“The 9/11 Surfer” Pasquale Buzzelli Cheats Death on Discovery Channel

Pasquale Buzzelli fell an amazing 22 floors in the collapse of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11 2001 and lived to tell his story. It’s taken eleven years for his account to be told and tonight the Discovery Channel will air his story to a national audience. There will, of course, be skeptics who will ask, “Did it really happen?”  But the way the story unfolds, it appears that Buzzelli may have cheated death.

Buzzelli, 43, who was working as a structural engineer for the Manhattan Port Authority, was one of the last to evacuate the North Tower as it began to collapse.

He claims that he had reached the 22nd floor when the building collapsed beneath him and he was carried down through a blizzard of debris to the seventh floor, where he was rescued by firefighters.

At the time, his wife, Louise, was pregnant with their first child, Hope, who is now ten.  They have since had a second daughter, Mia, who is now seven.

Buzzelli suffered survivor’s guilt for years after 9/11 but has finally come to terms with the grief, thanks to his family.

His story will be told on the Discovery Channel on the 11th anniversary of the disaster.

Holding the battered briefcase he was carrying that day, he said: “I haven’t opened this up in quite a few years. I came across it in my basement a couple of years after 9/11. I don’t even keep it in the house as it’s a constant reminder of that day. Its basically rode down the building with me and its battered and torn and just a reminder of how lucky I was to survive.”

His story of survival has divided experts. Shiya Ribowsky, who led the investigation into 9/11, said: “You know I have a healthy skepticism which is in no way a reflection on this man’s character.

“In forensics there are certain statistics about the likelihood of surviving a fall and once you get above five stories then statistics are pretty grim. So you’re talking about an exceptional situation. You’re talking the wings of angels here.”

However, Prof. Thomas Eager of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has studied the physics of the collapse and believes that the hurricane force wind pushed him down 15 stories.

“His description of a rollercoaster clinched it for me in believing the whole thing,” he said.

Pasquale Buzzelli, who now works in emergency planning for the Port Authority, was in an elevator on his way up to his office the 64thfloor of the North Tower, when the first plane struck at 8:46 a.m.

But instead of evacuating the building, he felt a duty to remain at his desk. He and his colleagues at the Port Authority, were watching the news when the second plane hit.

They finally began to exit at Stairway B, reaching the 22nd floor at 10:28 a.m. when the tower began to collapse.

“I thought something heavy is falling through the stairs or part of the building is collapsing and falling through,” he said.

“I just dove into the stairwell, went into a foetal position, covered my face and hands and buried myself as close to the wall as possible to protect myself from anything falling through.

“It was then that I felt the wall that I was next to and the base of the floor crack open and give way. That’s when I knew that that was it: the entire building was going. I said to myself: I thought of my wife, my unborn child.”

Pasquale Buzzelli’s wife Louise, who was seven months pregnant with their oldest daughter Hope, now ten – they have a second daughter Mia, six – watched in horror as the tower collapsed.

“I knew it was over then at that point,” she said.

“I couldn’t watch anymore. I couldn’t believe that I was there watching this, carrying our first baby. I was a widow and I watched it and there was nothing I could do.”

But, incredibly, Pasquale Buzzelli began to freefall down the stairwell until he landed on the seventh floor. He regained consciousness three hours later, surrounded by twisted metal, with a badly injured ankle.

“I was totally numb,” he said.

“I felt nothing at all. I just opened my eyes and saw blue sky. I really thought I was dead until I started to cough and I started to feel pain in my leg. At that point I started calling out: “Help. Help.”

Back at Ground Zero, firefighters Mike Lyons and Mike Moribito, who disobeyed orders to search the wreckage, found Pasquale Buzzelli as he was beginning to fear he would be burnt alive.

“He looked like he was in a castle,” said Mike Moribito.

“He was sitting there in broad daylight like a king on top of a hill. I can remember it as clear as day.”

Within hours Paquale Buzzelli was in an ambulance on his way to hospital. His first thought was to call his wife Louise.

