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

57 floor
Theresa Maria Leone: There was no smoke on the 57th, but there was a smell that I now realize was gasoline. Our staircase went down only as far as the 44th. We walked past two banks of elevators. I looked to the right and could see smoke coming out of one of them. ... I didn't know what we were going to face as we made our way down, a fireball in the stairwell, or what.

56th floor: Architect believes building was failing structurally
Architect Bob Shelton had his foot in a cast; he'd broken it falling off a curb two weeks ago. He heard the explosion of the first plane hitting the north tower from his 56th-floor office in the south tower. As he made his way down the stairwell, his building came under attack as well. "You could hear the building cracking. It sounded like when you have a bunch of spaghetti, and you break it in half to boil it." Shelton knew that what he was hearing was bad. "It was structural failure," Shelton says. "Once a building like that is off center, that's it.",8599,174655-1,00.html

53rd floor
Ladder 10, you copy that,? FDNY? 53rd floor (WTC 1) burning jet fuel.
(Transcript Port Authority WTC channel 09 Police desk 3541 Center, p. 19)

Below 53rd floor
Kenton Beerman, 24, was also sending e-mail at work when an explosion rocked 1 World Trade Center, making it sway back and forth for 10 seconds.

At first, Beerman thought the building would fall into the Hudson River. Then he realized it had stopped moving and saw thousands of pieces of paper fluttering outside.

``We thought it was a bomb in the freight elevator,'' Beerman said, because the sound of the explosion seemed to have come from that direction.

He headed into a corridor with about 15 co-workers and made his way down the stairs from the 53rd floor. The lights were still on but the stairwell reeked of smoke and something that smelled like kerosene. Beerman and others had to step aside so people who had been burned could descend more rapidly _ and so firefighters could head up the stairs.

51st floor
–Yeah, this is the police desk. Did you get that message that there’s burning jet fuel on the 51st floor, one World Trade Center?
–There’s what burning?
–Burning Jet fuel!
(Transcript Port Authority WTC Ch. 17 Fire Command, WTC 1, pg. 3)

50th floor
By the time they got to about the 50th floor, United Airlines Flight 175 had slammed into the south tower of the World Trade Center, something he wouldn't know about until later.

Instead, the smell of kerosene was getting stronger and soon he felt people bumping into him as Roselle, Frank and he continued downstairs.

The problem was, the people bumping into him were going the wrong way.
"I heard applause and was told they were firefighters," he said. "I clapped a few on the back, but I was scared for where they were going."

50th floor elevator
Before it reached its first landing, the building shook, and the elevator swung from side to side. After about 10 minutes, an announcement was made about an explosion, then went eerily quiet. Smoke entered the cabin. The passengers pried open the car doors, using Demczur's squeegee, only to be faced with a wall. They were on the 50th floor, not a stop for this elevator.

50th floor Elevator, with Demczur
George S. Phoeniz III: So, I got into an elevator that serviced floors 67-74. Five other guys got in after me, the last fellow being a window washer. He was carrying his bucket of soapy water with his squeegee and his wooden extension pole. The elevator started moving. Suddenly it stopped and banged violently from side to side. The lights were still on. We pushed the emergency call button to call for help. As far as we were concerned, the only thing that happened was that the elevator had stopped. No one answered right away so we pushed the alarm button. We pried the doors open only to find a wall in front of us with "50" chalked on it. Apparently, we were stuck at the 50th floor. We closed the doors and then someone answered our calls for help and I believe said something about an explosion in the building.

Then I smelled smoke. This changed things. We had to get out. I got out my handkerchief and covered my nose and mouth. Then I remembered that it was better to wet it so I dipped it in my milk. I suggested to the others to do the same. We pried open the doors again and laid down the window-washer's pole to keep the door open. It was the perfect size. Now we started kicking the hell out of the wall in front of us. It was no use. It was sheetrock, a.k.a. plasterboard or drywall, in 2 feet wide sections with a steel frame around it. It hardly moved. We would have to dig through it.

