- Possibly by using a piece of debris as a makeshift boogie board to surf the air currents, a man who fell some
80 storeyswith the collapsing WTC survived, and was even relatively unharmed: False.
- Pasquale Buzzelli, a survivor who claims to have been on the
22nd floorof one of the collapsing towers, lived through the fall with only minor injuries: True.
- Genelle Guzman-McMillan, another survivor who was with Buzzelli when the tower collapsed, said they were on the
According to widely dispersed bit of gossip, a man trapped high in one of the falling World Trade Towers managed to ride parts of the collapsing building down to safety. In some accounts, he is said to have "curled himself into a ball," in others, to have ridden the swirling air currents and cascade of debris like a surfer, a piece of wood his boogie board to survival. Shaken but proud, he emerges from his wild ride with only minor injuries amounting to no more than scratches and a broken ankle.
Often the rumor specifies the floor the man fell from, placing it as the 71st, 82nd, 92nd, or some other so high that no one could reasonably have lived through a fall from it.
Many accounts assert the mystery man was a firefighter, one of the countless brave souls who deliberately risked their lives to help others. Because this is a rumor of man triumphing over mayhem, lore remakes one of the cherished but doomed heroes of the day into a survivor, changing his real fate into one that not only spares his life, but leaves him triumphant in the face of utter devastation. Our sense of justice is thus appeased.
Sadly, there isn't any credible evidence of the existence of such a man, firefighter or otherwise. He's a figment of our wishful imaginations, a fictional icon of indomitability we are quick to turn to in times of disaster. We picture his incredible ride down the side of collapsing building and delight in this confirmation that man will always find a way. In our minds, we see his ride as a giant thumbing-off to the destruction raining down about him.
Needed icon or not, could he be real? Is there at least some small shred of truth to this story?
There is — and there is even a true tale of actual miraculous survival — but there are also confusion, misinformation, and
Some news outlets have reported tales from the scene involving interviews with those who've rescued victims from the fallen building. One such report came from two members of the Passaic County Sheriff's Department who pulled a trapped Port Authority police officer from a crater a day after the disaster. "He must have just rode the building as it came down," one of them said.
The rescued officer goes unnamed even at this late date, leading us to believe he's a conflation of rumor with hope or just a garden variety misremembering of things read and heard with things experienced. Or he could have been
McLoughlin is a 21-year veteran of the Port Authority police force who was pulled from the rubble of the World Trade Center on
The injured man and his family have been refusing to talk to the press, but after close to two weeks of being battered with inquiries, a senior press officer for the Port Authority spoke up about what he knew.
Further complicating the matter, some recall seeing an interview with David Lim, another Port Authority worker who was pulled from the rubble. Lim's story could lead those who listened less than carefully to believe he'd fallen from a great height, because he was on the
Adding to the belief in this tale was a lengthy article titled "Ground Zero" which ran in the
Newsweek has retracted this part of the story. A correction that ran on
Sixteen people in all survived the collapse of the North Tower. Even among this handful who lived, folks standing immediately to the right or left of them at that critical moment died, leaving many of the survivors haunted with unanswerable questions of "Why me?"
Barbara "riders of the storm" Mikkelson
Last updated: 21 April 2008
Adler, Jerry. "Ground Zero." Newsweek. 24 September 2001. Alderson, Andrew. "World Trade Myth That Kept Hope Alive." London Telegraph. 23 September 2001. Associated Press. "Misinformation in Wake of Terror." The New York Times. 18 September 2001. Calvo, Dana and Paul Lieberman. "Hoaxes Get on the Air." Los Angeles Times. 15 September 2001 (p. A1). Cloud, John. "A Miracle's Cost." Time Magazine. 9 September 2002 (p. 32). Couric, Katie. "David Lim, Port Authority Officer for the World Trade
Center Towers, Discusses How He Survived the Collapse of the WTC."
NBC News: Today. 18 September 2001 (7:00 a.m. ET). Filkins, Dexter. "Alive: Entombed for a Day, Then Found." The New York Times. 13 September 2001 (p. A9). Fishman, Steve. "The Miracle Survivors." New York Magazine. 15 September 2003. Gaudiano, Nicole. "New Jersey Cops Become Links on a Human Chain." The [Bergen County] Record. 13 September 2001 (p. A27). Gordon, Greg. "Neighbors Weep Over Lost Firefighters." [Minneapolis] Star Tribune. 13 September 2001 (p. S5). McPhee, Michele. "From Near Death to New Life: Survivor Rejoices in Baby Hope." [New York] Daily News. 30 November 2001 (p. 52). Newsweek. "Correction: Ground Zero." 1 October 2001.