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CNN PEOPLE IN THE NEWS

Stories of 9-11 Survivors

Aired September 7, 2002 - 11:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ANNOUNCER: Next on PEOPLE IN THE NEWS, one year after the attacks on America, survivors dealing with life and death. One of the first engine companies to arrive on the scene...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAT ZODA, FIREFIGHTER, ENGINE COMPANY SEVEN: If were two more floors up, we would have been dead.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: A New York City fire official who watched his boss and best friend walk into the jaws of danger.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVE MOSIELLO, FIRE MARSHAL, NEW YORK CITY FIRE DEPARTMENT: I kept trying to reach him and I got no response.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: A woman trapped under rubble for 27 hours.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GENELLE GUZMAN, NEW YORK PORT AUTHORITY: I'm going to see myself slowly dying.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: And a reunion with the rescuers who saved her safe life. Also, the different faces of heroism. Stories of courage and sacrifice from 9/11, their stories now on PEOPLE IN THE NEWS.

PAULA ZAHN, HOST: Hi, welcome to this special edition of PEOPLE IN THE NEWS. I'm Paul Zahn. September 11, 2001, an unbelievable national tragedy, but also a day of individual heartache and heroism. The details of which can only be told by those who were there, those rushing out of the World Trade Center, those rushing in. Over the next hour, survivors and heroes, voices from 9/11, here's Gary Tuchman.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For New York City firefighter Damien Vancleaf, the second Tuesday of September started as a routine morning.

DAMIEN VANCLEAF, FIREFIGHTER, ENGINE COMPANY SEVEN: I was just coming in to work. I had just relieved someone else. They went home, and just doing what we do every morning.

TUCHMAN: He and the other firefighters of Engine Company Seven reporting for duty that day had no idea of the drama about to unfold. Their station stood in the shadow of the World Trade Center.

VANCLEAF: The lieutenants' test was coming up in October, so we were up in the room studying when the run for the gas leak came in.

TUCHMAN: While out investigating that gas leak, they noticed something that was anything but routine.

VANCLEAF: I heard a vibration. Then we all looked up and saw the plane. Something was wrong. We -- you never see a plane in downtown Manhattan, especially that low. I could see almost every detail on the plane. That's why I knew it was way too low.

TUCHMAN: The firefighters watched in shock as the plane slammed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center.

VANCLEAF: By the time we actually realized what was going on, we pretty much threw all our gear on the rig, and we started to respond down to the Trade Center.

TUCHMAN: Engine Seven was one of the first companies to arrive on the scene.

VANCLEAF: I remember taking an extra couple of seconds before running in to make sure we had everything and make sure we were ready to go because this was going to be a big one.

TUCHMAN: Genelle Guzman was working on the 645th floor for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey when she felt the building shake.

GUZMAN: I was scared. I mean, the building shake, and they say the airplane hit the building. But I had no idea where the building was hit.

TUCHMAN: The North Tower was hit between the 96th and 103rd floors. While the tower blazed above, the 30-year-old Trinidad native was told by Port Authority officials to stay put.

Watching the horrific scene from Fire Department headquarters across the East River in Brooklyn, New York City Fire Chief Pete Ganci and his right-hand man, Steve Mosiello.

MOSIELLO: We saw the smoke billowing; the fire, and that people were in trouble. People out there were definitely in trouble.

TUCHMAN: They raced across the Brooklyn Bridge in Chief Ganci's car. Also with them, Danny Nigro, then the fire chief of operations. DANNY NIGRO, CHIEF, NEW YORK CITY FIRE DEPARTMENT: I said to Pete, "This is going to be the worst day we've ever had." And little did I know it was even worse than I imagined.

TUCHMAN: The three made it to the scene in less than 10 minutes. Ganci immediately set up a command post on the ramp to a garage near the North Tower.

MOSIELLO: We were standing with the chief and we heard somebody yell, you know, "There's another plane." I didn't see it immediately. Then it came into range of my hearing, and I heard it, and it sounded louder and louder and louder. And there it was, went right into the building, into Tower Two. Now we have a real problem on our hands. We have two buildings hit by planes, thousands and thousands of people trapped.

TUCHMAN: One of those still trapped inside the North Tower, Genelle Guzman. She was making frantic calls for advice on what to do.

GUZMAN: I started crying and made phone calls to my family and stuff. And I told them, "OK, I'm just waiting on instruction to get out." And I told my boyfriend, I said, "Well, I'm leaving."

