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Background Attack Aftermath Evidence Misinformation Analysis Memorial

World Trade Center Survivors

A Handful of People Survived the Towers' Falls

Thousands of people suffered profound trauma from directly witnessing to the events of 9/11/01 in New York City. Hundreds narrowly escaped death. Thousands more have been bereaved by the loss of loved ones in the attack. All of these people are rightly described as survivors of the attack. Here we focus on a much smaller group of people who either escaped or were rescued from Ground Zero after being trapped by the Towers' falls. Just 20 people are known to fit this description. Four of those were trapped and rescued by Ground Zero workers. The rest found their way out of that scene of incomprehensible destruction. All of their stories of survival are remarkable.

The Four Rescues

John McLoughlin and William Jimeno, two Port Authority Policemen, were rescued after being buried in rubble around a freight elevator for about 13 and 21 hours. 1   The harrowing story of the survival and rescue of these two men is the subject of World Trade Center, a 2006 film by Oliver Stone.

Pasquale Buzzelli, a structural engineer for the Port Authority, and Genelle Guzman, a secretary, were in offices on the 64th floor of the North Tower when the building was hit. Buzzelli and 15 co-workers thought they would be safer remaining in the building and stayed until the South Tower came down, which shook their office. Then smoke started to come in and they decided to evacuate via the B stairwell. The group spread out as they descended, with Buzzelli and Guzman ahead of the others. They had reached the lower floors when the Tower began to come down. Buzzelli and Guzman, who were together at the time, remember their location differently -- he thinking the 22nd and she the 13th floor. Buzzelli was knocked unconscious for three hours, and awoke on a hill of rubble, looking at the sky. Suffering from a broken foot, cuts and a concussion, he was extracted by rescue workers and evacuated on a stretcher. 2   Guzman, who was just below the surface, was rescued more than 27 hours after the Tower fell. Her leg was crushed but she fully recovered within four months. 3  

Survivors Who Walked Aaway

Tom Canavan, who worked for First Union Bank, stayed on the 47th floor of the North Tower until after the South Tower was hit, after which his evacuation was slowed by congestion in a stairwell. Canavan had just passed through revolving doors into the darkened, glass-strewn underground shopping mall between the two Towers, and had turned back to help a couple when the rumble of the South Tower's destruction began. He was thrown to the ground and trapped in a small space by slabs of concrete. Canavan and another man crawled to an opening near The Sphere -- the World Trade Center Plaza's centerpiece bronze sculpture. The other man crawled out, but Canavan, being larger, was unable to. Canavan continued to struggle, and extracted himself and walked to safety over smouldering rubble that burned the bottoms of his shoes. He had crawled 40 feet east and 30 feet up through the rubble in 25 minutes, escaping just a few minutes before the fall of the North Tower. 4   To date, the identity of the other survivor described by Canavan remains unknown.

Fourteen people, mostly firefighters from Ladder Company 6 and Engine 39, survived in the B stairwell of the North Tower and crawled to safety. They are Firefighters Billy Butler, Tommy Falco, Jay Jonas, Michael Meldrum, Sal D'Agastino, and Matt Komorowski of Ladder 6; Firefighter Mickey Kross of Engine Company 16, Firefighters Jim McGlynn, Rob Bacon, Jeff Coniglio, and Jim Efthimiaddes of Engine 39; Porrt Authority Police Officer Dave Lim; Battalion Chief Rich Picciotto of the 11th Battalion; and civilian Josephine Harris. 5  


1. Last Man Out, CBS News, 11/24/04 [cached]
2. Miracles emerge from debris, USAToday.com, 9/6/02 [cached]
3. A Miracle's Cost, time.com, 9/1/02 [cached]
4. Miracles emerge ..., USAToday.com, 9/6/02
5. Miracles emerge ..., USAToday.com, 9/6/02

page last modified: 2006-08-08