47th floor
They are saying they smell gas, and they can’t come out.  (Transcript, WTC channel 09 Police desk 3541 Center, pg. 6)

47th floor, 911 Emergency recording 8:56:57  From floor 47 a female caller states building shook and smells gas.

47th floor
Tom Canavan: So we had one exit, back of the office. So I put my hand on the back of the door there, and it was kind of warm. We had some smoke coming up underneath. So I knew we weren’t gonna go down that way. (Canavan was trapped briefly beneath the south tower collapse)

47th floor
Teresa Veliz: "I got off [the elevator], turned the corner and opened the door to the ladies' room. I said good morning to a lady sitting at a mirror when the whole building shook. I thought it was an earthquake. Then I heard those banging noises on the other side of the wall. It sounded like someone had cut the elevator cables. It just fell and fell and fell.

I began to cry. "Oh, my God, I just got off that elevator!" I said. "That could have been me." I prayed those other people had gotten off on the 48th floor before the elevator dropped. But I didn't have much time to be upset because the building shook again, this time even more violently. The lady at the mirror grabbed onto me and held on for dear life."

Veliz went down a staircase with a coworker to the concourse level. In the mall, they got onto an up-escalator as the South Tower collapsed, causing a rush of wind which knocked them down. In the pitch black, Veliz and her coworker followed someone carrying a flashlight:

"The flashlight led us into Borders bookstore, up an escalator and out to Church Street. There were explosions going off everywhere. I was convinced that there were bombs planted all over the place and someone was sitting at a control panel pushing detonator buttons. I was afraid to go down Church Street toward Broadway, but I had to do it. I ended up on Vesey Street. There was another explosion. And another. I didn't know where to run."

46th floor and below
The survivors of the first plot to bring down the Twin Towers, the botched attempt in 1993 that left six dead, had a great advantage over their colleagues. When the first explosion came, they knew to get out. Others were paralyzed by the noise, confused by the instructions. Consultant Andy Perry still has the reflexes. He grabbed his pal Nathan Shields from his office, and they began to run down 46 flights. With each passing floor more and more people joined the flow down the steps. The lights stayed on, but the lower stairs were filled with water from burst pipes and sprinklers. "Everyone watch your step," people called out. "Be careful!" The smell of jet fuel suffused the building. Hallways collapsed, flames shot out of a men's room. By the time they reached the lobby, they just wanted to get out--but the streets didn't look any safer.,8599,174655-1,00.html

45th floor
"...Rich Romanik ..I was in the men's room when the building got rocked, I opened the door which I was somewhat not to keen on doing. But, I said to myself, I will not die in the men's room, opened the door heavy smoke to the left and flames shooting out the service elevator, ran to my right to the stairs...down 45 flights through smoke and dust ...About the 9th floor the ceilings were cracking and the water pipes were busted pouring water on us...."

42nd floor elevator plunge to lobby
"...Yuichi Itakura of the Bank of Yokohama was on an elevator in the north tower when it came to a violent halt on the 42nd floor and began to plunge. He pressed an emergency alarm switch but no one answered.

"After it has stopped, Itakura and seven others trapped in the elevator decided to wait for rescuers, but the panic set in as their cage began to fill with fumes and pungent smell of burning machinery...."

""I thought that was the end of me," Itakura admitted. However, their spirit was raised after someone spotted a gleam of light through a tiny opening between the door and the floor, suggesting that they were in fact on the first floor. They forced the door open to find the normally lively lobby of the center empty except for emergency workers."