ROGER MCMILLEN, GUZMAN'S BOYFRIEND: So I told her, "You know what? Just meet me outside Century 21." That's across the street from the World Trade Center and I left.

TUCHMAN: Moments later, Guzman tried to call again. She got his cell phone voice mail and left this final message.

GUZMAN: Honey, I'm still inside of the building. I don't know. We have to wait until somebody come and get us out, OK. I'll try and call you back again. Bye. I love you.

RECORDED VOICE OF OPERATOR: End of message.

TUCHMAN: Downstairs, the men of Engine Seven had arrived to a scene of horror.

ZODA: They was just all burnt, everything was burnt. There were people on fire that we literally put them out, but we just had to leave, we had to go head up. I mean, they were just -- I don't know, everything was just burnt.

TUCHMAN: They began making their way up the stairs of the North Tower with other firefighters. Then, the unthinkable.

VANCLEAF: While we were operating up on the 21st floor, you know, there was a sick vibration.

TUCHMAN: That vibration was the South Tower collapsing next door.

VANCLEAF: After that vibration -- and it seemed like, you know, it was just something that wasn't right, and eventually I heard the order to vacate, to back out, to evacuate the building.

TUCHMAN: Outside, in the chaos of the South Tower's collapse, Chief Ganci and his executive assistant, Steve Mosiello, had somehow managed to escape.

MOSIELLO: And we all retreated into the basement of Two World Financial. The basement was full of dust. You couldn't breathe. We couldn't find a way to get out. Everybody who was in there, we finally found a staircase, and we all got out.

NIGRO: When all of the people came out of the basement of the World Financial Center, out of the parking garage, and Pete sent everyone north to put a command post in a safe location, a safer location.

TUCHMAN: That moment would forever haunt Steve Mosiello. Pete Ganci had sent him away and then walked into danger.

MOSIELLO: This specific day, I felt that I should be as close to him as possible because there was a lot going on.

TUCHMAN: Just moments after Chief Ganci radioed Mosiello his location, the North Tower fell.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get out! Get out!

MOSIELLO: I was thinking the worst. I was honestly thinking the worst at that point.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TUCHMAN: When PEOPLE IN THE NEWS continues, dealing with the disastrous aftermath.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MOSIELLO: I kept trying to reach him, and I got no response.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: Welcome back to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS. Here's Gary Tuchman.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Engine Seven was one of the first companies to arrive on the scene. Some of the firefighters had made it up as far as the 31st floor of the North Tower, the first tower hit in the terrorist attack. When the South Tower collapsed next door, the order came to evacuate.

ZODA: We just got to the lobby, and there was no one there. It looked like the end of the world. TUCHMAN: Genelle Guzman, a 30-year-old mother and administrative assistant for the Port Authority, was not far behind. After waiting for almost an hour, she decided to make her way down from her office on the 64th floor, down to her boyfriend waiting for her outside. Only 13 flights to go.

GUZMAN: Just like, boom. That was it. We fell -- everything -- and I -- when we fell to the ground. And then everything started crumbling faster and heavier.

TUCHMAN (on camera): So were you there when the second building collapsed?

MCMILLEN: I saw the antenna actually coming down.

TUCHMAN: So you thought she was dead.

MCMILLEN: Definitely.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Coordinating the rescue efforts outside, the highest-ranking uniformed officer of the fire department, Chief Peter Ganci, three decades on the force, father of three. Pete Ganci was not only Steve Mosiello's boss, he was his best friend.

CHRIS GANCI, PETER GANCI'S SON: It was a marriage. I didn't want to make my mom jealous or anything, but it definitely was. He spent more time with my father than we did.

TUCHMAN: Ganci had helped Mosiello find a home in his neighborhood, right across the street. The two worked in each other's houses. They played golf together. The usual bet, a dime a hole. Their days often began hours before sunup. They would then drive into work together.

MOSIELLO: I would get up early in the morning, 4:15, put the coffee on, open the back door of my deck, go take my shower, do my routine. And I'd come down, and he'd be sitting there waiting for me. He'd be drinking his coffee and smoking and doing whatever we did in the morning.

TUCHMAN: But September 11 was no ordinary day. Chief Ganci wasn't even scheduled to work that morning. He had been called for jury duty.

MOSIELLO: We were passing one of the parkways that would have brought us towards the courts. I said, you know, "Do you want to go to jury duty and make an appearance?" He said, "Steve, I have so many meetings today, I -- you know, we just can't get there today."

