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Final WTC Burn Victim Released from Hospital

Aired February 21, 2002 - 10:24   ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: And we take you live now to New York City. Donovan Cowan, 34-year-old survivor of the World Trade Center, the last burn victim to be released from the hospital. Let's listen in to his story.


DONOVAN COWAN, WTC SURVIVOR: Not really. I took it day by day. And I mean, that's just the way it was. I mean, it just happened to be that way.

QUESTION: What has been harder, the emotional recovery or the physical recovery?

COWAN: The physical more than the emotional, I think.

QUESTION: Was there ever a point that you wanted to give up?

COWAN: No, I never did. Never.

QUESTION: Donovan, what did you do at Fiduciary Trust?

COWAN: I'm an accountant.

QUESTION: Can you tell us what you were doing on the 84th floor and how things evolved? s COWAN: Well, I was on my way down, but then, I went back to the 83rd floor because the guy announced in Two World Trade that everything was going to be all right. So I was just going to go back up stairs and call my mom and tell her that I was all right.

QUESTION: Did you work on the 84th floor, Donovan?

COWAN: I worked on the 97th floor.

QUESTION: You worked on the 97th floor and you were in a meeting?

COWAN: I was in the elevator, and I was on my way back up. And that's when it hit.

QUESTION: Did you ever think this day was going to come?

COWAN: Oh, okay. Huh? Sorry.

QUESTION: Did you think that this day was going to come?

COWAN: Yes, I knew it was going to come, eventually.

QUESTION: What are your plans for the future?

COWAN: I'd like to go back to work.


COWAN: But, you know, I consider myself lucky that I'm surviving, because I heard so many of my friends died.

QUESTION: How old are you?

COWAN: 34.

QUESTION: Have you been able to watch footage of the disaster at the Trade Center?

COWAN: Yes, yes.

QUESTION: And when you see that, what do you feel?

COWAN: It's like I said, I feel lucky that I survived it.

QUESTION: You said that your physical -- the physical part was the hardest to get through. Can you detail for us a little bit of what you can and can't do at this point? Are you able...

COWAN: I can't run. I'm able to walk. And I went to the gym. I'm able to do a few things in the gym. And I'm just looking forward to going to Burke (ph) and hopefully work out a little harder.

QUESTION: Do you -- I know that in the past, you played a lot of softball and worked out. It looks like you lost a little bit of weight.


QUESTION: The question I have is how much weight did you lose?

COWAN: About 40 pounds.

QUESTION: What do you hope to be able to do in terms of returning to sports and that kind of thing?

COWAN: I hope can I go back to where I was.

QUESTION: Did faith or religion play a part at all in your recovery?

COWAN: Oh, definitely, definitely.

QUESTION: Your dad, your family? COWAN: Yes. My mom bought me my (UNINTELLIGIBLE) book to read. I didn't read it as much as I should...


COWAN: But definitely god has played a part in this.

QUESTION: How much do you remember of that day, of walking down...

COWAN: Excuse me? Sorry.

QUESTION: What do you remember of the day?

COWAN: I remember everything. I remember pretty much everything. Walking down the hall, blast, everything.

QUESTION: When you felt the blast, did you know what happened?


QUESTION: And did you know that the other building had fallen as you were (OFF-MIKE.

COWAN: I didn't know the other building had fallen at the time. But, when I felt the blast, I didn't know what was happening. I just new it was some sort of bomb or something.

QUESTION: What was -- when were you injured? As you walked out of the elevator, while you were still in the elevator?

COWAN: While I was in the elevator, yes.

QUESTION: Is there anything that you take away from this experience? Any lesson or any advice?

COWAN: I mean, I don't know how to answer that.

QUESTION: For those of us...

QUESTION: Where were you when the medics or paramedics or rescue workers found you? Where were you and what...

COWAN: I was on the first floor. I was walking towards the outside, and somebody helped me outside. Into the ambulance.

QUESTION: Did anyone help you down the stairs?

COWAN: No. I went by myself.

QUESTION: While you were in the hospital, did you have conversations with other victims of the World Trade Center disaster?

COWAN: No. I haven't been able to meet anybody yet. Hopefully, at Burke I'll be able to meet some people.

QUESTION: Where was the -- where were most of your injuries? Which -- on your torso?

COWAN: On my torso. Yes.

QUESTION: What do you think of the doctors here who cared for you? (OFF-MIKE)

COWAN: Oh, they did a wonderful job! They did a wonderful job. The nurses where great.

QUESTION: Were you conscious in the early days?

COWAN: No, I don't think so.

QUESTION: When you found out that your office was gone, how did you feel? (OFF-MIKE)

COWAN: Well, I knew -- I found out they had relocated so, you know, I -- I was happy for them. But, when I found out the whole building went down, I was, like, shocked.

QUESTION: How long did you work at the Trade Center?

COWAN: I've worked for this company for about four years, but I've been in the World Trade for about 12.

QUESTION: Where you there for the -- back in 1993?

COWAN: Yes. I was in Five World Trade then. Wasn't that long a walk down. It was only six floors.


QUESTION: What's the last thing you remember from that day?

COWAN: From which day?

QUESTION: September 11th?

COWAN: I remember being -- I remember coming here. And being whisked into -- into a room. And then that's the only thing I -- that's the last thing I remember.

