Willie Rodriguez Wisconsin Coverage

World Trade Center custodian tells heroic 9/11 rescue tale


Written by Lexie Clinton
Sunday, 22 April 2007

The last man alive out of the World Trade Center’s North Tower Sept. 11 2001, janitor William Rodriguez, told his story of survival and heroism Saturday at a lecture sponsored by the Muslim-Jewish-Christian Alliance for 9/11 Truth.

Rodriguez held one of five master keys to the WTC—a tool he calls “the key of hope” that enabled him to save 15 people trapped inside the two towers.

The custodian’s story started at 8:30 a.m. when he arrived to work on the basement level of the North Tower. He was late and ached from cleaning the 110 flights of stairs the day before. He had missed the free breakfast he ate every morning on the top-floor restaurant, Windows on the World.

At 8:46 a.m. he heard an explosion. “Boom!” Rodriguez imitated. He heard a man screaming “Explosion! Explosion!” from underneath. “I wanted to say a generator blew up. I thought it was a bomb.”

This piece of evidence may show explosives were used in accompaniment to the hijacked planes, he said. When the plane hit, “the walls cracked and the building shook.”

Rodriguez did not pause. He helped a man with a third of his body burned and pulled two out of an elevator filled with water. He put them in an ambulance and re-entered the towers.

He met firefighters and used his key to open stairwells and guide them through the building he had worked in for over twenty years.

“We got to go up, we got to go up!” he said. “I want to go up to help my friends,” Rodriguez said, referring to the cooks at the top floor restaurant.

He assisted employees who could not find exits and helped carry a man in a wheelchair. “I do not know where I got the strength,” he said.

“My adrenaline was still pumping miracle after miracle. You didn’t digest what had just happened.”

Rodriguez safely escaped the building, and after an explosion, lay in rubble for hours.

A native of Puerto Rico and a U.S. citizen, Rodriquez is now a global activist. He has been honored by the White House five times and helped create the 9/11 Commission.

But Rodriguez says survivors are still searching for answers.

“Twenty-two people were injured down there [in the basement], and not one of them was called to testify. We believe they did not tell us the truth.”

Rodriguez’s visit was sparked by an invite from UW lecturer and 9/11 conspiracy theorist, Kevin Barrett.

Barrett said Rodriguez wrote to him, and wanted to visit to “set the record straight,” after the College Republicans hosted a 9/11 survivor in March and much of the talk surrounded Barrett’s conspiracy theories.

“He is the custodian of truth that can save the world—he is the 9/11 key master—the key to unlocking the truth,” Barrett said of Rodriguez.

Trade Center custodian shares story


by Carl Jaeger
Monday, April 23, 2007

Sharing his story of bravery and courage, a former World Trade Center janitor spoke on the University of Wisconsin campus Saturday about how he came to be known as the “9/11 Key Master.”

William Rodriguez, the last person out of the North Tower of the World Trade Center who has since been honored by the White House, spoke of his experiences on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, and his belief that explosives were detonated in the basement of the building, where he was that morning.

At 8:46 a.m. on Sept. 11, 2001, Rodriguez, who was two levels below ground, said he felt a large explosion that “pushed him upward into the air” seven seconds before the plane hit the building.

Once Rodriguez knew what was happening, he said his intuition was to save his friends who worked at the restaurant atop the North Tower — friends that provided him with a complementary breakfast daily, he said.

“If it was up to me, I would have gone up past the fire to help my friends,” Rodriguez said. “Even though I saved hundreds of people, the people I wanted to help from the very beginning — my friends — I didn’t save a single one.”

As a member of the maintenance staff, Rodriguez was one of five people who had a master key to open any door in either tower.

Rodriguez said he led firefighters up the stairs to the 39th floor, unlocking doors that resulted in saved lives.

After helping a man in a wheelchair escape from the building, Rodriguez said he dove underneath a fire truck moments before the buildings fell and was rescued four-and-a-half hours later.

Rodriguez said that, through his presentation, he hoped people received a deeper understanding of the Sept. 11 attacks.

In addition, Rodriguez said he wants people “to understand the catastrophic event that 9/11 was, to feel the despair, to feel the pain and, at the same time, the hope that we can actually make a change by reopening the investigation and getting the answers that we need.”

Rodriguez’s visit to campus came after a March 20 visit by another 9/11 survivor, Earl Johnson, who spoke out against former UW lecturer Kevin Barrett, who supports theories that the U.S. government was responsible for the attacks.

“[UW] had an event where they brought a survivor prior to my visit that basically attacked Kevin Barrett, who has been asking hard questions about what happened on 9/11,” Rodriguez said. “As a leader for the victims in New York, I wanted to set the record straight.”

Barrett, who introduced Rodriguez, said Rodriguez is well known throughout the world, the United Kingdom, Malaysia and Venezuela.

“This guy is the No. 1 9/11 hero in the world,” Barrett said. “But he’s been blacked out [in the United States], and the reason is that he testified honestly about the explosives that destroyed the World Trade Center that he witnessed.”

Barrett added Rodriguez’s legacy would remain in history for many years to come.

“I think William Rodriguez is our premier national hero, and he will be remembered centuries from now,” Barrett said.

