NEW YORK — Trapped on a dangling scaffold 69 stories up the 1 World Trade Center tower, two window washers were rescued Nov. 12 by firefighters who sawed through a window to reach them.
The washers were stuck for nearly two hours before their dramatic rescue, as New Yorkers watched from the ground and on live TV.
The accident, which officials said was caused by a malfunctioning cable, happened little more than a week after workers began moving into the nation’s tallest building.
The workers’ ordeal began on the south side of the 1,776-foot, 104-story building at around 12:40 p.m. when one of the platform’s four cables abruptly developed slack, Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said. The open-topped platform tilted sharply and swayed slightly in the wind.
The workers were harnessed to the platform, and firefighters also lowered ropes from the roof so the workers could secure themselves further, along with a two-way radio for them to communicate, Nigro said.
Firefighters then used diamond cutters to saw through a two-layered, more than inch-thick glass window on the 68th floor. They cut an opening by hitting the thick glass, shattering it in place, and then carefully pulling the broken glass into the building.
Firefighters also began inching another scaffold was inched down the building as a backup rescue plan, but they were able to bring the workers to safety through the roughly 4-by-8-foot window hole by 2:30 p.m.
“It was a fairly straightforward operation,” said Battalion Chief Joseph Jardin, who oversees the department’s special operations. “This is not the first time we’ve encountered this type of operation. We train. We prepare.”
The workers had mild hypothermia but seemed otherwise OK, Nigro said. They were taken to a hospital to be checked out.
People on the ground had been moved back in case glass began flying. Office workers and construction workers streamed onto a nearby street, their necks craning to watch the scaffold as it is waved in the wind.
“I hope they have enough experience to stay calm; when you start panicking, it makes things worse,” said window washer Ramon Castro, who stood with the onlookers.
“It’s a very dangerous job,” said Castro, adding that he had encountered dangerous situations on the 22nd and 25th floors of other buildings. “You have to say your prayers. You have to use your experience.”
Carol Thomas and Lisa Cogliano, who both work for an insurance company, were returning to their nearby office from a meeting.
“It’s horrific,” said Cogliano. The silvery skyscraper, which rose from the ashes of the Sept. 11, 2001, reopened last week to 175 employees of the magazine publishing giant Conde Nast.
About 3,000 more Conde Nast employees are expected to move in by early next year, eventually occupying 25 floors of the $3.9 billion tower.
Steps away from the new tower are two memorial fountains built on the footprints of the decimated twin towers, a reminder of the more than 2,700 people who died in the terrorist attack.