Low 40’s
David Frank: As we got into the low 40's the jet fuel got much more intense to the point where I thought we might pass out. People were clearly suffering the intense fumes and others were clearly beginning to panic. Roselle was not doing well panting heavily and we all needed water. Some people began passing small Poland Spring water bottles up to us from the floor below. This was a real relief. Roselle loved it. It cut some of the fuel taste burning our throats. It eased our sense of dehydration and smoke inhalation. Besides, it was wet.
I opened the door to the 40's floor and we momentarily stood in the doorway. I looked and saw no one on the floor. Smoke, and the smell of more jet fuel. We kept to the stairway.

Today, I believe that when the aircraft hit the north face of the tower, it's momentum, driven by the aircraft structure and fuel, vivisected the floor, slicing through the elevator shaft and effectively dumping fuel from the low 90's all the way down to the bottom. That's why we kept smelling fuel almost all the way down.

40th floor
Lynn Lickers: "We were on the 40th floor (I think) when some firemen and police officers moved us to another stairwell since the one we were in was too congested. As we walked across the hallways to get to the south side stairwell, the stench of jet fuel permeated the air, and a ceiling down one of the corridors had collapsed.

40th floor
Judith Toppin: As we walked across the hallways to get to the south side stairwell the stench of jet fuel permeated the air and a ceiling down one of the corridors had collapsed.

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.

40th floor
Jareau Almeyda : The next 30 fights were all stop and go. At about the 40th floor, we came to a dead stop. There was a closed door and a fire on that floor. That was a very scary moment. Someone behind us yelled he had the key. When he got to the door, it was the wrong key. I thought to my self, "I don’t want to burn to death." We quickly looked for another way out. We moved back up one floor to another nearby stairwell. We made it down another 20 flights in the same manner, stop and go. All the while people were very orderly; they kept their calm. We exchanged thoughts....

“I saw the elevator in front me had flames coming out from it. The elevator was closed but the flames came from the front where the doors meet and on the sides. They reached about a foot and a half, with the flames standing from the floor to the ceiling. I saw a chandelier shaking; it was really moving. The corridor was dim. I also heard people screaming from the [nearby] floor. I felt the heat on my face and I thought that my eyebrows were going to get burned. Black smoke starting filling the corridor, it got really dense really fast.” nterview 1000109 (NIST 2004)

Below 39th floor
Bob Jenkins:  There was the definite smell of burning jet fuel in the stairs. I knew this because I served my last year in the Marine Corps at the Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan. I smelled burning jet fuel every day. ...why was there so much smoke coming from below and getting worse?? Much worse? Many people had covered their mouth and nose to try and breath easier. My eyes were burning so badly I had a steady stream of tears, as did everyone.
Below 39th floor
William Rodriguez: The stairs were cracking. The sheet rock, when I went up opening the doors, was falling on top of me and on top of the firemen constantly. And the swaying of the building made it easier for that to come off. Source

38th (and 43rd) floor, near elevators
On the 38th floor, Joe Shearin exited the elevator and began his walk down the hallway to meet with the tenant who had requested to see him. About 50 feet down the hallway, he heard a loud explosion and was lifted into the air. "I can't even tell you how far I traveled," he recalled. When he landed, people were already coming out of their offices into the hallway. "They were screaming, hollering," he said. "They were asking what they should do and where they should go". Joe directed them down the stairwells and out of the building.

What Joe first believed was that an equipment room on the 43rd floor, which had an electrical substation, had blown up. He proceeded up the 5 floors to that level. Upon reaching the 43rd floor, "there were patches of ceiling that was just down on the floor, water pipes were broken, water was gushing like a brook or river that was just running down the corridor of the machine room". He began yelling to see if anyone was in the room and received no reply.

38th floor: stairwell blocked by debris
Sure, Livon Neil is one of the lucky ones. He was in the North Tower on September 11, but he survived. He was only on the 38th floor, and well out of there by the time it fell. But while Neil may have escaped unharmed, he is most certainly not unscathed.

