NY World Trade Centre collapse survivor's 2006 public account

by Stephen Hewitt | Published 23 September 2020

On the evening of Monday 27 November 2006, William Rodriguez addressed a public meeting of a hundred or so at in the Indian YMCA in Fitzroy Street, London on the destruction of the World Trade Centre in New York where he was working on 11 September 2001.

He not only gave an eyewitness account of what happened on that day, but also talked about his subsequent experiences. He was introduced as, amongst other things, the President of the 9/11 Hispanic Victims Group.

“I hope you understand my Spanish accent”, said Rodriguez near the start of his talk.

Before giving the eyewitness account, he said that both congress and the government of Puerto Rico, where he was born, had made him a national hero. He became the “voice of September 11”. The Republican party chose him to run for office and he had been trained at the Governing Institute. This institution, he said, trains politicians in all things political, including how to set up legislation, and how to deal with the media.

“But, when I started asking questions of what happened on that day, everything was totally different than I expected. The government didn't want me to ask those questions even though I was the photo opportunity.”

He said that there are photographs of him with Hilary Clinton, the President of the USA, top congressmen. The Republicans, he said, wanted the “Latino” vote.

“And I was part of the game. I was part of the lie because I did not know what was going on. I thought that we were going to get answers, which we didn't.”

“Once I get the recognition I started asking for the formation of a commission to investigate the events.”

He described how he and 6 victim's family members had approached congress asking for a formal investigation.

“So we went on national TV and we placed on every television programme that we could, a widow, a mother, a family member that was somebody just to press for the investigation.”

He made several points about the investigation. Firstly that they had wanted a family member included and this was refused. Secondly Henry Kissinger was proposed as the head of this commission. “and that's when we went crazy and say NO”. Rodriguez said that the press reported that Kissinger removed himself, whereas “actually we fired him”.

Thirdly he said that there was an agreement that FEMA, Department of Justice, FBI, NORAD, State Department and the CIA “will be exempt of any prosecution”.

“Isn't that strange? Well it was very strange for the families as well. And that's when we started - no doesn't make sense, something is wrong”.

“We create the family steering committee, a group of family members, the best prepared members that we have, simply to put the questions that we needed to be answered. From 168 questions that we placed we only have answers to 22 of them.”

He said that his own testimony was taken behind closed doors and totally omitted from the final report.

“They didn't want my testimony publicly, even though oh I was good for the news. I was the expert for Telemundo the Spanish network, for Univision for CNN in Espagnol - they have CNN in Spanish - their expert on everything related to 9/11 but when it came to these questions always edited always cut it into pieces. The Anglo media didn't want these questions to be asked.”

Rodriguez said ...“we started to find out so many things. Because we had the access, we are there, we are going through the whole process”...“and we realise that our own government was lying.”

Eyewitness account

In a talk that lasted an hour, Rodriguez described many details and events of that day, not all of which are included in this summary.

Rodriguez said that he was a stairwell janitor in the North Tower and had worked in the building for 20 years.

He explained that the building had six “sublevels”, B1 (or Basement 1) down to B6. At 8:46am he was in the support office of his company, American Building Maintenance, in the B1 level of the North tower, talking to a supervisor - the name sounded something like Anthony san della Machia - when he heard an explosion: “we hear BOOM - an explosion so hard that push me upwards and everybody around me - push me upwards - an indication that something just blew up on the basement below me. I felt it. I heard it.”

He thought that a generator had probably blown up in the mechanical room between the B2 and B3 levels. As he was about to say this he heard the impact of the plane “all the way on the top of the building”. This and the first explosion, he said, were “two different events.” Suddenly a man came running into the office shouting “explosion, explosion, explosion” and he had the skin hanging off both his arms and parts of his face missing. He was a black man from Honduras called Felipe David. People started screaming when they saw him.

Then they heard another explosion and the building started to shake, the false ceiling fell, the sprinkler system was activated and the walls cracked. He thought this was a bomb. Other people felt the floor moving and thought that it was an earthquake and stood in the door frames.

Confusingly, Rodriguez then said that as he was about to telephone the emergency services located in the South Tower there was “another explosion and that's when I said everybody out”.

