouldn't be here today."

"For me, William is like my brother. He single handedly saved my life." [Note: Rodriguez did have help.]

"I threw myself on the hospital floor in tears and I finally had to get an injection to calm me down," said Giambanco. "For a long time after, every time I would try to go to sleep I would get nightmares about being trapped in the elevator." Reflecting back on his 9/11 near death experience, he added: "I remember riding in the ambulance that morning and looking back, thinking it had to be a bomb.” Later they told me it was an airplane that hit the towers, but how could it just be an airplane? I know all the newspapers were saying that, but it was just too incredible to believe if you heard and experienced what I did. It had to be a bomb."

B1 level
Radio Channel Y – Port Authority Radio Transcript WTC Operations (PA 049)
Willy: (Inaudible) is injured, I'm inside the building with uh...(inaudible). We're helping some people stuck inside the elevator (inaudible).
John: Willy, what floor are you on, Willy?
Willy: We are in the B1 office right now, on the K car.
Male: Willy, get out of the office and come outside on Church Street.
Willy: Copy, as soon as we get these people out, we're getting them out now.
Male: Willy, I want you to go right to Church Street and Liberty! Get to Liberty and Broadway!
Willy: You got it.

B1 level
Ivan Almendarez was a maintenance worker in Building 1 of the World Trade Center. 'I usually work on the concourse, but I was in the basement, charging up my radio and getting some supplies, when the first plane hit,' Ivan said.

'The impact was so great, everything just paused. I looked up and waited for the ceiling to collapse. When I saw the whole building move, and the walls were still standing, I thought the ceiling would collapse on us. So, we all threw ourselves under the tables.

'My supervisor and I helped a worker out. He was so badly burned. It was terrible. He had no skin on his face or his hands,' Ivan said.

B1-B2 levels
Arturo Grffith, elevator operator, in freight car 50A with carpenter Marlene Cruz:
Arturo Griffith, a Panamanian, was in a lift at the time of the impact. The whole car shook and juddered as he heard an ominous noise from above.

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.'

"I felt the explosion and the elevator dropped," Arturo said at St. Vincents Hospital in Manhattan, where he's being treated for a broken leg.

B1-B2 levels, Marlene Cruz, fell in #50 freight elevator with Arturo Griffith
"Today Show" host Matt Lauer: "Marlene, what are the extent of your injuries?"

Cruz: "Well, thank God I'm not that bad anymore. My back is just very sore since all the debris fell on me. My leg, it's sprained, um, I have it in a cast now, but so far it's been good, thank God. I walked in here, felt like a whole truck fell on me."

Lauer: "Can you just describe where you ended up, where you finally cane to a rest, I guess, after this incredible ordeal? Just describe your surroundings. What were you seeing?"

Cruz: "Well, like I said, I was going to, I got on the 50 car, which is the freight elevator. I was going to do a job on the 46th floor. And the elevator operator closed the door. It was just me and him in the elevator. All of a sudden I heard that explosion, and the doors blew, and the elevator dropped, and there was smoke, and fire, and water all over the place. Debris, concrete: you name it, just fell on top of us. He was out cold for a second."

Lauer: "How far did the elevator drop?"

Cruz: "I can't really tell you. But I was caught in between the floors. And I was lucky, and there was some other guys, co-workers. Like Artie (Delbianco) says, there's all workers on the B-levels, and they just pulled me out, and they layed me on the floor. I was laying there for about 40 minutes with one of my partners, Carl. And he stood by me. But my boss was hysterical because nobody was coming to get me or the other guy. So he says, 'The hell with it. Let's get her out of there. I just felt, uh, like they put me on some kind of wood or something and they carried me out on a trolley or something. I don't know, I'm not sure. And they just pushed me out through the parking lot, through the parking lot to Barclay Street. And finally he hailed an ambulance, and I want to thank him. If it wasn't for my boss I would've still been down there."

