ACE Elevator Company - Twin Towers Contractor On 9/11 - 80 Elevator Mechanics, Where ?

ACE Elevator Company - Twin Towers Contractor On 9/11 - 80 Elevator Mechanics, Where ?

Elevator mechanics left

On Sept. 11, ACE Elevator of Palisades Park, N.J., had 80 elevator mechanics inside the World Trade Center.

Following the Port Authority's emergency plan, after the first jet hit the north tower, elevator mechanics from both towers reported to the fire safety desk in the south tower lobby for instructions from police or firefighters. About 60 mechanics had arrived in the south tower lobby and others were in radio contact when the second jet struck that building.

"We were standing there trying to count heads when the second plane hit (the south tower)," said Peter Niederau, ACE Elevator's supervisor of the modernization project. "Parts of the lobby and glass were coming down around us, so we all got out of the lobby as fast as we could."

They left in different directions. Some went through the underground shopping mall. Others went out onto Liberty Street. Had they stayed, they would have been about 30 yards from the two express elevators where firefighters tried unsuccessfully to save people. Another mechanic was in the north tower's 78th floor elevator lobby — where Savas and other people were trapped — when the first jet hit. The mechanic was knocked across the lobby, then evacuated safely, the ACE Elevator supervisors say.

"(We) went out to the street to assess the damage and come back in as needed," says James O'Neill, ACE Elevator's supervisor of maintenance. The plan was to return to the building later in the day to help with rescues. The strategy had worked after the 1993 terrorist bombing, when many of the same mechanics — working for Otis Elevator, which had the contract then — were hailed as heroes.

On Sept. 11, the mechanics left on their own, without instructions from police or fire officials. ACE Elevator supervisors say this was consistent with the emergency plan. All the mechanics survived. "We had a procedure. We had a procedure to follow, and they (the mechanics) followed it," Niederau says

But the Port Authority says the emergency plan called for mechanics to stay and help with rescues. "The manuals consider many emergency scenarios and describe the role of the mechanics in detail in responding to them," [b]Port Authority spokesman Allen Morrison says. "There was no situation in which the mechanics were advised or instructed to leave on their own. They were, depending on the situation, to be dispatched to various emergency posts or to respond to various passenger entrapments and to assist police, fire and other rescue personnel."

About 9:45 a.m., from the south tower lobby, Port Authority elevator manager Joseph Amatuccio radioed the ACE Elevator supervisors on their private radio channel. O'Neill recalls him asking: "Can you mobilize to come inside and see what's going on? Because I'm here with the fire department, and they're asking me questions I don't know."

O'Neill radioed John Menville, an ACE Elevator supervisor trained in rescues, and both tried to get back in the building. The supervisors had special ID badges with red stripes that allowed them behind police lines. The badges had been issued after the 1993 bombing.

As Menville approached, the south tower collapsed. Amatuccio and his colleagues were killed. Bobbitt and other firefighters began evacuating the soon-to-collapse north tower.

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