Picture yourself inside the North Tower of the World Trade Center on September 11th, eleven years ago. Now picture yourself surviving the sudden collapsing of the tower by somehow “surfing” a wave of debri while falling down almost 20 stories. This is how Pasquale Buzzelli, a structural engineer for the Port Authority, survived the horrible event on that fateful day.
NBC News reports that Buzelli has not talked about his story publicly for more than a decade because he was still trying to come to grips with what happened to him. He has now decided to come forward and share his story of survival in a Discovery Channel special called “The 9/11 Surfer”, which premiers Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET.
Together with his wife and two daughters, Buzelli, spoke with Savannah Guthrie on TODAY Tuesday about his miraculaous story and his decision to go public with it for the first time.
“It was verydifficult telling the story then,’’ Buzzelli told Guthrie. “I couldn’t. I was going through post-traumatic stress and survivor guilt from that. It took a long time to heal from that. I forced myself to do that, to try to give something back. Eventually I came to accept what had happened to me. I was able to go on and mourn. I feel now that it’s an important story to share with others.’’
According to Buzelli, he was being evacuated from his office on the 64th floor of the North Tower. This was after the South Tower had already fallen. As he reached the stairs on the 22nd floor, the tower began to collapse, but by some miracle, he rode down a wave of debri until he reached the fourth floor. He was found by firefighters in the rubble of what used to be Stairway B.
“You just felt the railing just start to shake and this loud, loud noise from above,’’ Buzzelli recounts in the Discovery special. “I thought of my wife, my unborn child, (and) thoughts went through my head quickly about not being able to see her again. Split seconds, just praying and knowing that I was going to die.”
Buzelli adds, “I’ve never experienced jumping out of a plane, but I guess falling while jumping out of a plane, that feeling of just riding the air and getting knocked around. That surfing kind of feeling was what I was experiencing.’’
Buzelli said that after losing consciousness for a brief amount of time, he awoke to see nothing but blue sky where the building once stood.
“A split second later, I opened up my eyes and I thought I was dead,’’ he told Guthrie. “Then I started to cough, feel pain, and I couldn’t believe. I looked up and there was nothing above me. The building was gone. I couldn’t believe it myself at that point.’’
Buzelli, to this day, can hardly believe that he survived the ordeal himself. He could not stop watching the video footage of the collapsing tower, even while still mourning the loss of his fellow colleagues and friends that were lost that day.
“I watched it so many times after that I actually became fixated on it,’’ he said. “It took me a long time to heal from that. I’m better now and things are good. I’m happy again.’’
Buzelli is finally able to cope with what happened to him, but he will never be “over it”. It will always be a reminder of what he almost lost that day.
“You hear it all the time, ‘Oh, get over it, 9/11, get over it,’’’ he said. “That’s ridiculous. First of all, you shouldn’t be telling someone else to get over it. The bottom line is that you should celebrate each day. Enjoy life and just remember those that tried to save us and didn’t make it, and remember those that we lost.’’
Buzelli and his wife have started a foundation that will help women who were pregnant during that time and who lost their husbands during the attacks.