After diving under his desk in response to what he thought was an earthquake, the 30-year-old systems analyst (who graduated with a bachelor of science in physiology and human biology in 1994 while attending New College) heard "screaming coming from the elevator shaft, like ladies screaming. And I saw dust coming out, smoke." He ran toward the stairs, only to hear more yelling from below. There seemed to be no way out for anybody. He huddled in the stairway for some 20 minutes, until a phalanx of firefighters – many of them soon to sacrifice their own lives – arrived and opened an exit for him and his group. "While I was coming out," Neil says softly, "it was like a war zone. I looked up and saw a person in mid-air. I looked to my right in the courtyard and there were body parts."

36th floor
Kemper Insurance survivor: The noise is loud and distant but ominous.  The buildings are designed to sway in high winds but this felt like a giant fist of God had slammed us to the side.  It almost feels like the building was going to slowly topple right then. First thought.  Bomb?  Plane? Whatever it was... the building did not just "sway" back into a normal position.  The whump turns to a lingering rumble as the plane continues to blast through the building and the fireball explodes.  A harmonic resonance seems to have started.  It feels like an earthquake and looks like files and cabinets may begin toppling.

Below 36th floor
Leslie Haskin: The heat was insufferable and the smoke was rancid. “It was no ordinary smoke,” says Leslie. It was pungent and fuel-saturated. “It burned our throats and eyes,” she says.

35th floor
Ken McLellan: ...I heard a horrible whooshing sound. The sound was not like the familiar sound a plane makes when it's coming in for a landing. It was the sound of a plane or some type of aircraft traveling a full speed. This sound lasted for about two seconds. I will carry the memory of that sound to my grave.
"Immediately, there was an explosion and the whole building moved. I almost fell out of my chair. I felt like I was on a boat. My heart started racing. "What the f**k was that?", I thought to myself. Then, I smelled jet fuel. I thought that a helicopter had hit the building.

Below 35th floor: Didn’t hear impact
Kemper Insurance executive Susan Doyle was in an colleague's 35th-floor office in the North Tower of the World Trade Center on Tuesday morning when the building began to shudder. The jolt was so strong that the tower "felt like it might fall over," she recalls. Her first instinct, in fact, was that it was an earthquake. But then, she and others peered out the windows and noticed that the rest of lower Manhattan looked normal. And that's when it dawned on them: "Whatever had happened had happened just to us. We all looked at one another and knew we needed to get out."

And so, unaware that a jetliner had rammed the building, Ms. Doyle and dozens of co-workers headed straight to the stairs for the long trip down. In all, Kemper had 225 employees working on the 35th and 36th floors. Workers from other companies also streamed onto the stairs, packing them.

The trek was treacherous. Smoke filled the stairwell -- the haze got thicker as the throng descended -- and Ms. Doyle put her jacket up to her nose and mouth. Those on the stairs stopped and opened the door at every floor, hoping to find a pocket of fresh air; they found none.

For the most part, Ms. Doyle said, the crowd didn't panic -- except when they came to a stop from time to time, for reasons unclear. Those were the moments that "people started to breathe very hard and get wild-eyed. Then someone would put their arms around them and say, 'It's going to be OK.' " At the 27th floor, Ms. Doyle encountered several people trying to help a wheelchair-bound colleague who was stuck on the landing. A bit later, she and others alerted a couple of fire officials -- who were coming up the stairs -- to the stranded man's plight. They promised to help.

About 15 minutes into the trip down, Ms. Doyle heard a loud noise, and the lights in the stairwell flickered. Looking back, she assumes that's when the second plane struck the other tower. Shortly after that, water -- apparently from the fire-suppression system -- began soaking the floor. For the last part of the descent, she tramped through as much as six inches of water.

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.

"Once we saw all the debris falling down the outside of the building - a huge shower of glass and metal - we began running to the stairs," said Mr Loughran.

34th floor
On Sept. 11, Craig Trykowski, a laborer for Henegan Construction Co. in New York City for the past two years, was working with 75 tradespersons and colleagues on interior construction for Lehman Brothers on the 34th floor of the north tower of the World Trade Center. He had been working at the WTC for a little over three months. "The job was going well," he says. It was a few minutes before 9:00 a.m.

