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AFTER THE ATTACKS: ALIVE; Entombed for a Day, Then Found - The New York Times

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AFTER THE ATTACKS: ALIVE; Entombed for a Day, Then Found

By Dexter Filkins

  • Sept. 13, 2001
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September 13, 2001, Section A, Page 9Buy Reprints View on timesmachine TimesMachine is an exclusive benefit for home delivery and digital subscribers.

For a brief moment yesterday morning, amid the suffering that engulfed the World Trade Center, a cheer rang down the ruined streets.

It happened when Sgt. John McLoughlin, a 21-year veteran of the Port Authority police, was pulled alive from the mountains of rubble, having survived for nearly 24 hours after the south tower collapsed around him.

Sergeant McLoughlin, whom colleagues described as a skilled rescue worker, was helping to secure the World Trade Center when the two towers came crashing to the ground. He crumpled, too, into a tiny crawl space beneath the rubble, where he was pinned down for nearly 24 hours

When rescue workers finally plucked Sergeant McLoughlin from the ruins yesterday at 7:45 a.m., the crowd around him allowed themselves a moment of exultation.

''It's wonderful,'' Battalion Chief Gary Connelly said. ''None of us can imagine how he survived.''

Last night, Sergeant McLoughlin was at Bellevue Hospital Center. Rescue workers said his legs were broken, but that he otherwise seemed fine.

The rescue began about 8 p.m. Tuesday, when teams first thought they heard a human sound coming from deep inside the ruins. It almost seemed too good to be true.

But the rescuers kept digging after the sounds, eventually slipping a two-way microphone into Sergeant McLoughlin's air chamber to confirm he was there. Chief Connelly said they all learned a bit about him while talking to him to try to keep his mind off the pain.

''He's got four kids, and his name is John, and he is a tough dude,'' Chief Connelly said.

Coworkers said that eight years ago, Sergeant McLoughlin conducted a dramatic rescue during the first trade center bombing. They said that he dived into a gaping hole caused by an explosion to shield others from the impact of the blast.

No one knows how Sergeant McLoughlin survived Tuesday's collapse, or even where he was when the buildings fell. His colleagues said he was probably outside the south tower when it came down, but a battalion chief at the rescue said that Sergeant McLoughlin was on the 82nd floor of the building when it came down.

He was covered by about 40 feet of rubble, his legs were pinned and he was entangled in the metal cables that bind cement, rescue workers said. The rescuers formed a human chain above him, passing instruments up and down the line.

When they finally reached him, they injected him with morphine and carted him to safety.

The cheer rose and fell, but the moment of jubilation passed quickly, and the work continued in the ruins.

''It's great,'' Chief Connelly said, ''but it's overshadowed by the bigger picture.''

We are continually improving the quality of our text archives. Please send feedback, error reports, and suggestions to [email protected] A version of this article appears in print on , Section A, Page 9 of the National edition with the headline: AFTER THE ATTACKS: ALIVE; Entombed for a Day, Then Found. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe