9/11 survivor addresses students, screens movie

John McLoughlinNicolas Cage would have a tough time earning the standing ovation that the real-life World Trade Center survivor he portrayed, John McLoughlin ‘75, received during a visit to campus last month.

A retired New York Port Authority Police officer, McLoughlin was trapped under the debris of the World Trade Center towers for more than 22 hours following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The inspirational story of his and fellow officer Will Jimeno’s survival became the basis for the 2006 movie “World Trade Center,” directed by Oliver Stone and starring Cage as McLoughlin.

McLoughlin capped off a day of appearances in cinema studies classes with a screening of the film and Q-and-A session with about 230 students and other spectators in the Campus Center auditorium. He accepted a warm reception when he entered the auditorium just after the credits for “World Trade Center” rolled, but McLoughlin later explained why he does not consider himself a 9/11 hero.

“People don’t understand, what we did that day, police officers and firemen, I did that for 21 years,” he said. “What happened on 9/11 brought light to what we do every day.

“I had to face death because I didn’t have a choice,” McLoughlin said. “The men on top of the hole, they knew they could die and still went in, that’s the difference between them and me.”

He outlined the long physical recovery from numerous surgeries and post-traumatic stress. Just a teen when his stepfather was miraculously rescued from Ground Zero, Steven Tobler ‘08 had a lot to do with McLoughlin’s visit.

Tobler began looking for opportunities to bring McLoughlin back to campus when he started taking cinema studies class at SUNY Oswego about 18 months ago. In addition to being one of only 20 survivors rescued from the collapsed World Trade Center, McLoughlin also has the unique experience of having a movie made about himself.

“He (Nicolas Cage) came to our home a couple times. We took Oliver (Stone) and Nicolas to Ground Zero,” McLoughlin said. “We spent a number of days together.”

McLoughlin fielded about an hour’s worth of questions from the standing room-only audience as part of his visit sponsored by the Oswego Alumni Association Alumni-In-Residence program. While he didn’t hesitate to discuss his sometimes painful and undeniably inspirational past, he offered a pretty simple focus for the future.

“Right now mostly I enjoy my family. I’m looking to just enjoy life,” McLoughlin said.

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PHOTO CAPTION: 9/11 Experience—John McLoughlin ‘75 speaks to Professor Amy Shore’s “Modern Culture and Media” class April 30. McLoughlin’s stepson, Steven Tobler ‘08, listens in the front row of students while Shore looks on.

(Posted: Jun 09, 2008)

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