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In World Trade Center rescue, training, technology put to use

A partially collapsed scaffolding hangs from the 1

A partially collapsed scaffolding hangs from the 1 World Trade Center in Manhattan Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2014, where two window washers were trapped for more than an hour on scaffolding dangling 69 stories up the side of the building before firefighters were able to cut through the new skyscraper's glass and pull them to safety. Credit: AP / Kathy Willens

The high-wire rescue that saved two window washers at 1 World Trade Center Thursday required lots of training, a diamond-bladed saw and plenty of moxie, experts said.

When cables holding one end of a rig suddenly gave way about 12:40 p.m., it left the workers dangling at a precarious angle outside the 68th and 69th floors of the nation's tallest building.

However, that placement turned out to be good fortune, authorities said, because it kept the workers within arms' length of the windows outside the 1,776-foot, 104-story skyscraper.

But a major hurdle stood between them and safety: two-layer panes of hard-to-penetrate glass.

Firefighters readied a diamond-blade saw and began slicing through the nearly 2-inch-thick window on the vacant 68th floor, officials said.

At the same time, other firefighters sent down a second scaffolding platform toward the stranded window washers as a backup plan, authorities said.

They also lowered a 600-foot mountain-climbing rope with hooked ends, which the window washers used to fasten themselves to the rope.

Before securing themselves, the men were attached only to the swaying scaffold, meaning that if it fell they would fall with it, officials said.

When the rescuers got through the window, they held the swaying platform in place and pulled both men inside.

FDNY Battalion Chief Joseph Jardin, who manages special operations for the department, called it "a fairly straightforward operation."

"This is not the first time we've encountered this type of operation," Jardin said.

"We train. We prepare."

With Anthony M. DeStefano

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