Colleagues Use Special Chair to Save Quadriplegic on 9/11

Colleagues Use Special Chair to Save Quadriplegic on 9/11

Evacuation chair used on 9/11. Anonymous Gift. Photo by Matt Flynn.

Mike Fabiano was knocked off his chair and immediately urged his colleagues on the 69th floor of the North Tower to begin evacuating.

The World Trade Center fire warden and Port Authority of New York and New Jersey employee turned his concerns to the safety of his colleagues. Among them was John Abruzzo, a quadriplegic, who relied on a power wheelchair.  Fabiano was joined by other coworkers on trying to rescue Abruzzo from the building on 9/11. They used an EVAC+CHAIR, an emergency evacuation chair. It’s designed with sled-like components, making it easier to descend stairs.  

The chair was part of a security upgrade for people with disabilities after the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

Fabiano and the coworkers lowered Abruzzo into the chair and escaped the building. Taking turns, they used the chair to carry Abruzzo down the stairwell.

They would run into firefighters on the 10th floor. The firefighters urged them to leave Abruzzo with them and they instructed them to continue their evacuation. But they refused. They didn’t want to abandon Abruzzo.   

Reaching the lobby, they hauled Abruzzo in the chair, over debris and broken glass. They lifted him through a busted window and onto the sidewalk.

Soon after their escape, the building collapsed and the debris cloud chased them along West Street. They would encounter firemen who relieved them to carry Abruzzo’s chair. Abruzzo was later treated at the hospital for smoke inhalation.

Abruzzo took the EVAC+CHAIR home with him. In 2008, it was donated to the 9/11 Memorial Museum and is currently on display. 

"It is an object that reminded us of the particular vulnerability of limited mobility-occupants within high-rise structures," Chief Curator Jan S. Ramirez said.

The chair helped in the successful evacuation of five other people from the World Trade Center on 9/11, according to EVAC+CHAIR. These chairs are part of the 9/11 Memorial Museum emergency evacuation systems and procedures.

 By 9/11Memorial Staff