The ambiguity was that Rodriguez could have been either repeating himself with another description of the last explosion, or describing yet another explosion.

No one asked for clarification of this during questions afterwards. To check this, I later watched the DVD that Rodriguez had signed at the end of his talk (see below). The DVD shows him delivering a talk dated 25 June 2006 which is similar in content to the one reported here. In his DVD talk it is clear that there is only one more explosion after the burnt man has appeared.

Incidentally, it was noticeable that in the DVD talk Rodriguez said that the walls cracked, the false ceiling fell and the sprinkler systems was activated after the very first explosion, and that, following the explosion after the burnt man ran in, “the walls cracked again”. As noted above, in the talk reported here, he did not mention the ceiling falling, the activation of the sprinkler system or the walls cracking until after the later explosion, the one that happened after the burnt man ran in.

Be that as it may, the talk in London continued with Rodriguez describing how he went outside and put the injured man into an ambulance. Outside he heard for the first time that a plane had hit the building and looked up and saw the flames.

After the bombing in 1993 an Operational Control Centre or OCC was created in the basement of the South Tower. This was a control room with cameras and emergency equipment. He reached it to find nobody there.

He described how, returning to the North Tower, he used a ladder to rescue two people trapped in a lift that was filling with water from the sprinkler system. “There was water everywhere”, he said.

Rodriguez described taking them outside, and entering the building again where he met a Port Authority police officer - his name sounded something like David Limb - who asked him if he had the key, which he did. Rodriguez explained why he was in possession of one of only 5 master keys.

The other four key holders, he said, port authority management employees who were trained in “egress, escape, first aid, rescue”, were the first people to run out of the building.

In a slightly theatrical moment of his talk, Rodriguez produced a key. “Ladies and gentlemen this is the key. They call it the key of hope. It's already designated to be on the memorial that is going to be built on ground zero. But without this key so many people would have died. And without the help of God.”

This was not the only reference to God in his talk. For example, at the start of his account of that day he described the fact that he was late to work as a miracle (because normally he would have been eating breakfast on the top floor in the Windows of the World restaurant) and added what sounded like “I guess he had more plans for me”. In describing his rescue of the two men in the lift he said “I was not a religious person I was total agnostic I said God help me”.

“Now the reason the key again was very important was because the world trade centre was a class A building - any building 50 floors and above need a certification called Class A meaning that three doors will not open on the stairwells and one will open, three won't open and one will open, all the way to the top. In 1993 - when the bomb happened in 1993 - so much time was lost by the fire department just breaking each door. Steel doors.”

Going up to the lobby with the police officer, he found the fire department there waiting for a lift. He told them there was no lift, and went ahead of them up the stairs, opening doors with his key and letting people escape.

Rodriguez said “I went in front of them opening the doors and letting people out.”

Then, after describing how the firemen were carrying heavy equipment and he was not, he said “I found myself sometimes several floors above them, opening doors and letting people escape.”

“Now as I went up I heard so many strange things, but especially mini explosions” and when he asked the firemen about this the reply was “it must be the gas tanks from the kitchens”. This, he said, did not make sense because the building, being a Class A building, had electric kitchens.

On floor 33 he had a closet with supplies for cleaning the building. He didn't explain why he was going to the closet, but he said that while he was on floor 33 he heard strange noises from the floor above: “so I'm going to the closet and all of a sudden I hear brrrrm - not explosion - it's something being moved, heavy equipment being moved on the 34th floor. It was scratching the floor.”

This, he said, frightened him because the 34th was an empty floor: “I mean you needed access to that and the only way to get in was through the stairwell because not even the elevator will stop there. And why do I know that? Because it was the floor above my closet and I would go and have lunch on that floor because it was empty and nobody would bother me. So to hear that, scared me.”

His goal was to rescue his friends at the top of the building but he never got higher than the 39th floor. On that floor he met the police officer again and they discussed what to do next.

Then in another confusing part of the talk Rodriguez said:

“And while we are talking all of a sudden we hear BOOM - the impact on the other tower - and it was so hard that our tower shake and all of a sudden we hear pa pa pa pa pa pa pa horrible, strong and on the radio the security guard that I have on my end I hear we lost 65! we lost 65! meaning that 63 floor collapse floor by floor by floor up to the sky”...

