NEW YORK — Firefighters shattered a pane of glass hundreds of feet in the air to rescue two 1 World Trade Center window washers whose scaffolding dangled at a precarious angle for more than an hour Wednesday afternoon.
In a dramatic rescue broadcast live on TV, the firefighters could be seen tethering the workers to harnesses and then guiding them carefully through the window on the 68th floor of the nation's tallest building.
The workers' ordeal began on the south side of the 1,776-foot, 104-story building at around 1 p.m. when a cable on the scaffolding apparently broke, according to Joe Pentangelo, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the building.
That left the open-topped platform hanging at about a sharp angle outside the 69th floor and swaying slightly in the wind. The workers were tethered and communicating with firefighters as they awaited their rescue.
Rescuers could be seen dropping cables to workers, and the fire department tweeted a photograph of rescuers inside the building looking at the dangling platform. At one point, another scaffold was inched down the same side of the building.
Firefighters worked one floor below the dangling scaffold. They cut an opening by hitting the thick glass, shattering it in place, and then carefully pulling the broken glass into the building. The hole was roughly 6 feet tall, even with rescuers' heads as they stood at the precipice.
The two workers were brought through it at about 2:15 p.m. They seemed to be OK and were taken to a hospital to be checked over, the fire department said.
People on the ground had been moved back in case glass began flying. Office workers and construction workers streamed onto a nearby street, their necks craning to watch the scaffold as it is waved in the wind.
"I hope they have enough experience to stay calm; when you start panicking, it makes things worse," said window washer Ramon Castro, who stood with the onlookers.
"It's a very dangerous job," said Castro, adding that he had encountered dangerous situations on the 22nd and 25th floors of other buildings. "You have to say your prayers. You have to use your experience."
Carol Thomas and Lisa Cogliano, who both work for an insurance company, were returning to their nearby office from a meeting.
"Oh God, I don't want to know what he is feeling," said Thomas. "I can't imagine."
"It's horrific," said Cogliano. "Hopefully, they find a way to get him out."
The silvery skyscraper, which rose from the ashes of the Sept. 11, 2001, reopened last week to 175 employees of the magazine publishing giant Conde Nast. About 3,000 more Conde Nast employees are expected to move in by early next year, eventually occupying 25 floors of the $3.9 billion tower.
Steps away from the new tower are two memorial fountains built on the footprints of the decimated twin towers, a reminder of the more than 2,700 people who died in the terrorist attack.