On Feb. 26, 1993, Port Authority Police Department Officer Thomas McHale Jr. visited a doctor’s office at the World Trade Center complex for a sprained ankle. After the appointment, he was reading a newspaper on the platform of the World Trade Center PATH train station when a bomb exploded. Despite being injured himself from the blast and still suffering from his previously sprained ankle, McHale immediately turned to assisting the wounded and retrieving emergency supplies. Upon hearing that people were trapped in an elevator high up in one of the buildings, McHale climbed 94 flights of stairs in the South Tower to rescue them. Afterward, he assisted helicopter evacuations from the top of the building.
On that terrible day in February, McHale kept an inventory on his notepad of evacuees, writing down their health conditions and mode of evacuation – “H” for helicopter and “S” for stairs, etc. Three of the individuals whose names appear on the page—Ruben Esquilin, Jr., Alexis Leduc, and Arcangel Vazquez, all Fiduciary Trust Company International employees at the World Trade Center—would survive the evacuation but later be killed on 9/11.
After rescuing others, McHale attended to his own injuries and was subsequently hospitalized for 11 days. The Port Authority rewarded his service with the World Trade Center Individual Acts of Valor Medal.
Months after the bombing, McHale testified against four of the perpetrators on trial and was later assigned to the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force. On 9/11, McHale responded to the World Trade Center and then worked on rescue and recovery operations at the site.
McHale’s written notes from the 1993 World Trade Center bombing are now on display at the 9/11 Memorial Museum.