“I picked up the phone and said: Hello?” she said.

“I heard his voice and he said: Louise it’s me. And I said: Oh my god Pascale. It’s you. And everyone in the house just screamed.”

However, Pasquale Buzzelli began to suffer from survivors’ guilt and it was only a reunion with Mike Lyons, who was also suffered traumatic stress disorder that brought him out of his depression. Mike Lyons’ girlfriend Kathryn traced Pasquale Buzzelli and they now meet regularly.

“Time heals all wounds and you start to experience joy,” he said.

“With the birth of Mia I was finally able to experience those feelings and not feel guilt. In that sense I’ve realized that the best way to honor those that didn’t make it, is tot be the best person that I can be.”

Buzzelli kept in touch with Lyons and Morabito in the years after his rescue, sharing milestones like their children’s birthdays together. But another firefighter who created the rope device that rescued Buzzelli from the rubble, Jimmy Kiesling, had stayed well out of the spotlight. The two were reunited for the first time while working on the documentary.

“It was a really great feeling to just be able to give him a hug and shake his hand,” Buzzelli said.

“It wasn’t difficult to recount what happened to me physically,” he said. “It was more thinking about all the friends and co-workers I lost, about all the other husbands who died who didn’t get to see their children be born and grow up.”

Now on the 11th anniversary of the attacks, Buzzelli and his family feel more comfortable sharing their experiences with the public. Along with the documentary, Buzzelli and his wife wrote a book titled “We All Fall Down,” which tells his story along with the physical and emotional aftermath in the years following the attack. Daughter Hope drew the cover picture, and it can be purchased at 911survivor.com.

Buzzelli’s story is a chilling account of an experience that in all practicality should have ended up bad.

But fate had other plans for Buzzelli.

The Buzzelli’s are the proud parents of two beautiful daughters, Hope and Mia. They’re telling their story in a new book, We All Fall Down, and a Discovery Channel documentary, “The 9/11 Surfer.”

It’s an incredible story, but to some, a bit too incredible.

“Inside Edition’s” Lisa Guerrero said to Buzzelli, “Some skeptics are saying it is impossible to survive the way you did.”

“People are going to believe what they want to believe. I’d be skeptical too, but I know what happened,” he said.

What do you think?

7 Responses to "“The 9/11 Surfer” Pasquale Buzzelli Cheats Death on Discovery Channel"

  1. autumn conley   September 13, 2012 at 4:14 am

    For those who are interested, Pasquale’s story, WE ALL FALL DOWN, is now on Amazon as a downloadable ebook. It truly is an amazing story. I encourage everyone to check it out. I have edited hundreds of books (it’s my job!), but this is the only one that actually had me in tears. You can also visit http://www.911surfer.com

    Reply
  2. Joey   September 13, 2012 at 2:13 am

    Ever since the Discovery Channel aired “‘Mermaids: The Body Found”, I find it very difficult to believe anything that comes out of that shop. It would be a lot easier to accept as truth if it came through a reputable source.

    Reply
  3. Corey Chambers   September 12, 2012 at 6:17 am

    I see no reason not to believe him. His injuries however represent a fake of 2 to 4 stories. Or a likely a slowed fall of 5 or 10 stories.

    Reply
  4. Diane Downs   September 12, 2012 at 1:08 am

    I believe him – I am not arrogant enough to think that his story is anything but true. I thank him for coming forward and sharing his experience and I wish him and his family peace.

    Reply
  5. sherry believes   September 12, 2012 at 1:14 am

    That is an amazing story. I can just imagine what you’ve gone thru over the years. Pasquale it wasn’t your time to go. You really did have angels with you that day…you know that!! God bless you. You were given a chance to finish your journey. Thank you for telling us of your experience. Sherry

    Reply
  6. Alex   September 12, 2012 at 12:09 am

    I suppose that it must be pretty easy to cheat death on the Discovery Channel; I suspect that it would probably be a lot more difficult on HBO or Showtime.

    Reply

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