Ground Zero 'Survivors Staircase' Saved

The remaining above-ground part of WTC will be part of a 9/11 memorial.

ByABC News
February 12, 2009, 2:45 PM

March 9, 2008— -- At Ground Zero today, workers moved a staircase that served as an escape route for countless survivors of the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on the World Trade Center.

The stairway, which survived the destruction of the twin towers and remained the only above-ground remnant of the Trade Center complex, will become part of the memorial to the victims and the survivors of the attacks.

Its 37 stairs once connected the outdoor plaza outside the twin towers to the street below. People who used what has come to be known as the survivors staircase as their escape route, have said it is something that ought to be preserved.

Kayla Bergeron, who worked on the 73rd floor of the World Trade Center, is one of those people. She was sitting at her desk when the first plane hit the tower.

She made the terrifying trip through the stairwells down to the plaza level of the building.

"Everything was fine ... then we felt this huge explosion," she told ABC News. "There was water rushing down and the smoke had gotten thicker and it threw us down ... and I thought we were going to die."

Tom Canavan was in the plaza, too.

"It was like a snowstorm," he said. "Grey smoke, falling ashes, lots of big noises, and there were bodies falling and debris."

But beyond all that smoke and chaos, Canavan could see some light. It was an open-air staircase. The only way out.

Emergency workers pointed people towards the door. Bergeron and Canavan said the staircase saved their life.

"Without that staircase, I don't know how I could have made it out of the plaza alive," Canavan said.

Preservationists and survivors of the 2001 terrorist attack began campaigning years ago to leave the staircase where it was. But it sat in the middle of the footprint of one of five skyscrapers being built to replace the destroyed towers.

After years of debate over whether and how to preserve the structure, officials agreed to move the stairs about 200 feet west on the site, where it will be stored until it can be installed at the Sept. 11 memorial.