9/11 survivor speaks
Comedian presents'last man out'


Nicole Strittmater
Issue date: 4/23/07 Section: Campus News

William Rodriguez, believed to be the last man out of the World Trade Center North Tower, holds up one of the five master keys to the WTC that he refers to now as the Hope Key since it played a large role in his and others' survival, on Friday evening in Schofield Auditorium.

"Lucy, You have some splaining to do!" William Rodriguez said to a laughing Schofield Auditorium audience Friday night.

Rodriguez, a janitor of 20 years at the World Trade Center and believed to be the last man out of the North Tower alive, used to travel off-Broadway playing the famous comedic "I Love Lucy" character Ricky Ricardo.

Now, he is traveling for a different reason - to tell a serious story of Sept. 11, 2001, and to honor the victims of that tragic day.

His presentation, "Last Man Out: A 9/11 Hero's Story," sponsored by University Activities Commission, described his account, during which he personally rescued 15 people and saved hundreds more by using his master key to open doors - an account that inspired a standing ovation before he even started speaking.

"His story was … very believable in a very unbelievable kind of way," freshman Jeff Jacks said.

Rodriguez said he was running late to work on Sept. 11, 2001. He said he wasn't going to show up at all, but no one else wanted to do his job.

"Have you ever tried to clean 110 floors?" he said. "Your knees will be shaking so hard by the end of the day!"

So he showed up at 8:30 a.m. and went to the basement, instead of going to the top.

Minutes later: "Boom!, an explosion so loud and so hard it pushed us upwards," he said. "Everybody's screaming in pure horror."

When he got outside he looked up at the building.

"I saw the hole. I saw the fire. I saw debris come down. I saw the smoke," he said. "I started screaming 'Oh my God! The people from Windows!' "

He was referring to the restaurant Windows of the World towards the top of the building, where he always received a free breakfast each morning.

All he could think about was how he needed to get to his friends up there.

So he entered the North Tower, climbing the stairwells with the firefighters, because he had one of only five master keys to the buildings that would open up the doors, a key now called "the key of hope."

He opened up the doors on each floor and let people out, but when he got to the 33rd floor he found a woman shaking and lost.

She was a new employee who didn't know where to go, so he helped her find her way and continued upwards.

While rescuing a handicapped man, the second plane hit the South Tower.

It was at that moment, he said, when he started to hear the horror. He said he didn't recognize certain noises when he was busy helping, but at that point it hit him.

"I heard the screams … I was so in shock. Then I heard 'Bam!' " he said. It was the collapse of the South Tower.

The handicapped man looked terrified, Rodriguez said, so he tried to make him feel better.

"I said to him, 'Don't worry, after this we're going to go get a beer,' " he said.

They made it outside and he saw total destruction.

"I saw the most horrible thing I ever saw in my life: all the bodies. I saw body parts everywhere."

He couldn't recognize anybody, because the impact when they hit the concrete was so powerful.

"I only recognized one (body). I found that lady from the 33rd floor," he said, and yelled "God, what is this?! What is this?!"

Then, the North Tower started to crumble, so he dodged under a fire truck to save himself. Hours later he was pulled from the rubble - not a single bone broken. After receiving medical attention, he aided in the rescue efforts.

Rodriguez has traveled around the world sharing the stories of the victims and what really happened inside the buildings, such as a series of explosions that he experienced, explosions never included in the 9/11 Commission report. Rodriquez's name is not mentioned anywhere in the 576 page report, and survivors were never called either, he said.

"I don't do this for attention, because I'm already part of history," he said. "We owe it to the victims … I lost 200 friends that I will never see again."

UW-Eau Claire alumnus Leslee Larson said she was impressed with the story.

"It was nice to have a face-to-face interaction with it," she said. "He's humble … It was heartbreaking."

September 11th Survivor Speaks In Eau Claire


Reporter: Lindsay Veremis
Posted: 10:11 PM Apr 20, 2007

Talking about September 11th can bring back painful memories, thoughts of loved ones lost and lives cut short.

Still, one man, who's believed to have been the last man out of the World Trade Center's North Tower is doing just that, bringing his story of survival to Eau Claire.

William Rodriguez worked for nearly 20 years as a janitor in the World Trade Center and is credited with rescuing 15 people from the North tower and saving hundreds by opening stairwell doors with his master key. Now, he's continuing to help the victims of 9/11, this time... with his words.

"Five years after 9/11 the victims, survivors and those affected by the events are still searching for answers, five years after we're still hurting," Rodriguez said.

So, Rodriguez now travels across the country and throughout the world speaking on their behalf.

"They have been dehumanizing the story because they're always talking about the buildings, the buildings the planes, but they don't talk about the lives that were lost and what really happened in the building that day," he said.

And it's their stories he hopes to share, along with his own. However, one part of his story differs from the reports most of us have heard.

"I was the janitor in charge of all the stairwells in the North Tower on 9/11, I had the only master key that opened all the doors and this is the master key, they call it the key of hope, on 9/11 there was a huge explosion in the basement before the plane hit the towers," Rodrigez said.

He says on September 11th, he and other victims experienced a series of explosions inside the building, explosions, that were never recognized in the 9/11 commission report. While Rodriguez isn't sure what the explosion was, he is sure of one thing, the lesson he learned from 9/11.

"It's not your job, it's not what you do, it's not how much you make, or how much you earn, it's really the people that are close to you, nothing else matters," he said.