In 9/11 Museum: a Life-Saving Squeegee

Men used it to escape World Trade Center elevator

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted May 25, 2014 12:00 PM CDT

(Newser) – On 9/11, six lives were saved by a squeegee handle. Six men, including a window washer, were trapped in an elevator at One World Trade Center during the attacks. When their car began falling downward, they were saved by the emergency stop button. But at that point, the men smelled smoke. "We didn’t know what was going on (in the building), but we knew time was running out," window washer Jan Demczur told the Smithsonian magazine in 2002. They got the elevator doors open, but their escape was blocked by several layers of drywall—and their only tool, it seemed, was a pocketknife.

After they began digging away at the wall, the unthinkable happened: The knife fell into the elevator shaft. But someone thought to use Demczur's squeegee handle as a replacement. The handle, along with some well-placed kicks, allowed them to break through the wall, eventually reaching a men's room on the other side. They escaped with just minutes to spare, the Smithsonian reports. That squeegee handle ended up in the National Museum of American History—and now, it's on display at the newly-opened National September 11 Memorial and Museum. You can also see it here. (Click to read the compelling story of why a red bandana is also on display at the 9/11 museum.)

The reflective windows of the 9/11 Memorial Museum rise above some of the first public visitors to arrive at the site in New York Wednesday, May 21, 2014.   (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)
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