TUCHMAN: That morning would be the last one they would spend together. After Ganci ordered Mosiello away to get backup, the fire chief began walking toward the debris of the South Tower's collapse. Moments later, the North Tower fell, burying him under four feet of rubble. Both towers were gone, and so was Steve Mosiello's best friend. MOSIELLO: I kept trying to reach him, and I got no response. It was so eerie, because the chaos of radios at a fire scene, there's always conversations going on. And after that building came down, you heard absolutely nothing, nothing at all.

TUCHMAN: Genelle Guzman remembers the silence too. She had dropped 13 floors, surviving the collapse of the North Tower. But her head was pinned between two concrete pillars, her legs trapped in a staircase.

GUZMAN: I waited to, you know, to see if I hear anybody call out or anything. And I heard nothing.

TUCHMAN: The light peeking through the concrete eventually gave way to darkness.

GUZMAN: I think I was going to die. Just when I saw that it became dark and no one came, and I'm not hearing any noises nowhere around, nobody around, so I think, I'm not going to make it, I'm going to die here. I'm going to see myself slowly die here.

TUCHMAN: By dusk, one by one, the firefighters of Engine Seven began to find their way back to home base. The entire team had escaped the North Tower with just minutes to spare before the building came crashing down.

DENNIS TARDIO, CAPTAIN, ENGINE COMPANY SEVEN: You know, everything happened so quick. I mean, that building came down, I think, literally in 10 seconds. And I was able to run maybe one block.

TUCHMAN: Engine Seven escaped without losing a single person.

ZODA: If we were one more floor up, if we were two more floors up, what would have -- you know, what would have happened to us? I said, Sir, I believe if we were two more floors up, we would have been dead.

TUCHMAN: Pete Ganci was not as fortunate. Steve Mosiello helped recover his friend's body from the rubble. It was up to Mosiello to give the Ganci family the bad news.

MOSIELLO: Here I am, his best friend, his closest friend, his aide, his executive assistant, his driver, everybody, and I'm standing before them and he's not.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TUCHMAN: When PEOPLE IN THE NEWS continues, Genelle Guzman's dark hours trapped beneath tons of concrete.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GUZMAN: I asked God to show me a miracle and show me a sign that I'm going to get out of here today and not the next day.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TUCHMAN: And the painful struggles of moving on.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MOSIELLO: I play that day over every day that I'm awake, that day gets played out in my mind.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Welcome back to the special edition of PEOPLE IN THE NEWS. Genelle Guzman remembers falling on September 11, falling as the North Tower of the Trade Center collapsed around her. She remembers being trapped. She remembers praying, yelling for help and finally, someone yelling back. But her actual rescue and her rescuers were a blur. Here again is Gary Tuchman.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TUCHMAN (voice-over): She survived a chocking avalanche of concrete and dust. Buried alive in total darkness, Genelle Guzman lay wedged in the rubble for 27 hours, until rescuers finally heard her cries. On the scene, Brian Buchanan, a former Marine and Rick Cushman, a National Guardsman. They had rushed down to New York from Boston on September 11 to help with the rescue efforts. Both were attached to the Pittsfield, Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency. Guzman was pulled from the wreckage, fire still burning below her. She was found near two missing firefighters, both of them dead.

RICK CUSHMAN, RESCUE WORKER: When she came out, I never got her name, never knew who she was, didn't know if she made it.

TUCHMAN: Just before the rescue, Rick Cushman took these pictures from Ground Zero, including, this shot, showing the very pile of rubble that covered Genelle Guzman. Months later, while watching our original report on CNN, Rick Cushman and Brian Buchanan learned of Guzman's fate.

GUZMAN: Hello.

CUSHMAN: Hi.

GUZMAN: Hi.

CUSHMAN: Genelle?

TUCHMAN: Exactly, 100 days after the attack, we reunited Genelle Guzman with her two rescuers.

BRIAN BUCHANAN, RESCUE WORKER: When I saw her on the TV, and you know, going through the exercises, I just about lost it. It was a beautiful thing. It really was, and it's even better sitting here with you now.

TUCHMAN: The rescuers filled in some of the blanks in Guzman's shaky memory.

CUSHMAN: The reason you were found was actually because they spotted a fireman's jacket, and the basic rules are firefighters take care of their own, so a firefighter went up to get him and that's how you were found.