At this point Rodriguez said a word that I did not catch, and that is not identifiable on my recording either, and he continued

...“the 44th floor and I was on the 39th floor 5 flights away”.

The confusion is for example, that there's no obvious connection between the numbers 65, 63 and 44. Again, no one asked for clarification.

At this point in his talk, Rodriguez said ...“that the world was watching but we didn't know what was happening. The radios were failing for the fire department. Motorola”. He then said something about Motorola being sued.

He returned to floor 27 to help take a man in a wheelchair outside. Referring to helping to take the man downstairs in a rescue basket, he said:

“as we go down the stairwell we hear boom the collapse of the south tower very loud, so strong that the building oscillated and the fluorescent lights on the stairwell, they started to breaking at once blah blah blah all the way to the bottom”.

Reaching the lobby he was “in shock” to see that all the marble had gone from the walls.

He emerged from the building in time to shelter under a fire truck when the building collapsed. Hours later he was dug out of the rubble by firemen, and after receiving first aid he stayed at the scene helping to rescue people from the rubble. Before leaving he saw CNN calling him and he told CNN, NBC and Global vision “the whole story”. He left by boat to New Jersey and as he was leaving he saw WTC building 7 collapse.

“I look up and I see building 7 collapse, a building that was never hit by a plane, never, had a small fire and it collapsed in the same way as the south tower and as the north tower. Now this goes against the official story.”

Rodriguez also mentioned that after 11 September 2001, ... “nobody was giving help to the community. You heard about the red cross, raising millions of dollars - that was not getting to the victims.”

Moving towards the conclusion of his talk, he said:

“Now why do we do this? Because we owe the truth to the world. They have used 9/11 to criminalise islam. They have used 9/11 to create a new agenda. I'm not a muslim but it's my responsibility to show the world that it's bad, wrong what our government has been using 9/11 for - to create a war against the muslim community.”

There was a round of spontaneous applause after this, the only such interruption in the talk. “We owe it to the memory of these victims.”

“So we have seen how they use our tragedy to create an agenda that we do not agree on. In the very early beginning and you don't remember maybe but when they started the conflict with Iraq they wanted the families of 9/11 to support the invasion because they said that it was a connection between Saddam and Osama and they were both into the 9/11 fiasco. They said that. But when the families stood up and they said NO! it doesn't have to do at all with 9/11 they changed the tune to weapons of mass destruction.”

“I beg you to enquire and support the families of 9/11, support your local 9/11 united er er kingdom group. We have Annie Machon in the back - Annie would you please stand up - who has been gracious enough to hold this”...

A woman with blonde hair stood up near the back of the hall.

Audience questions

After speaking, Rodriguez took questions from the audience for about 20 minutes.

During a long response to one question, Rodriguez mentioned that most families had received federal compensation.

“They didn't know. By receiving 1.2 million dollars for the death of your loved one you were not able to sue the government, the airline industry - it was a bailout - the port authority, no agency whatsoever. And people were induced to take that money. And I was one of the guilty ones that went on TV”. He said that some commercials that he did on TV were on his website.

One man asked whether the families apart from the “Jersey girls” questioned the official story. “All the families question the official story”, replied Rodriguez.

The question session was ended with Rodriguez saying “David Shayler ladies and gentlemen” as Shayler appeared at the front of the hall appealing for money.

Shayler said: “It's only by getting this information out obviously we can stop another 9/11 or another 7/7”...

He appealed to people who were in “left wing organisations” to “spread this truth to those organisations”.

...“and please don't think you can start doing something about this in five year's time. The way we're going now it's going to be far too late. So I ask you to dip into your pockets and give your effort now please. Thank you.”

Rodriguez produced a spindle of about 100 DVDs and proceeded to autograph them for people who queued to buy them. Printed on the DVD is “WILLIAM RODRIGUEZ National Hero What really happened on 9/11?” with a photograph of him brandishing a key.

Rodriguez said that his website is 911keymaster.com

A previous version of this article was published in 2006 on Indymedia


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