I’ve been writing off and on about the 9/11 story of lucky Port Authority employee Pasquale Buzzelli — i.e., “the 9/11 surfer” — for a good nine or so years. I’ve gotten to know Pasquale and particularly his wife, Louise, over that time. I tried helping them find a co-writer for Pasquale’s book, “We All Fall Down.” He and Louise and I had dinner in Manhattan six years ago — here’s a photo from that night.

From William Langeweische‘s account of Buzzelli’s experience:

“Buzzelli had just passed the 22nd floor when the North Tower gave way. It was 10:28 in the morning, an hour and 42 minutes after the attack. Buzzelli felt the building rumble, and immediately afterward heard a tremendous pounding coming at him from above, as the upper floors pancaked. Buzzelli’s memory of it afterwards was distinct. The pounding was rhythmic, and it intensified fast, as if a monstrous boulder were bounding down the stairwell toward his head.

“He reacted viscerally by diving halfway down a flight of stairs, and curling into a corner of a landing. He knew the building was failing. Buzzelli was a Catholic. He closed his eyes and prayed for his wife and unborn child. He prayed for a quick death.

“Because his eyes were closed, he felt rather than saw the walls crack open around him. For an instant the walls folded onto his head and arms, and he felt pressure, but then the structure disintegrated beneath him, and he thought, ‘I’m going,’ and began to fall. He kept his eyes closed. He felt the weightlessness of acceleration. The sensation reminded him of thrill rides he had enjoyed at Great Adventure, in New Jersey. He did not enjoy it now, but did not actively dislike it either. He did not actively do anything at all.

“He felt the wind on his face, and a sandblasting effect as he tumbled through the clouds of debris. He saw four flashes of light from small blows to the head, and then another really bright flash when he landed. Right after that he opened his eyes, and it was three hours later.

“He sat up. He saw blue sky and a world of shattered steel and concrete. He had landed on a slab like a sacrificial altar, perched high among mountains of ruin.

“There was a drop of fifteen feet to the debris below him. He saw heavy smoke in the air. Above his head rose a lovely skeletal wall, a lacy gothic thing that looked as if it would topple at any moment. He remembered his fall exactly, and assumed therefore that he was dead.

“He waited to see if death would be as it is shown in the movies — if an angel would come by, or if he would float up and see himself from the outside. But then he started to cough and to feel pain in his leg, and he realized that he was alive.”

On a 9/11 PBS documentary, Langeweische said at this point that Buzzelli was “lying on this altar. There’s no one around. It’s utterly silent. There’re no people around, nothing. It’s a wasteland desert in the middle of New York City. The buildings are gone, there’s smoke, and then there’s fire.

“At some point, he was quite certain — to make a long story short — that he was going to die from fire. So certain that he found a piece of jagged metal and was going to cut his wrists, in order not at least to burn to death. And he had gotten to that point when he was rescued.”