'Miracle Man' Makes Swift Recovery After 550-Foot Fall

Grateful window washer Miguel Moreno talks about surviving 550-foot fall.

June 10, 2008 -- The "miracle" window washer who survived a 47-story fall from a New York City skyscraper said today in an exclusive interview on "Good Morning America" that he's grateful to be alive and that the Big Apple is his home.

"This is home forever' Alcides "Miguel" Moreno, an Ecuadorean immigrant, told Diane Sawyer.

It was a moving coda to an extraordinary story of survival, one that continues as the unimaginably lucky Moreno grows stronger each day.

Moreno and his brother plummeted from the city skyline in December after their scaffolding snapped. His brother died.

Through tears -- and a little laughter -- Moreno talked about how good it was to be alive, lovingly referring to his devoted wife and family.

"I'm thinking, talking about my life," he said, "I have children."

The hospital originally described Moreno's condition as a "complete disaster," that included several broken limbs and severe internal injuries.

Doctors were unsure if Moreno would ever walk again, and when he could return home.

But Moreno, 37, continues to surprise doctors, performing a miraculous recovery, returning home and even walking again.

'The Legend of the Fall'

On a cold morning, Moreno and his younger brother, Edgar, woke up at 4 a.m. to go to work together, washing windows as they had done for the previous 12 years.

But on that Dec. 7, 2007, the cables holding their scaffolding snapped and dropped the brothers, at up to 125 mph, to the city's concrete more than 550 feet below.

Edgar, 30, died instantly. Moreno managed to hold on, riding the scaffolding like a surfboard to the ground.

Astonished rescue workers found Moreno alive. He was even sitting up, holding his hands to his chest.

"No one actually believed he's alive, falling from this height," paramedic Michael Kremenizer said.

Doctors called it a miracle.

"I don't know what adjective you'd care to use, unprecedented, extraordinary," said Philip Barrie, a doctor at New York Presbyterian Hospital. "If you are a believer in miracles, this would be one."

Moreno suffered a broken arm, two broken legs and severe injuries to his chest, abdomen and spine.

A small army of doctors drilled a hole in his brain to reduce swelling, pumping 24 units of blood into his battered body before eventually inducing him into a coma.

It came to be known by the local media as "the legend of the fall." Not only did Moreno survive, but he eventually woke up.

On Christmas Day, Moreno emerged from the coma, reaching for his wife.

At a news conference, his stunned wife, Rosario "Rosie" Moreno, did not know what to say.

"I don't know what to tell you. I'm still at awe," she said last year. "I'm still in shock."

A Miraculous Recovery

Only four months after the accident, Moreno checked out of Kessler Rehab Center in New Jersey.

And, miraculously, he left walking on his own two feet.

Gesturing to the right side of his body, Moreno said, "I land[ed] on this part, you know, all this part." And even though he still has pain, he says it is "much better."

As his body heals, Moreno has continued to regain more of his memory.

"That means a lot to me, when I start to remember my neighbors. Once I remember my house and the city where I live," Moreno said.

While Moreno has fond memories of his younger brother, he also now has memories of his brother falling.

"Yesterday, I remembered my brother and I was crying a little bit," he said. "That was the only thing since this happened that I remember."

Although Moreno was a U.S. citizen before the accident, his brother, Edgar, was not. The paperwork arrived after his death.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited the companies that employed the window washers and installed the scaffolding, fining them a total of $40,000.

'This is Home Forever'

Continuing to defy conventional wisdom, Moreno is making significant progress. Now, only six months after that terrifying morning, he is walking completely on his own.

His recovery is one that he says he could not have done without wife Rosie, who kept constant vigil on a tiny couch next to his hospital bed.

"This is home forever," Moreno said. "I mean, look, I have me a Puerto Rican girl."

She may be Puerto Rican to his Ecuadorian, but Moreno declared proudly that their home is the life they have built together, with their three children: Michael, 14; Mariah, 8; and Andrew, 6.

Now, he cheers at Mariah's soccer games, enjoys family barbecues as the summer melts away and spends Sunday mornings at church, where friends welcomed him back from a miracle that no one could have imagined.