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Context of '8:47 a.m.-10:28 a.m. September 11, 2001: Hundreds Die in WTC Elevators, as Elevator Mechanics Flee'

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Calvin Drayton.Calvin Drayton. [Source: Regional Catastrophic Planning Team]The electrical power in World Trade Center Building 7, a 47-story office building located north of the Twin Towers, goes off around the time Flight 11 crashes into the North Tower but it comes on again after a few seconds. [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 109]
Lights Go Out When Flight 11 Crashes - Firefighter Timothy Brown, a supervisor at New York City’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM), which has offices in WTC 7, notices when the power goes off and immediately realizes something serious must have occurred. He is in the cafeteria on the third floor of WTC 7 eating his breakfast and does not feel any vibration or hear any explosion when Flight 11 hits the North Tower (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). However, he notices the lights in the cafeteria suddenly going out. After about three to five seconds, the power kicks back in and the lights come back on.
People by the Windows Report What Has Happened - It is “very unusual for lights to go out,” Brown will later comment. [City of New York, 1/15/2002; Project Rebirth, 6/30/2002 pdf file; Firehouse, 1/31/2003] Because of his experience in “emergency stuff,” he knows immediately that “something big had just happened.” He is initially unaware of what it is but soon learns what has occurred. [Radio on the Real, 7/9/2013] The people in the cafeteria sitting by the windows facing the North Tower suddenly get up and start running, and when Brown asks them what is wrong, he is told a plane just crashed into the tower. [City of New York, 1/15/2002; Firehouse, 1/31/2003]
Elevator Stops When the Crash Occurs - Calvin Drayton, a deputy director with the OEM, also notices the loss of power. While he is going down in an elevator in WTC 7, he hears a noise that he thinks is a “transformer explosion.” The explosion “rocked the building and temporarily stopped the elevator,” he will recall. The elevator then continues down to the first floor and after Drayton gets off it he runs into a colleague who tells him there has been an explosion in the North Tower. [Greenville Tribune-Times, 9/25/2001]
Substation under WTC 7 Provides Power to the Complex - The reason the crash high up in the North Tower causes power to go off in WTC 7, which is located about 370 feet from the tower, is unclear. WTC 7 was built over an electrical substation owned by the utility company Con Edison and this substation now supplies power to the entire WTC complex. [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 11/2008, pp. 633] Before Flight 11 hit the North Tower, “all indications were that the power system was operating normally,” a report by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will state. [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 11/2008, pp. 643]
Workers See No Damage in the Substation - Con Edison employees are at the substation around the time of the crash. These include two mechanics who are there to perform scheduled work and are at the site when the crash occurs or arrive shortly afterward. The Con Edison employees will be at the substation until around 10:20 a.m., when it is evacuated. They will notice “[n]o fire or significant physical damage” at the substation that could have caused the power to go out, according to NIST. [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 11/2008, pp. 357, 640]
Power Loss Is Reportedly due to 'Collateral Damage' Caused by the Crash - According to Con Edison, the loss of power occurs because two “open/auto” feeders go off. [9/11 Commission, 2/26/2004 pdf file] (Feeders are sets of conductors that distribute power from a substation. [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 11/2008, pp. 637] ) According to NIST, “two of the circuits [i.e. the feeders] tripped automatically… as a result of collateral damage caused by the aircraft impact into [the North Tower].” [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 11/2008, pp. 643] The power comes back on quickly because “it was rerouted automatically by computers,” according to Brown. [Firehouse, 1/31/2003] “The backup system kicked in, another feeder kicked in,” he will explain. [Radio on the Real, 7/9/2013] The power in WTC 7 will go off again at around 9:03 a.m., when Flight 175 crashes into the South Tower (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 2/26/2004 pdf file; National Institute of Standards and Technology, 11/2008, pp. 643]

Entity Tags: Con Edison, Timothy Brown, Calvin Drayton, World Trade Center

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

During the 9/11 catastrophe, around 200 people die in the WTC’s elevators without getting help from elevator mechanics, according to an in-depth study later performed by USA Today. Some of the victims are burned by the initial explosion, some die as the elevator cars plummet when their cables are severed, and some are stuck and perish in the collapse. USA Today will say it “could not locate any professional rescues of people stuck in elevators. The Fire Department of New York and the Port Authority also could not cite successful rescues.” After the North Tower is hit, most of the WTC’s 83 elevator mechanics gather in the lobby of the South Tower, but when the second plane hits, they evacuate. In contrast, a passing elevator mechanic from another company runs into the WTC and dies trying to free trapped passengers. USA Today will comment: “When the World Trade Center was bombed in 1993, Otis Elevator’s mechanics led the rescue of 500 people trapped in elevators. Some mechanics were dropped onto the roofs of the Twin Towers by helicopter. Others, carrying 50-pound oxygen tanks on their backs, climbed through smoke to machine rooms high in the towers. On Sept. 11, the elevator mechanics—many of the same men involved in the rescues in 1993—left the buildings after the second jet struck, nearly an hour before the first building collapsed.” Although ACE Elevator, the local company which won the WTC contract from Otis in 1994, will say it was acting in accordance with procedure, USA Today will note: “The departure of elevator mechanics from a disaster site is unusual. The industry takes pride in rescues. In the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, elevator mechanics worked closely with the firefighters making rescues.” Robert Caporale, editor of Elevator World will say, “Nobody knows the insides of a high-rise like an elevator mechanic. They act as guides for firefighters, in addition to working on elevators.” The Port Authority will also say that their departure was in conflict with the emergency plan. “There was no situation in which the mechanics were advised or instructed to leave on their own.” [USA Today, 12/19/2001; USA Today, 9/4/2002]

Entity Tags: World Trade Center, ACE Elevator, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Robert Caporale

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Richard Rotanz.Richard Rotanz. [Source: University of Delaware]Richard Rotanz, the deputy director of New York’s Office of Emergency Management, assesses the state of World Trade Center Building 7 and sees significant damage inside the building. [BBC, 7/6/2008; BBC, 10/17/2008] WTC 7 was damaged by the debris when the North Tower of the WTC collapsed at 10:28 a.m. (see 10:28 a.m. September 11, 2001). [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 11/2008, pp. 16] At around 12:30 p.m., according to the BBC, Rotanz and some other officials—whose identities are unstated—go into WTC 7 to see what condition the building is in. “At the time the building wasn’t safe, but we had to make an assessment just the same,” Rotanz will later tell the BBC. He will describe what he observes inside WTC 7, saying: “You could hear the building creak above us. You could hear things fall. You could hear the fire burning. You could see columns just hanging from the floors, gaping holes in the floors up above us.” He also sees “an elevator car that was blown out of its shaft” and is now “down the hall.” [BBC, 7/6/2008; BBC, 10/17/2008] The elevator car is “30 or 40 feet away from where the elevator shaft once was,” according to another account. [Aegis Insurance Services, Inc. v. 7 World Trade Center Company, LP, 12/4/2013 pdf file] Rotanz and those with him soon leave the building. “We didn’t spend that long” inside WTC 7, Rotanz will say. Rotanz has also observed significant damage to the exterior of WTC 7 (see (After 10:28 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [BBC, 10/17/2008] At around 2:30 p.m., senior firefighters will make the decision to abandon the possibility of fighting the fires in WTC 7 (see (2:00 p.m.-2:30 p.m.) September 11, 2001). The building will collapse at around 5:20 p.m. (see (5:20 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 111]

Entity Tags: Richard Rotanz, World Trade Center

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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