"I was trying to clear the area of sheetrock and other stuff and just as I was filling the dumpster, the whole building shook. It swayed back and forth. We saw debris flying and then there was an explosion," he says. "I thought at first it was an earthquake."

What Trykowski and the thousands of other people working in the building didn't yet know was that an American Airlines jet, Flight 11, which left from Boston for Los Angeles, had been hijacked, diverted to New York and driven into the tower. It would eventually cause the collapse of the building a little more than two hours later,

"We hit the stairwell; it was a mass panic." They headed down the stairs under seemingly normal conditions but when they got to about the 20th floor, a strong gas smell hit them and by the 17th floor the water pipes had broken and people were tripping on the stairs. "We didn't know what the gas smell was; I told people to put their hands over their mouths," he says. "When we got down was when we saw the smoke. All the glass was blown out in the building."

Firefighters were there to help evacuate and rescue the tenants. "The sad part was that as we finally left, the first group of firemen were going up. They're all gone now," says Trykowski.

Trykowski, along with two electricians and two carpenters, made it safely to the street. "We saw the top of the building as it came tumbling down," he says. "We almost didn't make it out of the building."

34th floor
Yin Liang, employed by Lehman Brothers on the 40th floor north tower:
There are heavy smokes coming in from the 33-34th floor, we hesitated for a while, wandering if we should keep going down in the smoke, then we moved on, I covered my mouth and nose with a piece of facial tissue, we keep talking to each other, I guess there must be a fire going on at certain floors…

Above 33rd floor
FDNY Lieutanant Warren Smith: They were hearing reports on the radio, jet fuel on the upper floors, odor.

30th floor Jen Murawski: "At 8:46am, the 1st plane flew into the north tower, my building. My co-workers and I escaped by descending 30 flights of stairs through jet fuel fumes and water."

"...Ciara Linnane, 37, an Irish foreign correspondent, was in tower one ...By the 30th floor it was incredibly slow. It took about half an hour to get to the 20th because so many people were piling from the other offices. You could see the walls of the corridors buckling....

29th floor
Diane Sears: Around 8:44 a.m. I heard what sounded like the whine of an incoming missile (I thought "are we under attack?" and tried to imagine from where a missile could possibly have been launched.)I heard a thunderous BOOM; the building shook violently and the floor (each floor was approximately one acre in size) did a rolling wave; I saw debris falling past the windows.

left the conference room and saw a co-worker standing spread eagle. He said he thought it was an earthquake, I told him something big had hit the building as there was debris falling from higher up and raining past the windows. I asked him if he had heard the incoming sound but apparently he had not.

... At floor 9, the overhead sprinklers were on all the way to floor 1. Around floor 3, structural damage could be seen; the same at 2. When we emerged from the stairwell at 1, the marble-lined lobby was in shambles. The lobby looked as though a bomb had gone off and the elevator wells imploded. The sprinklers were still on but the smell of jet fuel and the dust and smoke was not as bad there.

28th floor: felt before hearing.
Julie Anderson, 33, manager of public affairs, was in her office on the 28th floor, talking with a co-worker, when they felt the building shake, then heard a "screechy sound," presumably of metal grinding.

She looked out her window and saw debris falling. The she smelled something, which she now assumes was jet fuel.

She and others made for the stairs. The stairwells were completely lit. There was no heavy smoke. "People were coughing a little and their eyes were watering and you had to hold a sleeve or tissue in front of your face," she said. "But people kept moving."

27th floor, as south tower collapses
The North Tower shook and swayed with the concussion. The lights went out. The rumble shook jet fuel, flowing it down the elevator shafts; Jonas smelled a strong odor of kerosene. He pressed his air mask to his face.