Marlene Cruz: I work for the Trade Center. I’m one of the carpenters, and I was gonna go do a job, and I got on the elevator – the freight elevator – and I heard the first explosion, and the elevator blew up, and the doors blew up, and it dropped. I was lucky that the elevator got caught between two floors, the “B” levels, the basement floors, you know, where all the mechanics are. And with the screaming and yelling the coworkers pulled the elevator guy out and myself.

…When I heard that explosion, the first thing I thought was, “Here we go again: another bomb.” [she had survived the 1993 bombing] She was laying there for about 40 minutes, waiting for EMS. Finally her co-workers removed her via the parking lot and Barclay Street. Watch video:

Survivors held to their spirit, like Marlene Cruz, who sported a neck brace, a leg cast and an unbroken will. ``I wouldn't let a terrorist stop me,'' she said at Bellevue Hospital. ``If the building were still there, I would go back.''

Mike (Pecoraro) walked through the open doorway and found two people lying on the floor. One was a female Carpenter and the other an Elevator Operator. They were both badly burned and injured.

Marlene Cruz

B4 Level, Hursley Lever: "I was in the B-4 level. ... I heard 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. And that's when I got hit. It hit me right back down on the ground and I realized my ankle was shattered." Source

B4 level: blast 30 seconds after building movement.

Edward McCabe, building engineer, describes blast at Turner Construction's Field Office in the tower core. (divided into paragraphs for legibility, spelling and grammar left as is): 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 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. i stood at the bottom of this staircase wondering what happened. seconds later through the smoke came people who worked beyond that door for the construction company. they were all secrataries, they walked like zombies not speaking I can smell their burnt flesh. one was bleeding pretty bad and i started to walk her to path train station accross the plant. 1 woman seemed unharmed and i asked her what happened. she told me a bomb blew up their offices.

when we got to the PATH platform i layed the woman down, she thanked me, and i returned to the blown door to see if i could find anyone else. Sure enough there were more, the smoke was being sucked up the shaft now and i can see there were no longer any walls just rubble. 1 woman was under her desk refusing to come out. after a little coaxing she came and at this point a few of my colleuges, were sifting through the rubble, trying to find anybody. we did about 3 trips. everyone was out.

i returned to the plant and called for ems on the radio (walky talky), I couldn't get through there was chaos on the radio. I switched on the am radio we had in the plant to the all news station and heard "ONCE AGAIN A PLANE HAS HIT THE 86 FLOOR OF ONE WORLD TRADE CENTER". my heart sunk. I said to my self lets get the fuck outta here.

i started running towards the area where we had brought the injured when i see about 9 fire men running my way. they approached me an asked "where are we getting all these people from." I told them over there pointing about 25 yards away to the staircase with the blown door. they asked me to show them exactly where and I told them "there is no one left lets get the hell outta here", they told me to calm down and lead them to the offices beyond the blown door. I said "ok lets do this " so we start running for the stairs as we started to ascend the lights went out just the little exit signs over the doors were illuminated. I started to panic. (I found out later on the lights were lost when the second plane hit.)

not one of the firemen had a freakin flashlight, I couldn't believe it, i guess in all this chaos they forgot them. the firemen in charge said to me, "wait here we will be right back", and just like that they all ran back the way they came. Not 1 of them stayed behind.

I stood there at the bottom of those stairs scared shitless ,in the dark, listening to the eery sound of the smoke sucking up that elevator shaft. Maybe a minute passed when I said to myself "what am I a fuckin' idiot." and proceeded to run past the area where we brought the injured in path station, EMS was taking care of them and for that i was thankfull.

B4 level (possibly Edward McCabe)
MALE CALLER- B-4 LEVEL: Officer, help. We're down in the B-4 level. This is Turner's field office. There's been a big explosion. We've got water lines open. There seems to be steam and smoke in the area.