QUESTION: Do you remember walking down those stairs?

COWAN: Yes, I do.

QUESTION: Could you tell us about that?

COWAN: I was walking down the stairs, and I just kept saying, you know, "only 60 floors to go. Only 50 floors to go."


QUESTION: Were you in pain?

COWAN: I really didn't feel that much in pain, at the time. QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) how do you feel about the war now, what's going on in Afghanistan?

COWAN: Oh, I feel, you know, sad for the troops that are there, but you know, they're surviving. And everything.

QUESTION: Your mother sat at your bedside and talked with you, even when you were intubated. What role has she played in your recovery?

COWAN: She's played a significant role. I -- I'd really like to thank her. She's -- she's been -- she's been great.

QUESTION: What's the first thing you want to do when you get out of here?

COWAN: Get a Slurpee.


QUESTION: What flavor?


COWAN: Cherry.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're probably going to get about 400 of them now.



QUESTION: You're going to Burke on an outpatient basis? Or are you going to be staying there?

COWAN: Yes. About -- they expect about two to three months.

QUESTION: Two to three months you'll be there?

COWAN: That's what they expect.


COWAN: Excuse me?

QUESTION: Are you going to be living there?

COWAN: Yes. Yes.

QUESTION: Have you and your mom always been close?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think we'll bring that to an end. Thank you all very much. Donovan, best of luck.

COWAN: Thank you.


KAGAN: Well, I don't know if there's a dry eye out there that's watching along with us, but there's not a dry eye here at CNN, as we've been listening in to Donovan Cowan, 34 years old, survival of the World Trade Center.

This is his mom. Let's listen to what Mom has to say.





J. COWAN: I thought I had a paper that I made a list of couple of things that I wanted to say but it ended up that there's nothing on this paper.


J. COWAN: However, I know I just want to thank God for this beautiful day. It's a wonderful day. It's a great day. A day that Donovan is getting out of the hospital. I just want to say thanks to the medical staff. Dr. Bower, he has been wonderful to us. You can talk to him anytime.

The residents, he have them there under control. You know, everything. They report to him and whatever is to be done is to be -- you know -- being done. Dr. Barr and all the specialists -- there are so many special -- people who specialized in different areas to help Donovan. To get him to where he is now.

I want to say, also, thanks to the nursing staff. The wonderful nursing staff. They are the experts, and when you see them move, I'm a nurse myself, but I learn a lot from them.


J. COWAN: Yes. They're good. And they're not only the professional part of them, they are very humane. You can talk to them, they always have a feeling. My days of crying, they're always there to say "it's going to get better." They're really wonderful people, and, as I said, I learned a lot from them. The nursing staff, the therapists, the respiratory therapist, physiotherapists and the occupational therapists, they all have brought Donovan back to where he is. He learned to walk, again. He couldn't walk. I remember when he was born, because there, they saying "Come on, Donovan. One foot. One foot." And, in the beginning, they told me, "it's going to be one step at a time." And I said, "hey, got to be three, four steps."


J. COWAN: But one step at a time. One finger at a time. That's how Donovan is able now to get up ,if you want him to get up from here, he can get up and walk. That is wonderful. Today, Donovan is graduating from elementary school. He's going on to high school. And high school is Burke. And he's going to do good there, and he's going to graduate from there, and he's going to come home to us, his family.

And he's going to just get back into his community and be what he used to be. Thank -- if I left out anyone that I didn't say their name, please just -- thank you, all, everyone from this hospital. We love you dearly, but we don't want to come back.


J. COWAN: Hopefully not. Okay? Thank you. Thank you very much.

KAGAN: Well, now you can see why Donovan Cowan had tears in his eyes when he speaks of his mother. What an incredible woman. Sweet, yet you could tell, that is one strong woman.

Describing comeback that her son has done so far and what lies ahead. Once again, Donovan Cowan, the last burn victim to be released from the hospital.

34 years old. He worked as accountant for Fiduciary Trust on the 97nd floor of the second World Trade Center. Was making his way down on September 11th, when he received word that it was okay to go back. So he started going back up when that second plane hit.

He suffered burns over 50 percent of body. During his recovery, he had lung damage, kidney damage, and yet his doctors say he will make a 100 percent recovery. He goes from here -- to a level his mother described as high school. And that is the Burke Rehab Center. He has about a two or three months ahead of him there. Still much work for him to do, but his spirit lives on. A very strong family behind him.

HARRIS: Don't you wish we could buy him a Slurpee right now?

KAGAN: And as you said, he's looking forward to getting back, having his job. And what does he want? A cherry Slurpee. If those 7-11 people don't have a gallon of Slurpees at Burke Rehab...

HARRIS: They'd better hook him up with a quickness.

KAGAN: Absolutely, with one of those big straws. Absolutely.

HARRIS: That's great. Great story.


HARRIS: Great to see him leaving there.

KAGAN: And we wish him well. And, as Mom said, "We love you, but we don't want to come back."

HARRIS: Don't want to come back here.

KAGAN: Don't want to see you again.

HARRIS: I tell you. I mean, that day, we learned so much about how evil people can be, but moments like this...


HARRIS: ...make you really feel good about being a human. Boy. That's good.

KAGAN: And families and people that are there to help other people.

HARRIS: That's right.

KAGAN: Absolutely.




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