September 11 Digital Archive: XML Document

Local Union:32BJ

Story:As told by another 32BJ member: P>Carmen Griffith, an elevator operator at the World Trade Center, was on an elevator that morning of the tragedy. Having just dropped off six people at Cantor Fitzgerald, her 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. P>Now, a few day later, Carmen's face and hands are very badly burned. Her hospital room is overflowing with flowers. When Ernesto (photographer) and I arrived, it was packed with vistors too. Carmen has a large, extended family. And many of them came by while we were at the hospital. When Carmen and her little sister embraced, both were overwhelmed by emotion and began to cry. P>Carmen told us that she is in a great deal of physical pain. Talking with her made it clear that she also is hurting emotionally. As she described what happened to her, her leg began to shake. The more she got into her story, the faster her leg moved. The entire bed shook -- it seemed like she was ready for lift off. And her eyes widened and welled up with tears. Although she didn't cry while speaking with us. P>Her husband Arturo's account of what happened to Carmen differed a bit from Carmen's. The ball of fire ripped through the elevator, not the hall. As Carmen explains it, they heard a blast and the fire blew out a side panel of the elevator car. She and the passengers pried the door open. She said, 'People went under me and over met to get out.' Carmen turned to look behind her, and that's when the fire flashed into her face. P>Carmen said she pulled off her jacket and used it to smother the flame on her face and hands. She got out of the elevator and began to crawl. Her eyes were closed shut. 'I couldn't see. I thought my eyes were burned,' she said. At this point, Arlene Charles began to call to Carmen. Carmen followed Arlene's voice. Arlene took Carmen into an office wher Arlene and others poured water on Carmen. The burns were so severe that Carmen felt like she was still on fire. P>Arlene and another woman, known to Carmen only as Audrey, helped Carmen down to a lower floor. (This incident began on the 78th floor. Carmen wasn't sure of which floor because she could not see.) Along the way, someone poured a gallon of water on Carmen. 'It felt so good,' she said. And the water gave her the resolve to continue down. At some point, two men, who Carmen said were not firefighters, carried her the rest of the way down. P>Carmen did not say that she wanted to go back in after her husband. However, I did not ask her is she in fact wanted to go back in. She said that she was sure that her husband was dead. She had heard that a freight elevator was hit. And she said, 'I just knew that Arturo didn't make it.' P>Carmen is 45 years old. She is the mother of four children (ages 13 to 27). Her 22-year-old son also was at work at the WTC durin the attack. He is a 32BJ member who does landscaping and outside maintenance work. He survived the attack with minor injuries. Carmen is a shop steward who worked at the WTC for 21 1/2 years. Her husband worked there for 27 years. P>'I knew everybody,' she said. 'I loved working there. I worked at that job six days a week. Those people were my family. P>a href=http://www.seiu.org/political_action/GetInvolved/September_story_display.cfm?start=7&maxrows=3>Click here/a> for the story of Carmen's husband, Arturo Griffith.


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