MALE CALLER- B-4 LEVEL: It's...yeah, we got smoke. I don't know whether it's from fire, or just dust. We got broken water lines, water all over.
0853 4-1 radios WTC Police Desk reporting an explosion on the lower level.
0853 WTC Desk replies there was an explosion on the upper floors
0857 WTC requests an available unit to check Turner Construction, 1 WTC B-4 Level, report of broken water pipes.
0901 PO Houston, PO Davis and PO Wholey start to evacuate the B-4 Level, 1 WTC.
0911 PO Houston, PO Davis and PO Wholey are clear of the B-4 level. PO Houston asks, "Where do you need us?" WTC Police Desk responds the 90th and the 22nd floors.
0912 PO Houston, PO Davis and PO Wholey advise Police Desk of trapped ABM workers on the B-4 level, as per a report from an ABM worker. The desk acknowledges.
(Port Authority Transcript, Chronological Report of the WTC Radio Transmissions on 9/11/01, P. 2) [PAPD officers Clinton Davis and Michael Wholey died on 9/11]

B4 Level
Ed Calderone, OCC: Maggett, this is Ed at the OCC. I got word that there’s an explosion down on B-4. We got people hurt down there, B-4. PA Transcript, WTC Ch 09 Police desk 3541 Center

B4 Level (After 24:40 on tape)
Male: Roger, T-C World Trade, be advised, (inaudible) from ABM he got (inaudible) assistance from ...he got (inaudible) assistance from the B-4 level.

Male: Roger, be advised, (inaudible), I got a ABM worker, myself, and two other people (inaudible) A-2 David, we’re going to go down to the B-4 level. The ABM guy says that he’s got (inaudible) from some guys down there, they’re trapped downstairs. We are going to check and advise, copy? PA transcript 047 – WTC Radio Channel 26 Radio Channel W – Police

B4 Level
Male: (inaudible) seven-seven, we need the EMS; by the classroom, B-4 plant.

Male: It’s, uh...both shops, they got people down there. You can’t go down there, because there’s smoke. PA Ch. 15 – NYC EMS Direct Line (p. 10)

B4 Level
(Pg. 4, After 3:21 from start of tape.) Male: (inaudible) ...We’re down at the B-4 level in (Overlap/Inaudible)...field office...

Male:...seen...the fucking area...(inaudible)

Male: They’re across the hall from the 50 car.

Male: Are there any smoke conditions there?

Male: Yeah, we got smoke. I don’t know whether it’s (inaudible) soot or whether it’s dust, but we got smoke and water lines...(inaudible) ...Building One. PA Transcript, PA Ch. 15 – NYC EMS Direct Line

B4 level
In the 2002 taped statement, (Jose) Sanchez recalls, at the same time Rodriguez and the others heard the explosion, being in a small sub-level 4 workshop with another man who he only knew by the name of Chino when, out of nowhere, the blast sounded as the two men were cutting a piece of metal.

“It sounded like a bomb and the lights went on and off,” said Sanchez in the tape recording. “We started to walk to the exit and a huge ball of fire went through the freight elevator. The hot air from the ball of fire dropped Chino to the floor and my hair got burned,” said Sanchez in the tape recording. “The room then got full of smoke and I remember saying out loud ‘I believe it was a bomb that blew up inside the building.’

B4 level
Phillip Morelli: "As I'm walking by the main freight car of the building, in the corridor, that's when I got blown. I mean, the impact of the explosion, of whatever happened, it threw me to the floor, and that's when everything started happening. It knocked me right to the floor. Of course you didn't know what it was, you're assuming something just fell over in the loading dock, something very heavy, something very big. You don't know what happened, and all of a sudden you just felt the floor moving, and you get up, and the walls – and then, you know now I'm hearing that the main freight car, you know the elevators, fell down, so I was right near the main freight car, so I assume what that was. [Describing the same event] Then, you know, you heard that coming towards you, I was racing, I was going towards the bathrooms, you know, all of a sudden, and a big impact happened again, and all the ceiling tiles were falling down, the light fixtures falling, swinging out of the ceiling.

And I come running out of the door, and everything – the walls were down, and now I started running towards the parking lot. [He describes going underground from WTC 1 to 2, helping injured people.] And then all of a sudden it happened all over again. Building 2 got hit. Again, I don't know that, I just know something else hit into the floor. Right in the basement you felt it. Walls were caving in, everything that was going on. I mean, I know people that got killed in the basement, I know people that got broken legs in the basement, people that got reconstructive surgery because the walls hit them in the face."

