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September 17, 2001
Arturo Griffith was in a freight elevator when the building was attacked. The elevator dropped to B1 (the basement level), fell below the landing. He was trapped in the elevator beneath debris and unconscious. He remembers seeing a beam of light. He called out. The smoke was so thick; Arturo could not see his own hand. So his rescuers had to follow his voice to find him.
'I don't know who saved me. It was so black and smoky. I couldn't see nothin',' Arturo said. 'When they got me out, I told them there was someone else down there, a woman. They went back to get her. Seconds after they pulled her out, a ball of fire came down the shaft. They almost got killed.'
'I couldn't walk. When they were getting' me out, I tried to stand up three times, but I kept fallin'. I didn't realize that my knee was fractured. When I got out of the building, I wanted to go back in to find my wife. But I was on a stretcher. I couldn't move.'
Arturo's wife, Carmen Griffith, was also on an elevator that morning. Having just dropped off 6 people at Cantor Fitzgerald, Carmen's elevator was on the way down with several passengers in tow. Suddenly, the entire elevator shook. The car stopped on the 78th floor. The doors would not open. Carmen and the passengers pried the doors open. When Carmen stepped out to check the floor, a ball of fire rolled through the hallway.
Carmen dropped to the floor and rolled about in an effort to extinguish the flames. Onlookers helped to douse the flames with their jackets. Carmen suffered 2nd degree burns on her face, head, legs and arms. 'Another worker helped Carmen get out,' Arturo said.
'Arlene Charles helped my wife walk down the stairs. Carmen has asthma, so it wasn't just the burns. With all the smoke, she couldn't hardly breathe. Arlene got her to the 40th floor. But Carmen couldn't walk any more. So, firemen took her the rest of the way down. When she got outside, she wanted to go back in to look for me. Thank God the firemen wouldn't let her back in the building. They took my wife to Long Island College Hospital. It was a while before we knew we were okay.'
Speaking from his bed at St. Vincent's Hospital, Arturo talked about his thoughts during the disaster. 'When I was in the elevator, I saw death in front of me. And I was sure that my wife was gone. I didn't think that I would ever see her again. I thank God for saving me and my wife.'
Arturo Griffith ,
Story #54, The September 11 Digital Archive, 17 September 2001, <http://911digitalarchive.org/stories/details/54>.