"There were so many ways that we were lucky," says John Abruzzo, of his narrow escape form Tower One of the World Trade Center. September 11th started as a normal day for John, who worked on the 69th floor as an associate accountant for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. When the first plane hit the tower that day John, like others, rushed to the stairwell. However, evacuation for John would prove to be much more difficult than many other World Trade Center occupants. John is a C 5-6 quadriplegic who relies on an electric wheelchair for mobility.
That day, many seemingly ordinary people did extraordinary things. ten such people were at John's side. "There was no debate on whether I would be brought down or not by these people. It was more or less a collective decision," says Abruzzo. With the use of a special evacuation mobility devise designed for the physically disabled, call the EVAC+CHAIR Emergency Wheelchair, John was able to make an escape to safety. "It took us an hour-and-a -half to get down 69 floors." Although it is designed to be guided by one person, three to four people handled the special evacuation chair while heading downstairs, rotating positions as necessary.
In the first attack on the World Trade Center in February, 1993, John's evacuation took six hours during which his electric chair was carried from the 69th floor to the 44th floor, where he was then transferred to a stretcher and finally exited the building. Shortly after the '93 bombing, a number of products and systems were purchased to aid in the evacuation and life-safety of World Trade Center occupants. The implementation of these products proved successful on 9/11; lights stayed on while John and his friends evacuated, ventilations systems in the stairwells minimized smoke infiltration, and the evacuation chairs purchased by the Port Authority became a real life-saver.
Several disabled people were successfully evacuated with the EVAC+CHAIR that day. John and his group exited the tower and were out of harm's way ten minutes before its collapse.