New York City: One World Trade Center Window Washers Rescued

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New York City emergency crews rescued two window washers on Wednesday, November 12, who had been trapped for two hours on damaged scaffolding left suspended outside the 69th floor of the recently opened One World Trade Center.

Juan Lizama and Juan Lopez, who were working at the Manhattan building in New York City that was erected on ground zero in memory of the lives lost during the September 11 terrorist attacks, made worldwide headlines when one of the cables attached to their scaffolding abruptly collapsed. As a result, the damaged platform tilted abruptly and essentially went from a horizontal to vertical position between the 68th and 69th floors of the newly christened skyscraper.

The 1,776-foot, 104-story building, which is currently the nation’s tallest skyscraper and was erected in tribute to those lives lost in the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, opened last week to 175 employees of magazine publisher, Conde Nast. Situated nearby are two memorial fountains built on the remnants of the obliterated twin towers, as a memorial to the more than 2,700 people who died in the attacks.

As emergency crews rushed to the scene to rescue two stranded window washers, who encountered malfunctioning equipment while servicing the One World Trade Center building in New York City, nearly 100 firefighters were on hand to offer assistance. Their efforts included lowering ropes from the roof of the skyscraper so the workers could secure themselves, as well as providing a two-way radio for communication purposes. The window washers, who were both experienced workers, were harnessed to the platform, and information was relayed that they had all the requisite safety gear and specialized training required for working in such extreme conditions.

There is an ongoing investigation into why a cable suddenly gave way and left the two workers stuck 68 stories above the street of One World Trade Center in New York City on Wednesday afternoon. The two men managed to secure themselves and held onto the damaged scaffolding for two hours while rescue crews worked to bring the window washers to safety. During the ordeal, Lizama called his wife on his cellphone and told her to care for their family since he was fearful of the outcome. Lizama and his wife have three sons and live in Hudson County, New Jersey.

It is standard practice for firefighters and rescue crews to cut out windows to resolve such situations, however, One World Trade Center’s thick glass presented a significant challenge. The building’s windows, which have a dual-paned inner layer of glass followed by an outer glass pane, required firefighters to employ diamond cutters in order to penetrate the well-insulated glass. Once rescue crews were successful in penetrating the window glass, the workers were brought to safety through a window hole, which measured 4 foot by 8 foot. A back plan was also initiated in which rescue crews lowered another scaffold down the building, in case the window washers had to eject themselves from the damaged equipment.

As two window washers at One World Trade Center in New York City were brought to safety, the dramatic rescue occurred just over a week after the building officially opened. The skyscraper was erected in tribute to those lives lost in the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks. Following their ordeal, Lizama and Lopez were examined at a local New York City hospital and released. The window washers are unionized and members of Service Employees International Union Local 32BJ. The workers are doing well in the wake of their harrowing experience. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owes One World Trade Center, said it was suspending window cleaning service at the skyscraper until the investigation was resolved. At this time, officials still have not determined what caused the cable problem that left two window washers dangling from a damaged scaffolding at One World Trade Center in New York City and the investigation is ongoing.

By Leigh Haugh

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