WTC Elevators and Shafts
"The World Trade Center had 150
elevators" ĖWilliam Rodriguez
Actually, each tower had 106 elevators.
The twin towers had 15 miles of elevator shafts.
Elevator plans for both towers were identical, although
their service cores were oriented differently. The north
tower office floors had 60 feet of open floor space on its
north and south sides and 35 feet of open floor space on its
east and west sides. The south tower's 60-foot open floors
were on its east and west sides.
were the primary mode of routine ingress and egress from the
towers for tens of thousands of people daily. In order to
minimize the total floor space needed for elevators, each
tower was divided vertically into three zones by skylobbies,
which served to distribute passengers among express and
local elevators. In this way, the local elevators within a
zone were placed on top of one another within a common
shaft. Local elevators serving the lower portion of a zone
were terminated to return to the space occupied by those
shafts to leasable tenant space. People transferred from
express elevators to local elevators at the skylobbies which
were located on the 44th and 78th floors in both towers.
Each tower had 99 passenger and 7 freight elevators, all
located within the core of the building.
http://wtc.nist.gov/NISTNCSTAR1-1.pdf (PDF pg.39)
99 passenger elevators in each tower, arranged in three
vertical zones to move occupants in stages to skylobbies on
the 44th and 78th floors. These were arranged as express
(generally larger cars that moved at higher speeds) and
local elevators in an innovative system first introduced in
WTC 1 and WTC 2. There were 8 express elevators from the
concourse to the 44th floor and 10 express elevators from
the concourse to the 78th floor as well as 24 local
elevators per zone, which served groups of floors in those
zones. There were seven freight elevators, only one of which
served all floors. All elevators had been upgraded to
incorporate firefighter emergency operation per American
Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) A17.1 and Local Law 5
(PDF pg. 50)
There were two express elevators (#6 and #7) to Windows on
the World (and related conference rooms and banquet
facilities) in WTC 1 and two to the observation deck in WTC
2. There were five local elevators in each building: three
that brought people from the subterranean levels to the
lobby, one that ran between floors 106 and 110, and one that
ran between floors 43 and 44, serving the cafeteria from the
skylobby. All elevators had been upgraded to incorporate
firefighter emergency operation requirements.
In addition to the passenger elevators, there were seven
freight elevators in each tower; most served a particular
zone, while Car 50 served every floor.
* Car #5: B1-5, 6, 9-40, 44
* Car #6: B1-5, 44, 75, 77-107
http://wtc.nist.gov/NISTNCSTAR1-7.pdf (PDF pg. 72)
elevatorís cables to be cut and result in dropping the car
to the bottom of the shaft, the cables would need to have
been in the aircraft impact debris path, floors 93 through
98 in WTC 1 or floors 78 through 83 in WTC 2. Inspection of
the elevator riser diagram and architectural floor plans for
WTC 1 shows that the following elevators met these criteria:
cars 81 through 86 (Bank B) and 87 through 92 (Bank C),
local cars in Zone III; car 50, the freight elevator, and
car 6, the Zone III shuttle. Ö Cars 6 and 50 could have
fallen all the way to the pit in the sub-basement level, and
car 50 in WTC 1 was reported to have done so.
The graphics below illustrate elevator shaft continuity
on and below the aircraft impact zones. The colored areas
represent shafts, not necessarily individual elevator cars.
blue area in the floor plans below indicates
the #50 freight elevator shaft, which is continuous from the
impact zones to the lowest basement level, B6. In the north
tower, with elevator operator Arturo Griffith and carpenter
Marlene Cruz aboard, the #50 elevator was hit by a blast,
dropped several floors, and stopped below the B1 landing. A
large fireball came through the shaft just after Griffith
and Cruz were pulled from smoky elevator.
The yellow area indicates the
large #6 and #7 elevators, which led to Windows on the World
in the north tower (WTC 1) and to the observation deck in
the south tower (WTC 2). This shaft is continuous from the
impact zones to sublevel B4, where several people within the
core area were injured by the jet fuel blast, and where
building engineer Edward McCabe said the blast came "about
30 seconds" after he felt the building shift.
The north tower's 93rd floor was the lowest level of
aircraft debris impact.
Several of the large express passenger elevators, which
service the sky lobbies, plunged to the main lobby level.
At least one of those falling elevators was accompanied by
a huge fireball that burst into the lobby and concourse
levels. Only four people are known to have survived in the
south tower express elevators.
