Stories of Hope: Rescued from the Rubble

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Photo courtesy of David Handschuh

When photographer David Handschuh finds himself in lower Manhattan, he often makes his way to the World Trade Center and visits the 9/11 Memorial.

“Every single time that I go there reaffirms the strength of New Yorkers, our commitment to move forward, our commitment to keep living and keep remembering those who were lost,” says Handschuh.

Nearly 20 years ago, on September 11, 2001, Handschuh’s experience at the World Trade Center demonstrated how the selflessness and bravery of strangers could be lifesaving. That morning, Handschuh, a photojournalist for the New York Daily News at the time, headed toward the World Trade Center when he heard about a plane crashing into the North Tower. Like most people at the time, he assumed there had been some type of accident but shortly after he arrived, it became clear that a coordinated attack was taking place.

“I followed [FDNY] Rescue Company 1 down to the World Trade Center, watched as firefighters were putting on their gear, pulling out tools, and getting ready to go in and save lives,” Handschuh recalls. “I watched as rescue workers were running up and assisting people who were badly injured. I watched as other New Yorkers disregarded all danger and ran forward to help other New Yorkers, not worrying about where they were from, what color they were, or what their religion was.”

At 9:59 a.m., as Handschuh documented these moments of comradery that posed a stark contrast to the horrific attacks, the South Tower collapsed, trapping him beneath the rubble.

“I heard voices from where I was trapped and calling out for help,” he says. “I found the first of my guardian angels that morning in the forms of firefighters from Engine 217 in Brooklyn who pulled me out of the rubble and dragged me to safety.”

After firefighters brought Handschuh, who was critically injured, to a nearby deli for safety, paramedics and other rescue workers were able to transport him by boat to a hospital in New Jersey, contacting his family and holding his hand along the way.

Following his recovery, Handschuh continued to work as a photojournalist, covering the openings of the 9/11 Memorial and Museum and 9/11 anniversary commemorations. When he visits the Memorial on his walks downtown, as he walks among the names of friends who were lost, he finds meaning in the sacred site.

“As a photographer, the light is always changing down at the World Trade Center. It could be a grey day, a rainy day, a snowy day. If you showed up every single day at exactly the same time, the Trade Center site looks different,” he says. “And for me that’s a true impetus to move forward, to keep on living, keep on surviving, keep on worrying about other New Yorkers.”

By 9/11 Memorial Staff

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