BUCHANAN: Just as she got to me, she sort of opened her eyes and looked up and, you know, kind of asked me if she was out yet, and I said, you know, "You're just about there. You're good to go, you know, just hold on just a few more minutes and you'll be all right."

TUCHMAN (on-camera): And, Genelle, do you remember saying that?

GUZMAN: Yes, I can remember saying that.

TUCHMAN: Do you remember that face?

GUZMAN: No, I can't remember the face.

BUCHANAN: I had less hair.

GUZMAN: I can't remember the face because, I mean as much as I opened my eyes, the dust in my eyes was -- you know, I could barely see with the glare.

CUSHMAN: Her eyes were shut most of the time.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Now Genelle Guzman can see her rescuers clearly. They are moved and amazed by her survival.

BUCHANAN: You have got to be the luckiest person I have ever seen in my life.

TUCHMAN: Lucky and grateful. After hours of horror and months of recovery, Genelle Guzman expressed heartfelt gratitude to her rescuers.

GUZMAN: They're my angels. To me, they are angels to me because as much as I want to forget it, I know I can't. It's going to live in my memory for the rest of my life.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: When PEOPLE IN THE NEWS continues, four people, four stories of heroism in a face of terror.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LING YOUNG, SURVIVOR: My guardian angel. No if's and but's because without him, we would have been sitting there, like I said, waiting for the building to come down.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: That's next on PEOPLE IN THE NEWS.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Firefighters and police officers have come to symbolize the heroes in 9/11 but there were countless individuals who risked their lives that day so others would survive. Aide works, volunteers, co-workers, those caught in the moment and those racing to respond. Here's Maria Hinojosa.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARIA HINOJOSA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Every day of her life, a small, young woman named Amy Mundorff stairs death straight in the eyed.

AMY MUNDORFF, FORENSIC ANTHROPOLOGIST: My work, it's like putting together a puzzle, male, female, how tall were they, what kind of trauma did they have, what did they look like? I think I have the world's best job.

HINOJOSA: The world's best job? Amy works in the New York City morgue, as a forensic anthropologist for the chief medical examiner. On September 11, Amy's office gets a call, the Trade Center's been attacked. She must go to the site. This is what her work is all about, the dead, but she was thinking about her own life.

MUNDORFF: When we were driving down, I was scared. I kept saying, you know, "What if there's a bomb in the plane? What if we get down there and a bomb goes off?"

HINOJOSA: A premonition, perhaps. Minutes after they arrived, the building explodes into rubble and the rubble consumes tiny Amy.

MUNDORFF: I turned around and saw that ball -- that like tidal wave coming up close behind me.

HINOJOSA: Amid the mass panic the voice of her husband, a mountain climber echoes in her head.

MUNDORFF: If you panic, you die. Get yourself an airspace. So I pulled my jacket over my head and I kind of braced made arms against the corner of the wall because I knew I'd be buried. I knew I would die. I just waited to suffocate and I opened my eyes and I vomited. And it was pitch black, pitch black. And I thought I was the only one alive.

HINOJOSA: Bloody, with broken ribs and a huge gash in her head, Amy and her injured co-workers escape.

MUNDORFF: I just kept screaming, "I'm alive" because I couldn't believe it still.

HINOJOSA: Any other person might have quit their job right then, might not ever want to go back to a morgue filled with hundreds of bodies, might need time to piece together their own survival in the face of so much loss, but one day later, Amy Mundorff went back to work. MUNDORFF: I'm the only anthropologist for the city and that's what I do, so I went back. And I wanted to be with people who had been through it and I wanted to help out my office.

HINOJOSA: And help all of the families who so desperately needed to know, had their loved one's body been found? That's Amy's job and she couldn't let them down.

DET. JOHN TROTTER, NEW YORK POLICE DEPARTMENT: Well, she was there leading us. Those people were treated with the respect and dignity you wanted that you would want to be treated with.

HINOJOSA: A burly detective, John Trotter, worked side-by-side with Amy at the morgue and though she was in pain, she was still able to give more.

TROTTER: There were times when you have to cry and being a cop, especially the size of me, it wasn't as easy to just break down and let your emotions out whereas with her, it was just -- it was very free flowing. She understood.

HINOJOSA: Understood the life lesson of what it means to be a survivor.

MUNDORFF: Appreciate life because you don't know when it's going to be taken away from you.

