Window washers share details about WTC rescue: ‘It was definitely terrifying’

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MANHATTAN (PIX11) – In good spirits, window washers rescued from scaffolding dangling high above the ground off 1 World Trade Center shared details about their ordeal at a Friday morning news conference.

The pair was washing windows of the 104-story building Wednesday when a cable malfunctioned, causing their basket to dip toward the ground.

"I'm just happy to have made it home to my family," worker Juan Lopez said.

Lopez and his colleague Juan Lizama were perched perilously 68 floors above the ground, dangling in a window-washing scaffold for some 90 minutes Wednesday.

Rescuers from the Fire Department of New York cut through two layers of glass to pluck them to safety.

A native of El Salvador, Lizama has been washing windows for 24 years.

“I am very happy to be in America. God bless America,” he said with a smile, multiple times during the news conference.

Lizama said their work day started just like any other: they checked their equipment, tethered themselves to the scaffold and climbed in. They started at the 34th floor and worked their way up.

But then the scaffold tilted, sending a surge of panic through the workers.

“It was definitely terrifying” in the first few seconds, Lopez said.

Within moments, they punched the emergency stop and achieved the upper hand. Through a translator, Lizama said they were “always in control of the situation because of their training and their experience.”

A union representative said the pair underwent 18 months and about 800 hours of training prior to going up in the basket.

Once safe, Lopez said he called his wife to let her know he was OK.

Then it was essentially silent inside the basket as rescue crews sliced through the window pane. Lopez said they, understandably, didn’t talk much during the ordeal.

The pair didn’t suffer any injuries during the ordeal and plan on getting back to work soon.

“There are some ground-floor jobs we might want to take for a moment,” Lopez said with a laugh.

An investigation is underway into what happened to cause the men to be perched in such a perilous position.