Elevator Motor Symbolizes Disaster at World Trade Center Site

An elevator motor recovered from the wreckage of the World Trade Center is displayed at the Museum.
An elevator motor recovered from the wreckage at the World Trade Center site after 9/11. (Photo: Deena Farrell)

The Twin Towers were the first skyscrapers to have a system of local and express elevators, which reduced elevator travel time.

Each tower had 99 elevators that included freight, local, and high-speed express cars. The latter of the three traveled directly to the South Tower Observation Deck and the Windows of the World restaurant on the top floors of the North Tower. A total of 99 elevator motors, weighing about 10,000 pounds each, operated the elevator systems in each of the towers.

At 8:46 a.m., on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, hijacked Flight 11 struck the North Tower during elevator rush hour for thousands. The attacks on 9/11 led to worst passenger elevator disaster in history, causing the deaths of an estimated 200 of the victims at the World Trade Center site.

Some occupants of the South Tower began immediate evacuation. When hijacked Flight 175 struck the building, many were inside elevator cars as they planned to evacuate. Smoke filled the elevator shafts, jet fuel pour down, and flames spread.

The loss of electricity made it impossible for personnel at the building’s fire command station to guide cars down to the lobby or communicate with individuals trapped inside the cars.

By Deena Farrell, 9/11 Memorial Communications Intern

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