How a Squeegee Handle Became a Life-Saving Tool on September 11, 2001



On September 11, 2001, window washer Jan Demczur was ascending One World Trade Center in the elevator with five other men, when the car came to a sudden halt and then plunged downward. Someone in the car managed to press the emergency stop button and the elevator mercifully stopped. However, the men smelled smoke and knew they had to find a way out. After prying open the doors, they faced a wall of sheetrock. Fortunately, someone had a pocketknife and the men began cutting their way out. However, to break through the three-quarter inch thick layers was going to take more than a pocketknife. That’s when Demczur got the idea of using the handle of his Squeegee. Slowly but surely, they kept chipping away at the sheetrock until they were able to push through the tile wall and found themselves underneath a sink in a men’s room. The six men escaped the building. It took them 90 minutes from the moment the elevator cab halted in the shaft, but they reached safety only minutes before the tower collapsed. The Squeegee handle had saved their lives. The handle joined 26 other artifacts from the attack at the the National September 11 Memorial and Museum, where it's on display today.