27th floor
Firefighter Gregg Hansson: A couple people, civilians, indicated to me that there was an elevator that was working at  this time. But I had already gotten transmissions over the air that some elevators had already crashed down to the first floor. I told them no one is getting in an elevator.

27th floor
Aaron David Brensel: People were crying, some visibly shaken. Although I did not show it, I was one of them. Everything was in disarray. I wanted to call home. I went over to several telephones, but none were working. After a while, we were allowed to go back to the stairwell. I do not even know if it was the same one. I never looked at my watch while I was in the building. The hallways were cloudy, but it was not thick smoke. There was a strange odor. I am told it was jet fuel vapors, but I do not know. I just remember that it smelled bad and I was very nervous.

25th floor (approximately)
At this point we started smelling jet fuel and the smoke in the stairway.  The smell was very strong and it was kind of hard to breathe.  The fire alarms were now going off but there were no sprinklers in the stairway.  I’m not sure if the fire alarms were always going off or if I just noticed the alarms when we started smelling the jet fuel and smoke.  The firefighters that we met in the stairway started telling us to cover our noses.  We did as we were told.  It was getting hotter in the stairway as we carried on and everyone was drenched in sweat.  All the guys were taking off their sport coats and shirts, leaving on their undershirt.  The women were taking off their sport coats as well.  Some women were taking off their shoes and leaving them behind in the stairway.  I took of my sport coat and covered my nose with it.  The smell was so horrific.

At this point I started to get a little scared again and so very bothered.  I kept wondering why we now smelled jet fuel and smoke when the plane hit between 79th and 83rd floor.  I was wondering if there was fire somewhere down below us that we didn’t know about.  There was an older man a couple of people ahead of us that would feel each door as he passed.  He would then yell, “This door is cool, no fire”.

25th floor to Lobby:  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.

...I thought it was odd that no one was coming into our stairwell from other floors. I assumed that they found other stairwells. … 21, 20, 19 … I could smell something familiar. There it is, my first connection to the outside. I could smell something. What is it? It reminds me of something. Kerosene? It smells like the kerosene heaters my father had 20 years ago in the Poconos. (I never made the connection to jet fuel until later on.)

...Some said they saw bodies fall; some saw debris. 13, 12, Our Father, Hail Mary, 11, 10, "hold it." We hear someone say something about what was going on ahead of us. We keep going; 9, 8, 7, then again, "hold it."

That's when we heard, "there's water down here." Picture the scene. You can only see half a flight below you and half above. If you crane your neck into the center of the stairs, all you can see are dozens of hands. There is still no panic. We are using those ahead of us as scouts, listening to whatever we could. The smell of burning kerosene is getting stronger.

"There's water on 4." 6, 5, there it is. Water is seeping from the bottom of the stairwell door on 4, and beginning to flow down the steps. We get to 3 and it's cascading down the steps. By the time we reach 2, it's a few inches deep. We leave the stairwell onto the concourse. The view was war-like. When we came out of the emergency door, you could see burned debris all over the plaza. I didn't see anything falling, but I still remember the thumping sounds. It wasn't until I met up with a coworker that I realized the thumping was bodies falling.

When we got to 1, the elevator doors were blown out and blackened. These were our first images of what was happening. They led us out the Marriott Hotel lobby. On the floor to our right was a fireman with a woman who was blackened from head to toe, barely alive, if alive at all.