William Rodriguez was on the B1 level of the north
tower when flight 11 hit.
Felipe David was burned while standing in front of a
freight elevator shaft on the B1 or B2 level.
Several people were injured within the core on the
north tower B4 level, after the impact. Several elevator
pits ended at that level. See Ed McCabe's account on the
north tower basement witness page.
Note: diagram above doesn't show freight elevators.
An elevator engineer in
the south tower reports:
"As we got into the sky lobby area, there were shuttle
cars that had come up from the first floor from the lobby.
I started to shut those down at that 44th floor. People in
the local elevators coming down from the floors above in
the second zone, now there were more people in fact coming
down out of those elevators than there were going up
because usually itís a very busy time of the morning when
people are coming up into the building. A lot of people
were coming down out of those local cars, some of them
were trying to get into the shuttle cars. I shut them
The shuttle cars were those cars that would run from a
lobby up to a zone. They had three zones in the building.
They had the first zone which ran from one to 42, then the
second zone started from 44 up to 76, and the third zone
started from 78 up to 110."
As I turned around to go back toward the core of the
building in the lobby, the second plane hit, and that
shook the building.
We heard the explosion
and within a matter of seconds after that impact, I heard
Ė and as well as everybody else heard Ė this noise, this
increasing sound of wind. And it was getting louder and
louder. It was like a bomb, not quite the sound of a bomb
coming down from a bomber. It was a sound of wind
increasing, a whistling sound, increasing in sound.
Iím looking from the lobby up to a mezzanine area or the
second floor where they lined up all the people to go up
to the rooftop, and Iím looking up expecting something,
building parts to be coming down, because I wasnít quite
sure what that noise was.
But I found out later, when the plane came through the
building, it cut the hoist ropes, the governor ropes, of
(the) 6 and 7 cars, which was the observation cars.
What we heard was 6
and 7 car free-falling from the 107th floor and they
impacted the basement at B-2 Level. And thatís the
explosion that filled the lobby within a matter of two or
three seconds, engulfed the lobby in dust, smoke.
And apparently from
what I talked to with other mechanics, they saw the doors,
the hatch doors blow off in the lobby level of 6 and 7
There were a couple of people I knew that worked for the
building. You did a story on Carmen Griffen (Arturo's
wife), one of the elevator operators, I know her. So this
was, she was lucky to get out, very lucky.
And some of the operators then, people in 50 car Ė 50 car
was the car that ran the entire length of the building
when the planes came through. In B Tower, they cut the
hoist ropes on 50 car A and B Ė there were two cars in
each tower. Basically the buildings were very similar in
design, and as far as their elevator structure, it was
very similar. So you had matching elevators in each tower.
And 50 car, in each tower, ran all floors from B6 up to
109. So that was, again, one of the cars, like 6 and 7 car
in A Tower, they ran up to the Windows of the World. I
canít imagine what it mustíve been like when the planes
And the noise, the
wind noise we heard was, you have to picture that there
are two cars or cabs in a hoist length. And a hoist weighs
only so big, and itís encapsulated by walls, so as these
two cars came, fell together, the air pressure underneath
would cause that sound that we heard."http://archive.recordonline.com/adayinseptember/jones.htm
Carmen and Arturo Griffith again:
They were both
operating elevators in the north tower on Sept. 11. Arturo
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
"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.)
ÖAll that morning,
Carmen had been carrying hundreds of passengers from the
78th-floor sky lobby to the bond-trading offices of Cantor
Fitzgerald on the 101st to 105th floors and the Windows on
the World restaurant above that.
"They were so packed
(in the elevators) ó like sardines," she says.
A full elevator had
just left the 78th floor, and Carmen was about to carry up
six or seven stragglers. The plane struck as the doors of
her elevator closed. They could hear debris smash into the
top of the car; then the elevator cracked open, and flames
poured in. Carmen jammed her fingers between the closed
doors, pulled them partly open and held them as passengers
clambered over and under her 5-foot-6 frame to escape.
Before finally throwing
herself out onto the lobby floor, she glanced back to be
sure the elevator was empty. That was when fire scorched
her face with second- and third-degree burns, and
literally welded her hooped right earring to her neck. Her
hands were badly burned.
Carmen was helped down
the 78 floors to an ambulance just as her husband was
carried out of the basement on a piece of plywood and a
hand truck, each certain ó after seeing the burning
buildings from the street outside ó that the other was