The squeegee that helped six escape WTC goes to Smithsonian
April 6, 2002
WASHINGTON (AP) -- It's just a squeegee, but it's going to the Smithsonian Institution. And what a story goes with it.

Window washer Jan Demczur was on a break, getting a cup of coffee when the first hijacked plane slammed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center, trapping him and five other men on an elevator at the 50th floor.

When they managed to pry open the elevator doors, instead of an exit they found a wall. Demczur used the blade of his squeegee to carve a hole through which they could crawl.  It took 45 long minutes, then the men raced down a stairwell and got out five minutes before the tower collapsed."It was pretty lucky I was window cleaner and had my tools with me," the 48-year-old Polish immigrant said Friday. "It's something I'll remember all my life."

"People call me a hero, I'm lucky to be alive," he said. "A hero is people who give their life in New York, here in Washington or in Pennsylvania."Demczur has been cleaning windows for 14 years but he has not scrubbed one since the attacks.

He said he is dealing with the trauma by spending more time with his wife, Nadia, and their two children. He does not know when he will return to work, but promises it will not be at any skyscraper.

Meanwhile, his trusted squeegee is now a part of history."This is evidence of survival," said David Shayt, curator of the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History. "No one had a knife but they had an unexpected means of escape."Demczur said he thought about keeping it, but Shayt told him that donating it would mean up to 6 million visitors would see it every year.

"He said 'people are going to see how you were fighting for life ... the way you saved yourself,"' Demczur said.Other items Demczur donated include the tool's leather handle, a soot-covered, blue janitorial uniform and a pair of brown, dusty boots.The museum has not decided where or how the items will be displayed.

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