Two window washers who had been left dangling this week from the tallest skyscraper in the U.S. — One World Trade Center, which opened earlier this month — say that after initial panic, they used knowledge from extensive training that allowed them to stay calm and in control.
Speaking at a news conference Friday, Juan Lizama and Juan Lopez elaborated on how they felt dangling 68 storeys up earlier this week.
"There are a lot of ground floor jobs we might want to take for the moment," Lopez said with a smile.
On Wednesday, a cable suddenly developed slack, flipping a scaffold that left the workers trapped above a New York City street.
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Lizama and Lopez were working on the Lower Manhattan building's south side when one of the platform's four cables abruptly gave way.
"You try to clear your mind and get a hold of the situation. We've been prepared for an instant like that," Lopez said, emphasizing the importance of safety on the job. "Everyone was safe around us and beneath us. Once I saw the fire department inside, I knew it was just a matter of time."
The men held on to the teetering platform for two agonizing hours before firefighters used diamond cutters to saw through a double-layered window to pull them to safety.
'You try to clear your mind and get a hold of the situation. We've been prepared for an instant like that.' - Juan Lopez, window washer
Juan Lizama delivered his statement in Spanish, but added in English, "God bless America. I'm very happy to be here."
A translator said Lizama called his wife from the scaffolding to tell her he was OK and would be home soon.
The dramatic rescue, coming a little more than a week after the nation's tallest building officially opened, was followed by throngs of New Yorkers on the ground and many more around the world who were watching on live TV.
Both are employees of Upgrade Services Window Cleaning, which services other prominent New York skyscrapers including the nearby Four World Trade Center.
The men adhered to all safety standards, said Upgrade Services president John McDermott.
"Nothing can fall and injure someone below. The tools were tethered to the scaffolding. I'm so proud to have these men working for us. Their diligence saved the day."
Washing suspended pending investigation
Officials stressed that firefighters had trained for various emergencies at the tower, which is the centrepiece of the rebuilt World Trade Center.
Firefighters generally seek to cut out windows to make such rescues, but Nigro noted the trade centre's thick glass: a double-paned inner layer and an outer pane.
"And, of course, they were 68 storeys up," he said. "That presented a little bit more of a challenge."
Lizama and Lopez were checked out at a hospital and released.
Their union, Service Employees International Union Local 32BJ, said it ensures workers follow rigorous safety protocols.
The building's owner, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, said it was suspending window cleaning at One World Trade Center while investigating.