23rd floor
FDNY Lieutenant Mickey Kross: When I got up to 23, it was kind of quiet on the floor–very dark. I saw some firefighters moving around, but not any command posts or chiefs. The hallway was full of debris where I was walking, debris about three feet high covering a whole section of the hallway. I was puzzled as to what that was, because I knew that the plane had hit way above us. So as I got there I realized it was the elevator shafts. The doors or the walls had probably blown out, and I had to climb over the debris to get the other side of the hallway. Here, I was a little concerned about falling into the pit, the elevator shaft.
(Smith, Dennis: Report From Ground Zero. New York: Viking Press, 2002. Pp. 72-73)

22nd floor
–(Female trapped): There’s a fire outside of 22! There’s a fire on 22!
–(Male responding): Fire on 22, where? A or B tower? 
–(Female trapped): This is the SCC, A tower, the 22nd floor. We see a lot of debris. We are stuck on 22…the door is blocked. There is a fire. 
(Port Authority Transcript,  WTC Ch. 27: Security, p. 1)

22nd floor
Firefighter Paul Bessler: On the 22nd floor, some of the elevator shafts were actually open.

22nd floor
Firefighter Craig Dunne: The elevator shafts were blown out, so they had to make their way around -- the fire came down the elevator shafts.

22nd floor
Firefighter Michael Yarembinsky: We noticed in the hallway that the elevator shaft had been blown out. There was nothing there, no doors, no framing, nothing. When you looked down, all you saw was the cables for the elevator and the brick work that was surrounding.

Q: Was it burning?

A: No burning, no smoke coming out of it. (just before ST collapse)

22nd floor
Firefighter Kirk Long: We were also with 16 Engine on the 22nd floor. When the building shook, I was right next to an elevator shaft with Andy, crawling down the hallway. I was waiting for a flame to come up from the basement because I believed something in the basement blew up. Nothing like that happened, so I was waiting for a flame to come down from a plane. Nothing like that happened. Still at that time I never knew that the south tower had gone down.

22nd floor
"First plane hit our building at 8:45. We decided to evacuate from the 22nd floor after 15 minutes. The delay was because we did not know the extent of the damage; part of the 22nd floor was sheared away and the corridor was blocked by fallen debris. Four of us decided it was better to try to get out than stay and wait to be rescued (in hindsight a good decision). We had to crawl for ten to fifteen feet under debris to get to the fire stairs...."

21st floor
Arthur Riccio, FDNY "It was a little hazy. The bathrooms were charred."

21st floor
Richard P LoPresti: Stepping back to the beginning, approx 8:45am, I was looking for a file to support an expense on our July reports. Suddenly, I heard a muffled explosion with echoed report, rocking the tower at least a foot, back and forth, like an amusement park ride. I was thrown against a desk. All filing cabinets slid open. I tried to close them but there were too many. Roger said later to us that he thought that the tower was going to fall. It didn't, allowing us to exit to the stairs, but not until I turned off my computer properly, and coming back again in my office to get as many towels I could get to cover our faces, on the lightly Smokey stairwell. I forgot to douse the towels with water, but it was better than nothing.

Lower floors
Arturo (Griffith) was running 50A, the big freight car going from the six-level basement to the 108th floor. When American Airlines Flight 11 struck at 8:46 a.m., Arturo and a co-worker were heading from the second-level basement to the 49th floor.

Like his wife, who had just closed the doors on a passenger elevator leaving the 78th floor, Arturo heard a sudden whistling sound and the impact. Cables were severed and Arturo's car plunged into free fall.

"The only thing I remember saying was 'Oh, God, Oh, God, I'm going to die,' " he says, recalling how he tried to protect his head as the car plummeted.

The emergency brakes caught after 15 or 16 floors. The imploding elevator door crushed Arturo's right knee and broke the tibia below it. His passenger escaped injury. (The 50 car came to rest just below the B1 landing.)

13th floor
Port Authority Police Officer Roger Fernandez: On the morning of September 11th, I was in tower one on the 13th floor. I was working at my desk when the first plane struck at 8:44:48. There was a loud explosion followed by the building swaying and shaking violently from one side to another. Large amounts of debris could be seen falling past the windows followed by a stream of what appeared to be water.

…As we descended stairwell C, a large cloud of smoke with an odor of fuel, rapidly overtook us causing many on the lower floors to start choking and coughing. …After about five minutes, I managed to get back to the 13th floor where I finally found out that a plane had crashed into the building on CNN’s web site.

