SEPTEMBER 11, 2001

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10-02-2001 - The American Tragedy - A Symbolic Event







WTC Elevators and Shafts

9/11 Links


  "The World Trade Center had 150 elevators" ĖWilliam Rodriguez Source

Actually, each tower had 106 elevators.

The twin towers had 15 miles of elevator shafts. Source
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.
Elevators 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)

There were 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 (1973).http://wtc.nist.gov/NISTNCSTAR1-1.pdf (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)

For an 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. http://wtc.nist.gov/NISTNCSTAR1-7.pdf(PDF pg. 160)

The graphics below illustrate elevator shaft continuity on and below the aircraft impact zones. The colored areas represent shafts, not necessarily individual elevator cars. The 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.

Excellent Graphic: 3 lives, 87 floors (North tower evacuation route)
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 down.

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 car.

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 came through.

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 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.)

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 dead. http://www.usatoday.com/life/sept11/2002-09-10-surivivor-griffiths_x.htm