Suspicious activity on the 34th floor?

As Rodriguez worked his way up the north tower, unlocking doors for the firefighters to search, he stopped at the 33rd floor:

"The reason I went to the 33rd floor is that I had a closet inside there, where I have all supplies. Every 16 floors I have a little closet with supplies. And I went to get the dust masks, to give it to the people who were coming out, because of the smoke that was coming in the staircase.

...And as I went in to get those masks I found a lady sitting on the floor, trembling. One lady, no shoes, in the fetal position. And I said, ‘What are you doing here? Get out!’ And she said, ‘I don’t know what to do. I don’t know where to go.’ She was a new employee. …It should have been mandatory training that anybody who works in the building learns where the exits were.

…This lady didn’t know what to do. I stood her up, put her on the stairwell, there were people coming down, and I said, ‘Take her out, please.” Source

"As I stood there on the 33rd floor, I heard very strange noises on the 34th floor. now, the 34th floor was an empty floor - a floor that did not have any kind of walls, it was a construction floor. It was totally hollowed out there was nothing there . . . not even the elevators stopped there. You had to have a special access key to open the door on the 34th floor" (2006 Los Angeles 911 Conference video)

"I was like," Rodriguez says, "'Oh my God, that's an empty floor, what's going on?'" No construction had been underway and, in fact, a special access key was needed to make an elevator stop at that floor. Fearing "somebody was there with a gun or something," he bypassed the floor. Source

"As I went back inside the office, the corridor, I heard the strangest thing. Now, on the floor above me, the 34th floor, I heard heavy equipment being moved around. You know the dumpsters, when they scratch the floor, those steel dumpsters? It sounded just like that. It was the first time that I felt fear through the whole ordeal! Because it was an empty floor. I knew for a fact that it was a hollowed-out floor for construction! There was no walls, there was no ceiling, there was no wires, there was nothing there. It was a floor that was emptied out over 8 months before. So there was nobody supposedly to be there. And for me to hear that kind of sound really scared me. So much that I bypassed that floor." Source

Here, Rodriguez says he heard the noise at the 34th floor stairway door, not while on the 33rd floor. So did it come from above, or was it on the same floor?
“When I was going up I kept hearing more explosions, but there wasn’t any fire like there was in the basement. On my up, something very strange happened on the 34th floor, which was a completely vacant floor, gutted for construction. As I was walking by the stairwell door, I heard these very loud noises like somebody moving heavy dumpsters or office furniture. I don’t know what it was but it was very strange because I know it was supposed to be a vacant floor.” Source
First, Rodriguez was in one of three stairways in the north tower. Firefighters and other first responders were working their way up the other stairways and entering entering the office floors from other doors.

Richard Picciotto, FDNY Battalion 11 Chief (who was one of those trapped in stairway B after the collapse):
“At the same time, my guys were banging on the doors on the way up, hoping there’d be some firemen or other rescue workers on the other side, which we were finding was often the case. (Picciotto, Richard & Daniel Paisner. Last Man Down. New York: Berkeley Books, 2002. p. 57)
Firefighters who didn't have the benefit of Rodriguez's master key often opened doors by force:
"Colfer and others in the stairwell heard firefighters smashing steel doors floors below them. Doors to each floor were locked and firefighters needed to check each floor. They broke through one door, then smashed open the vending machine to get bottled water, which they handed to people in the stairwell.” Source

"... Marcy Borders...81st floor of the World Trade Center's Tower 1 ...slowly made her way down the stairs in the tower and watched as firefighters tried to find survivors by chopping down metal doors with their axes....” Source
On the 35th floor, many rescue workers had gathered.
Picciotto: “At the landing for the thirty-fifth floor, though, I noticed the reentry door had been propped open, so I stepped into the corridor area and over by the elevator banks, where there was a good deal of activity. Somehow, this had become a kind of staging area, with maybe three dozen rescue workers waiting to be deployed. Firefighters, mostly. There were a couple of city police officers, and a Port Authority cop or two. Some had reached the higher floors and been sent here for reassignment; some had parked here on the way up, and were waiting for orders.” (Last Man Down, p. 61)
A tenant evacuating via a stairway from the 40th floor indicates that there may have been fires or open shafts channeling smoke on the 34th floor:
"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…" Source
So, first responders may have had several reasons to be making noise on the 34th floor. Perhaps they moved a construction dumpster in front of an open elevator shaft so that others couldn’t fall down it. Perhaps they dragged construction or blast debris aside to check for victims or to clear a stairway entrance. Perhaps they were extinguishing burning debris. These strike me as reasonable possibilities.

