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WTC burn victim recalls September 11

Manu Dhingra
Burn victim Manu Dhingra was injured in the attacks on the World Trade Center September 11.  

(CNN) -- A burn victim from the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center was released from New York Weill Cornell Medical Center on Tuesday morning, three weeks after barely surviving the events.

Manu Dhingra suffered severe burns on his face, arms, stomach, and back when a hijacked jetliner crashed into One World Trade Center at 8:45 a.m. on September 11.

He was on the 83rd floor when it happened. Dhingra told reporters at a news conference following his release that he arrived late for work at Andover Brokerage. He had just stepped off the elevator when he was engulfed in a ball of fire.

"I thought it was a bomb to begin with," Dhingra, 27, said. "I can only imagine it came from the elevator shaft or something. I was just thinking to myself, 'God make it quick, make it painless.' Actually it was very painful."

Dhingra said the fire "didn't last long," and he managed to gather with other workers in a nearby office, where an evacuation plan was thrown together.

"They were like, 'Manu, you have to try to try to help yourself and we'll help you. But there's nobody that will come up to the 83rd floor to get you down,'" Dhingra recalled. "I don't know who was with me at that time, but I got some kind of energy from somewhere. I just got up and started walking down the stairs. And that's how I made it down."

Dhingrha was burned on 35 percent of his body, including his face, arms, back, and abdomen. He was too burned for anyone to touch him, so his friends tried to encourage him to keep climbing down.

"They lied to me, telling me when I would sit down, 'No, there's only 10 more floors to go," when there was, like, 60 more," Dhingrha said.

The trip down the stairs took about 25 minutes, he said. He didn't know the twin towers had collapsed behind him until he reached the hospital, about an hour after the first plane hit.

Dhingra is the first burn victim from the attacks to be released from New York Weill Cornell Medical Center. Fourteen others remain in the hospital.

Dhingra said he won't consider working in a high-rise office building again. And he said he's "not going to waste the second chance he has been given."


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