B4 Level, Philip Morelli Morelli, a Local Union 79 shop steward, and Mancini got their first assignments of the day. Mancini took the express elevator up to one of the top floors of the 110-story tower. Morelli went down to one of the sub-basement levels.

A few short minutes later in floor B4, Morelli was knocked off his feet as the entire building shook violently. He heard elevators falling through the shafts, followed by blasts of intense heat. Pipes were breaking and people were screaming. He did not know that a hijacked jumbo jet had just slammed into the tower—it was September 11, 2001—but he knew everyone needed to get out in a hurry.

Morelli tried to take the stairs up to the lobby of the North Tower, but they were blocked by fallen debris. Fortunately, he knew the World Trade Center complex like a map—he had worked there for many years and was there during the 1993 terrorist bombing. Morelli made his way toward the South Tower, when he felt another violent shudder. So he changed direction again, went into the parking lot underneath the towers and ran the long way up the ramps into daylight. He finally left the complex just as the South Tower was collapsing.

B5 Level
Male: yeah, we need the electrician down to the B-5 plant. We also have a smoke condition down here. PA Transcript, WTC channel 25 Radio Channel B – Maintenance and Electric

B6 level
Deep below the tower, Mike Pecoraro was suddenly interrupted in his grinding task by a shake on his shoulder from his co-worker. "Did you see that?" he was asked. Mike told him that he had seen nothing. "You didn't see the lights flicker?", his co-worker asked again. "No," Mike responded, but he knew immediately that if the lights had flickered, it could spell trouble. A power surge or interruption could play havoc with the building's equipment. If all the pumps trip out or pulse meters trip, it could make for a very long day bringing the entire center's equipment back on-line.

Mike told his co-worker to call upstairs to their Assistant Chief Engineer and find out if everything was all right. His co-worker made the call and reported back to Mike that he was told that the Assistant Chief did not know what happened but that the whole building seemed to shake and there was a loud explosion. They had been told to stay where they were and "sit tight" until the Assistant Chief got back to them. By this time, however, the room they were working in began to fill with a white smoke. "We smelled kerosene," Mike recalled, "I was thinking maybe a car fire was upstairs", referring to the parking garage located below grade in the tower but above the deep space where they were working.

The two decided to ascend the stairs to the C level, to a small machine shop where Vito Deleo and David Williams were supposed to be working. When the two arrived at the C level, they found the machine shop gone.

"There was nothing there but rubble, "Mike said. "We're talking about a 50 ton hydraulic press – gone!" [Note: "50 tons" refers to the hydraulic capacity of the press, not to its weight. An average 50-ton press weighs 400-600 lbs. Here's an example. It seems likely to me that Pecoraro is referring to the press being buried by debris.] The two began yelling for their co-workers, but there was no answer. They saw a perfect line of smoke streaming through the air. "You could stand here," he said, "and two inches over you couldn't breathe. We couldn't see through the smoke so we started screaming." But there was still no answer.

The two made their way to the parking garage, but found that it, too, was gone. "There were no walls, there was rubble on the floor, and you can't see anything" he said.

Unknown location, radio transmission:
Firefighter Vincent Massa: The dispatcher announced that the elevators were dropping. I remember them saying at first to stay out of one of the elevators that serviced the 44th floor. Then less than a minute later they said do not use any elevators. …He said to stay out of all elevators because elevators were dropping.

Unknown location:
I even heard some radio transmissions about fire in the elevator shafts from the jet fuel. –FDNY Captain Charles Clarke

Unknown location:
9:12: WTC Police Desk radios PO Lim/K-9 asking if that is the smell of jet fuel. PO Lim/K-9 replies, "That's burning jet fuel." pg. 6
Unknown location, after 42:07 on tape
Male: Be advised, if EMS is available, I have an engine (sic) person that has some minor burns and injuries, due to a falling elevator. PA Transcript, PA Ch. 15 – NYC EMS Direct Line

Below: WTC basement lower levels