Next, the north tower’s 34th floor did have office occupants as of 9/11/01. Most notably, the World Trade Center's security chief, John O'Neill, had just moved in. It is known that he left his office soon after the north tower was hit, but I mention this because it's so easy to check that the 34th floor was indeed occupied.
On September 10th, O'Neill called Robert Tucker, a friend and security-company executive, and arranged to get together that evening to talk about security issues at the Trade Center. Tucker met O'Neill in the lobby of the north tower, and the two men rode the elevator up to O'Neill's new office, on the thirty-fourth floor.

…At 8:46 A.M., when American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the north tower, John P. O'Neill, Jr., was on a train to New York, to install some computer equipment and visit his father's new office. From the window of the train he saw smoke coming from the Trade Center. He called his father on his cell phone. "He said he was O.K. He was on his way out to assess the damage," John, Jr., recalled.
(“The Counter-terrorist” by Lawrence Wright. The New Yorker, June 21, 2002)

O'Neill is in his 34th floor office in the North Tower at 8:46 a.m. when American Airlines Flight 11 crashes into it. Among others, O'Neill calls Valerie James once he is outside the building. He asks her what hit the building and tells her, "Val, it's horrible. There are body parts everywhere." A few seconds later he tells her, "Okay, I'll call you in a little bit." O'Neill also sends a text message to Fran Townsend to report that he is okay.

In the minutes after the attack, O'Neill makes his way to the (north tower) command center that had been set up. There he sees FBI agent Wesley Wong. Wong would tell Esquire magazine later, "He was in FBI mode. Then he turned and kind of looked at me and went toward the interior of the complex. From the time John walked away to the time the building collapsed was certainly not more than a half hour or 20 minutes." Wong is the last person to see him alive. (O’Neill was found in the rubble of the south tower.) Source

He'd made it home from China Club at 2:30 -- typical -- but he was up now, and happy, and ready to take her to an 8:15 meeting she had for Fashion Week before heading to his office on the thirty-fourth floor of the north tower. "He was in a really good mood that day," James says. Source
Rodriguez was notified of this potential occupancy in an August, 2006 online Q&A session:
Question: “Mr. Rodriguez, you have mentioned that you heard strange movement on the 34th floor. This is the floor where FBI agent John O'Neill was supposedly working. There are also reports of people doing construction on that floor. What made you think that it was a hollowed out empty floor without equipment? Do you have any additional information on what was supposed to be on that floor? can you go into any further detail about what you heard and what you think was happening on that floor? thanks for takeing the time to answer our questions, you're an inspiration to us all.”

WR- “because I had lunch many times there. I had a closet-mini office on the 33rd floor and I will go there with my master key not to be bothered by supervisors at my lunch hour. I doubt O’neill was there since I never saw anybody there. The posibility of course, exists. I was (s)cared for the first time of my ordeal and some instinct told me to bypass that floor. I heard a loud srtching noise, heavy equipment.” Source
It is astounding to me that Rodriguez had been publicly promoting this "mystery" without bothering to check it out.

Anecdotal accounts indicate that other occupants may have been on the north tower’s 34th floor on 9/11.
I found it! I found it! My immediate outburst after my co-worker called in to ask me to track what floor her friend in New York worked in at building one of the World Trade Center. (He worked on the 34th floor. He was accounted for) Source

In addition, while it is true that I was not “on site” on 9/11, two of my friends were, one on the 34th floor of the north tower and one on the street watching from the exact spot we are talking about: a block north of the north tower. And when my friend on on the 34th floor left the building, he also ended up just north of the north tower. Source
There are also some 2001 telephone listings for businesses on the north tower's 34th floor (including the Port Authority's Port Commerce Department, but I haven't checked to see if they were there as of September 11.

Rodriguez: “No construction had been underway”

That’s false. About 75 construction workers were on the north tower’s 34th floor on 9/11/01.
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." Source

Jimmy Loughran, an electrician from Kildress in County Tyrone, was working in the 34th floor of the North Tower when the hijacked plane struck.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph newspaper, he described bodies lying all around as he fled the building.

"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. Source
Note that both men say that the explosion came well after the impact and motion of the building. Later I will present many witness accounts that indicate jet fuel igniting long after the aircraft impact.

Finally, Rodriguez notes that when he was in the stairway a bit later, the building was coming apart:
“Chunks of the building were falling down all around them and they could literally hear the building coming down.” Source
Perhaps the noise was the groan of steel due to the shifting of the building. Again, there seem to be several non-spooky, rational explanations that could account for such a noise. It doesn’t take a great leap of imagination or effort to envision these possibilities. It simply takes a bit of critical, not mystical, thinking.