HINOJOSA: Katherine Martin Avery, with her red ringlets and frilly dresses, was the picture perfect southern girl. Here she is on her first day of school with her horses, at graduation, and on the evening of her debutante ball. Yes, a debutante. Katharine was a proper South Carolina belle, but with a difference, with a need to do more, with a need to give.

KATHERINE AVERY, VOLUNTEER COORDINATOR: I started thinking about what in my life made me happy, when I had been really happy before. And I thought back to my missionary experience in Jamaica. I went to Jamaica twice in college and I just absolutely loved it.

HINOJOSA: On September 11 of last year, things were not right with Katharine. She wanted to help, but how?

AVERY: We signed up to go give blood even if Spartanburg, South Carolina, the hour -- the wait was three hours long.

HINOJOSA: Days later, she got a call to volunteer at a New York City church, this one only two blocks from Ground Zero.

AVERY: It felt like a war zone. The military police stopped us and, you know, wanted to search the car. The smell was just overwhelming. And I really thought, this is what it must feel like in Bosnia or, you know, in South Africa, these places that have just been torn apart.

HINOJOSA: The sweet, southern 24-year-old was terrified, but there was no time for fear. AVERY: It's like a sink or a swim situation. You either decide that you want to do your best to be successful at this and so, in order to do that, you do what you need to do.

HINOJOSA: What she did was to become the head of all of the volunteers, in charge of all of the supplies, pouring into St. Paul's Church, the site was a haven for the rescue workers laboring at a place they called hell.

AVERY: It was like heaven, you know. It was beautiful. It was peaceful. It was quiet. People were there to give sacrificially. That was the whole point.

HINOJOSA: Jim Traynor fixes generators for a living. He worked at the pit for nine long months.

JIM TRAYNOR, MECHANIC: You're down in the pit, it's hot, it's dirty, you're breathing in crappy air, you're filthy and you know, you walk in to get a little rest or just to have something to eat. And you know, she's standing there, waiting, you know, say, "Hey, darling, come on in." And it was a genuine, caring attitude that she had. You know, it wasn't -- to me it wasn't that she was just doing it as a job. It was -- this is what she wanted to do, it was in her heart to help us.

HINOJOSA: One year later, Katharine's heart still belongs to New York. She'll open a new office, just blocks from Ground Zero, a spiritual foundation called 9/12. She stays because it was New York that transformed this southern girl into the woman she is now.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: A childhood dream and some fatherly advice turns a stock trade into a guardian angel as our look at the heroes of 9/11 continues. Here again is Maria Hinojosa.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HINOJOSA: All the little boy in the red bandanna, Welles Crowler (ph), wanted to be when he grew up was a firefighter. He got his first truck when he was two. As a teenager, he became a proud volunteer firefighter in his small New York town. But off Welles went to college, coming from a family of bankers, lawyers and writers, he, too, would become a professional. He got a job as a trader working on the 104th floor of the South Tower of the World Trade Center. He wasn't a fireman, but he was happy.

At 9:12 the morning of September 11, Welles called his mom from inside the Trade Center.

WELLES CROWLER (ph), VICTIM: Hello, Mom, this is Welles. I want you to know that I'm OK.

HINOJOSA: A plane had hit the building, and Welles made a fateful decision, to become the man he always wanted to be, not the trader, but a firefighter, a hero, a lifesaver.

YOUNG: My guardian angel. No if's and but's because without him, we would have been sitting there, like I said, waiting for the building to come down.

HINOJOSA: A beautiful stranger named Ling Young was on the 78th floor, the bottom floor where the second plane hit.

YOUNG: Before we know it, I heard a big explosion and I went from one to other face down. I got up. I couldn't see because my whole glasses was filled with blood. I looked around and I said, "All I see is nobody." And it's almost everybody was dead.

HINOJOSA: In shock, with third-degree burns over 40 percent of her body, Ling and the few survivors simply sat down to wait for help.

YOUNG: And all of a sudden, a gentleman came up and saying -- coming out of the stairs -- "I found the stair, follow me," and he said, "Stay together, don't go so fast, you know, take it easy." Then he said, "You know, I'm going to go back upstairs." And I didn't realize he had someone in the back of him. He was carrying somebody on his back. The last thing I know was he went back upstairs.

HINOJOSA: Welles went back up to help even more strangers. How those survivors came to know it was Welles who saved them, they all remembered the red bandanna.

JEFFERSON WELLES, FATHER: I taught him when he was a little guy, oh, you know, seven, 7 years old, to always have the bandanna in your pocket. And he had it in his pocket on the morning of September 11, as he would have every day.

