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Back on his feet, 9-11 victim retires

Port Authority police Lt. John McLoughlin wipes his eyes during an emotional final roll call in New York on Wednesday. 
 (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
Port Authority police Lt. John McLoughlin wipes his eyes during an emotional final roll call in New York on Wednesday. (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
Larry McShane Associated Press

NEW YORK – Trapped deep beneath the rubble of 1 World Trade Center, his legs crushed from hip to foot on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, Lt. John McLoughlin accepted what seemed inevitable.

“I assumed I was going to die where I was buried,” McLoughlin said Wednesday, 33 months after the terrorist attack, at a party celebrating his retirement from the Port Authority police.

Rescuers pulled McLoughlin from the wreckage about 22 hours after the twin towers collapsed, making him the last uniformed person rescued from the site where 2,749 others perished, said the Port Authority, which owns the trade center complex. A woman was the last person pulled out, about two hours later, the authority said.

McLoughlin presided Wednesday over roll call on the 3-11 p.m. shift at the Port Authority Bus Terminal, where he was working when the terrorists attacked the World Trade Center.

In a ceremony punctuated by tears and cheers, McLoughlin – leaning on a cane for support after undergoing 30 operations on his legs – bid an emotional goodbye to his co-workers.

“We few, we happy few, we band of brothers,” he told them, quoting Shakespeare.

His wife, Donna, and their four children watched proudly, as did a collection of rescue workers, doctors and therapists who helped McLoughlin literally get back on his feet.

The lieutenant recalled one of the rescuers offering words of encouragement through the debris: “How you doing down there? We’re going to get you out.”

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey police lost 37 members on Sept. 11. “I made a lot of friends in 24 years,” said McLoughlin, 51. “Remembering those we lost makes it tough.”

On Sept. 11, McLoughlin boarded a bus at the midtown Manhattan terminal and headed to ground zero to help with the emergency.

He was with a fellow PA police officer in one of the tower’s underground levels when the building collapsed nearly straight down. The pair were buried about 60 feet below street level. The second officer also survived, but remains on injury leave.

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