When it opens, the National September 11 Museum‘s permanent exhibit will contain a 10,000-pound elevator motor that was used to transport thousands of people to and from offices in the World Trade Center up until the attacks on September 11, 2001.
The exhibit also tells the story of John Menville, who worked to install the elevators at the World Trade Center in 1969. After the 1993 bombing at the World Trade Center, he helped police evacuate people down the stairs and freed people trapped in the elevators. He then worked 12 hours a day, seven days a week, for six months to repair the elevators. Menville stayed to maintain the elevators until the buildings were destroyed on September 11.
The 8-foot-by-5-foot motors, or 339 machines, at the World Trade Center were the first to be used in North America and the biggest in the world. They had only been used previously in South African diamond mines. The elevators traveled at speeds of up to 1,600 feet per minute and had a capacity of 10,000 pounds, far exceeding the 3,500-pound weight limit of normal elevators. Each tower had 20 motors that provided power to a series of shuttle elevators that transported people from the ground floor to transfer points in the sky lobby. The motors were located in machine rooms near some of the lobbies.
When an airplane hit the North Tower on September 11, it blocked all the stairways, trapping people inside the building. However, the airplane that hit the South Tower became lodged in the elevator motor room, which protected a stairwell and allowed people to escape.
After the buildings collapsed on 9/11, artifacts such as the elevator motors were transported to Hangar 17 at John F. Kennedy Airport for storage. Workers who cleaned up the World Trade Center site were able to salvage about 15 of the elevator motors, making it possibly to display one, which was badly burned and had severed wires coming out the sides. The motor will sit in bedrock in the museum in a long corridor filled with other large objects, such as twisted steel and crushed emergency vehicles. Visitors can walk through the gallery to view the primary exhibit.