HINOJOSA: That day, Welles used the red bandanna to protect his face while he gave his life as the building came down upon him.

YOUNG: For someone to give up his life for us was just something that not everybody could do. To go to that extent, I don't think I would be able to do what he did.

ALLISON WELLES, MOTHER: I think he was blessed by God and I think he was surrounded by a protection from God to be able to do what he did that day.

HINOJOSA: Welles Caruthers (ph), who on September 11 became the person he always dreamed he would be...

J. WELLES: You know, I thought to myself, this is incredible. He was -- at 9:05 or 9:06 on Tuesday, September 11, 2001, he was not Welles Crowler (ph), equities trader, he was Welles Crowler (ph), firefighter.

HINOJOSA: Little David Lim had a big dream, but no role model. He had never seen an Asian police officer but he knew he wanted to become one, and he did. A Port Authority police officer, and later a part of the canine unit with a different kind of partner, a bomb- sniffing dog named Serious. On the morning of September 11, David Lim and Serious were on the job at the World Trade Center when they heard an explosion. David locked Serious in his cage and ran upstairs to help.

DAVID LIM, N.Y. PORT AUTHORITY POLICE: I got up to the 44th floor. That's when Tower Two got hit by the second plane. I worked my way down.

HINOJOSA: David joined the firefighters from Ladder Six, helping a woman descend the stairs until she just couldn't walk anymore. Then, suddenly...

BILL BUTLER, NEW YORK FIRE DEPARTMENT: We took two steps down from the fourth floor and the building started to shake.

SALVATORE D'AGOSTINO, NEW YORK FIRE DEPARTMENT: You could hear the floors pancaking one on top of the other, huge explosions.

LIM: Boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, and faster as they get closer. What I remember the most was the wind. It created almost like a hurricane-type force and actually pushed one of the firemen right by me.

MIKE MELDRUM, NEW YORK FIRE DEPARTMENT: I was flown down a flight of stairs, a little groggy for a while. I noticed somebody on a half landing just up from me, a few stairs and I thought it was one of our guys and it was David Lim.

HINOJOSA: And that's where David's story shifts from madness to miracle. An extraordinary experience he retells to children at a Korean summer camp, to show them that heroism can also have their face.

LIM: We got up as far as the sixth floor and I saw a light, I remember. And I said, "Well, maybe there's power on this floor. We can make our stand here." We started digging toward the light. As it turns out that light got bright somewhere brighter and it was the sun. I say -- I couldn't believe it. We were standing on top of what was the World Trade Center. Our staircase was virtually the only thing standing amongst the debris. It was miraculous that we were still alive.

HINOJOSA: He had survived, but what about his partner, Serious? David tried to go back for the dog but was turned away. On January 22, Serious' body was found. David returned to Ground Zero to help retrieve his lost canine partner. Serious was buried with all of the honors of a fallen hero.

LIM: I understand that people, you know, would not consider the dog as obviously as much as the 3,000 that we lost down there. It's a personal loss to me, of course. They recognized him as a police officer. He wore a badge, and he did the job like the rest of us and gave his life that day.

HINOJOSA: David now has a new canine partner, Sprig. He misses Serious, but appreciates being alive, embracing what he sees as a survivor's obligation. LIM: I feel that now it's one of my responsibilities, as a survivor, as a -- for a spokesperson is to represent the Asian community as well as the Port Authority Police as a positive image.

HINOJOSA: To ring the bell at the Stock Exchange...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our heroes will now open the marketplace, the green button.

HINOJOSA: ... or drum with some little kids at camp.

LIM: I did some good that day, you know, helping people. And one of the questions was how come you weren't scared? Who says I wasn't scared. I was scared, but we still had a job to do though, to help the people.

HINOJOSA: A job to be David Lim, a survivor, who's taken his gift of life, his miracle, as a chance to become the role model he never had.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: A year after the attacks of September 11, David Lim says he still feels a sense of sorrow but that it is tempered with a sense of purpose. Mixed emotions, no doubt, shared by many hero and survivors of 9/11. Look for more coverage of the September 11 anniversary in this week's "People" magazine.

That is it for this edition of PEOPLE IN THE NEWS. Next week, the man who guided New York through its darkest days and the successor who must lead the city's recovery, a look at the mayors, Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg. I'm Paula Zahn. Thanks so much for joining us. And be sure to join me every weekday morning for "AMERICAN MORNING" right here on CNN -- so long.

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