THE last man to leave the World Trade Center building alive is coming to Lancaster on Thursday, February 8, to speak on his experiences during and since 9/11.
Visitor news editor INGRID KENT hears what William Rodriguez has to say and finds out why he will be travelling all the way to the UK to give a lecture
WILLIAM Rodriguez was working as a janitor in the World Trade Center on the ninth of September 2001 when he heard explosions – from below.
But William didn't just try to save his own skin; as the only key holder for the North Tower stairwell where he was working, he unlocked doors and helped firefighters to rescue hundreds of people.
William was also the last survivor to leave the building. He spent the rest of 9/11 helping out as a volunteer in the rescue efforts, and at dawn the following morning, was back at Ground Zero continuing his efforts.
After 9/11 William lost his job and has worked ever since to help others who were affected by the atrocities.
In February William is coming to Lancaster to tell his side of the story; a story the US Government would not let him tell in full.
William, a native of Puerto Rico, a citizen of the United States and a resident of the State of New Jersey, was employed as a maintenance worker at the 110-storey World Trade Center building for 19 years.
Arriving at 8.30am on the morning of 9/11, he went to the maintenance office located on the first sub-level, one of six sub-basements beneath ground level.
Fourteen people were in the office at that time. As he was talking with others, he says there was an incredibly loud and powerful explosion which seemed to emanate from between sub-basement B2 and B3.
There were 22 people on B2 sub-basement who also felt and heard that first explosion.
At first William thought it was a generator that had exploded, but the cement walls in the office cracked from the explosion.
"When I heard the sound of the explosion, the floor beneath my feet vibrated, the walls started cracking and everything started shaking," said William, who was crowded together in the office with 14 other people, including Anthony Saltamachia, supervisor for the American Maintenance Company.
Just seconds later he says there was another explosion high above which made the building oscillate momentarily. This, he was later told, was a plane hitting the 90th floor.
Then he says there were other explosions just above B1 and individuals started heading for the loading dock to escape the fires caused by the blasts.
Unlocking doors for the firefighters as he went, William got to the 39th floor before he was turned back by the firefighters. As he began his descent he heard a plane hit the south tower.
Down at ground level he saw the mangled and bloodied bodies of people who had jumped. William says he will never forget the anguish that hit him, or the sight of the senseless carnage.
The Twin Towers were the only known steel frame buildings in history claimed to have failed because of fire. Other steel frame buildings have been known to burn for hours and hours and not collapse. The cause of the Twin Towers' failure is not known because the evidence was rendered unavailable for investigation.
Independent investigators said both towers suspiciously fell "like a house of cards," claiming that William probably heard pre-arranged detonated bomb blasts, strategically placed and timed to make it appear that the plane was the cause of the collapse.
After the trauma of losing many of his close friends and the sheer horror of the events of 9/11, William looked forward to his appearance at a closed-door hearing of the 9/11 Commission.
But he started changing his opinion as he saw how the commission worked, and also when the American media edited out his testimonies about hearing bomb blasts in the buildings, whilst the Spanish media reported his claims unedited.
William was one of the last people to testify to the commission and spoke behind closed doors, unlike other witnesses. His testimony was not included in the final report.
He said the commission didn't answer his questions and avoided the issues he was presenting. When the administration started to link the 9/11 attacks with the preparations of the 2003 Iraq war, he said he felt "manipulated and used".
He also sought out the National Institutes of Technology, which was investigating the collapse of the WTC, but was sent packing. And the FBI was not interested in his claim that he'd met one of the hijackers 'casing' the buildings several months before 9/11.
In October 2004, William filed a civil lawsuit directed against George W Bush, Richard B Cheney, Donald H Rumsfeld and others, including a total of 100 defendants, together with Ellen Mariani and lawyer Phil Berg.
The RICO Act is normally used by the US government to nail organised crime as a conspiracy, but this time it was used against the government itself, claiming a conspiracy on its part.
The government filed a motion to dismiss, or at least transfer, the case on grounds of national security. Berg answered by filing an affidavit that alleged the defendants "had knowledge that the attacks were impending... but they failed to (take countermeasures), not by reason of mere negligence, confusion, or ineptitude, but because they affirmatively desired such attacks to occur."
William said: "I have tried to tell my story to everybody, but nobody wants to listen. It is very strange what is going on here in supposedly the most democratic country in the world. In my home country of Puerto Rico and all the other Latin American countries, I have been allowed to tell my story uncensored. But here, I can't even say a word."
William Rodriguez will be speaking at the Hugh Pollard Lecture Theatre on St Martin's College Campus off Bowerham Road, at 7pm on Thursday, February 8. Tickets are by donation and the event is being organised by rinf.com.
Contact the venue on 01524 384383.