Several things stand out in my mind about what happened next; we now believed that the clear liquid that was streaming outside of our window was not water but jet fuel.

12th floor
Jeff: When we reached the 12th floor the air resounded with a dull thud, and the steps quivered. As one we looked up the way we had come, fearing that the fuel we could smell should turn to flame. When that did not occur we resumed our trek.

floors: 9, 8, 7, 6 (Bob Jenkins) – close wasn’t close enough! Close doesn’t count! By now there was more smoke and now water from all the broken pipes above mixed with jet fuel pouring down over us.

8th floor
Male: Forty-four A to C (inaudible), can you get an ambulance over here? One of the guards is hurt over here. Over….Eigth floor, S2, to OSCC.
(Port Authority Transcript, WTC Ch. 27: Security, p. 1)

7th floor
Rick Collins, ABM: On Sept. 11, a plummeting freight elevator sucked a steel beam and flaming jet fuel down the shaft, scorching the seventh-floor mechanical room where Collins stood. The impact of the beam sealed the door shut. With his clothes, skin and hair on fire, he grabbed a pipe and chopped his way through the door. Outside, the south tower crumbled above him and he barely escaped.,0,1597086.story??track=sto-relcon

Susan Keane: “the jet fumes and the smell of the fuel were too much. The water running down the stairs was black"
Susan Hagen and Mary Carouba. Women at Ground Zero: Stories of Courage and Compassion. Indianapolis: Alpha Books, 2002. P. 64

6th or 7th floor 
Firefighter Hugh Mettham: We reached the sixth or seventh floor and are met by many firefighters coming down the stairs, informing us that the upper floors are collapsing and that there’s a heavy odor of gas and fuel.

5th floor, post-collapse
PAPD officer Dave Lim: "We smell jet fuel, and I wonder now, having survived this, is everything just going to explode into fire?"
(Dennis Smith: Report From Ground Zero. New York: Viking Press, 2002, p. 91)

4th floor, post-collapse
FDNY Battalion Commander Richard Picciotto:  I thought of the jet fuel, and I knew we were vulnerable. Oh, man, were we vulnerable! There was the enormous and unending potential for sparks in a building collapse such as this, miles and miles of cables and wires and water pipes, and the vapors from the fuel could combust at any moment.
(Richard Picciotto & Daniel Paisner. Last Man Down. New York: Berkeley Books, 2002.  p. 127)

4th floor
Marvin Pickrum: There was smoke above us and below us, so we go through the exit door into this hallway, but..."

"The hallway was on fire, too. The flames were hot, so hot that it would eventually cause the North Tower to finally collapse as well. Pickrum had no idea that the South Tower had just collapsed, though, because no one could see what was going on outside.

""I'm right in the middle of this fire and, you know, the heat and smoke were so hot that you couldn't breathe," Pickrum says. "I even started to panic at that point."

"Pickrum was prepared to take his chances by leaping out the window. There was no other way to escape from the fire. There was no other way to get some air into his smoke-filled lungs. He didn't want to die, but he and the others were now trapped inside the building.

"At some point Pickrum made the decision to jump. "I decided that I'm not going to be burned alive," he recalled.

"He was now beyond desperate. It was a miracle he had made it down this far. Then, just as everything seemed hopeless, Pickrum saw the miraculous images of firefighters coming in with flashlights and water hoses. That was the only thing that stopped him from going out the window.

""I can't emphasize enough how much credit to give to those firefighters for saving our lives," says Pickrum. "My heart goes out to all of them and their families."

3rd floor
Firefighter Michael Byrne:  Captain Burke decided we would either go up on our own or wait for someone. We went up, started our way up. We went to the bank of elevators. We pulled a lady out of the bank, one of the banks. We used a rabbit tool. Most of the banks were blown off. The doors were charred and dismembered, some of them.