All eyes were looking up in lower Manhattan on Wednesday afternoon as two window-washers were rescued from the 68th floor of 1 World Trade Center.
The men, identified by union 32BJ SEIU as Juan Lizama, 41, of New Jersey, and Juan Lopez, 33, from the Bronx, were working on scaffolding that malfunctioned shortly before 1 p.m.Fire Commissioner Daniel Nilgro said the apparatus went from ahorizontal position to “nearly vertical.”
Emergency crews cut through three layers of glass to pull the men through to safety shortly after 2 p.m. The were treated for mild hypothermia.
Numerous emergency crews responded to One World Trade Center. Visitors were cleared from the 9/11 Museum and Memorial Plaza during the ordeal, and crime scene tape cleared the blocks around the tower.
At 1,776 feet, 1 World Trade Center is the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere. The tower officially opened to workers about two weeks ago. Officials said the 68th floor was still under construction.
Ramon Castro, 59, said he had been a window-washer for more than 30 years, and walked over to see what was going on when he heard the news, and to find out if he knew the men involved,
“In all the years of cleaning windows, you never forget an accident,” Castro said, adding that years ago, he had been stranded for up to five hours, on significantly lower levels. “You don’t know when an accident is going to happen.”
Castro said the scaffolding moves along a track on the side of the building. Later, at a news conference, Nigro said the cables on the scaffolding holding the workers did not break, and additional cables were lowered from the roof to secure the workers.
Citigroup employee Paul Barchitta, 23, said he walked over to see what was happening, and witnessed crews lowering a second basket from the top of the tower.
Phil Buehler took photos of the ordeal from his nearby office building. Buehler said he noticed the window-washers were working on the tower earlier in the day, and posted a photo on social media, noting the height of the workers and the significant amount of morning fog.
“They’re kind of just sliding along the windows, doing their thing, and then they tie it down, and in my head I’m going ‘wow, if that fell …,’” Buehler said.