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One WTC Window Washers Discuss Harrowing Rescue, Thank God, First Responders

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- From sheer terror to incredible relief, two World Trade Center window washers left dangling for hours from the nation's highest building, told their story on Friday.

For the first time together, Juan Lizama and Juan Lopez discussed their harrowing rescue from One World Trade Center.

"Thank you everybody," Lizama said Friday. "Thank you fire department."

"Honestly, I'm happy to have made it, got home to see my family another day," said Lopez. "It was definitely terrifying."

One WTC Window Washers Recall Harrowing Rescue

Lopez admitted there was a bit of panic when a cable suddenly loosened on their scaffold Wednesday, plunging it into an almost vertical position outside the 104-floor tower, 68 stories above the street.

"I don't remember having much of a conversation in the beginning," he said.

Lopez has been a window washer for five years. In an exclusive interview with CBS2's Sonia Rincon on Thursday, Lopez said he overcame his fear by putting his training into action.

PHOTOS: Window Washers Rescued At 1 WTC

Before the cable came loose and the scaffold slumped to one side, Lopez said everything was fine and exactly as it should have been.

"We made sure the scaffold was intact before we jumped in, as we do every day," Lopez said. "At the moment when it happened, it was just reaction."

So when the accident happened and Lopez and Lizama found themselves dangling precariously, he said there were a few minutes where they were truly scared. But their training kicked in.

"My first reaction is, of course, to hit all the emergency brakes — which is what we were trained for," Lopez said. "It's just instinct, you know — survival."

Window Washers Talk Harrowing Rescue From 1 WTC

Lizama called his wife while on the scaffolding to let her know he was fine, CBS2's Andrea Grymes reported.

"I speak to you. I'm OK," Lizama said he told his wife.

After about 90 agonizing minutes, firefighters were able to use diamond cutters to saw through a double-layered window and pull the men to safety.

The men could not have been more relieved.

"Oh, thank God. That's all I can say," Lopez told reporters Friday. "It was a matter of time. Thank God."

The partners, with decades of combined window washing experience, said the accident has not scared them off the job completely, Grymes reported.

"There's a lot of ground floor jobs we might want to take for the moment -- a lot of businesses on the sidewalks," Lopez jokingly said.

Lizama told reporters he has been a window washer for 24 years and has no plans to find a new line of work. He said he would go back to the World Trade Center tomorrow if he could, Grymes reported.

"This job ... is everything for my family. That's why I say, 'God Bless America.' I am very happy I am living here."

Officials haven't determined what caused the cable problem. The Port Authority said it was suspending window cleaning there while investigating what happened.

Their union, Service Employees International Union Local 32BJ, said it makes sure workers follow rigorous safety protocols.

The union said the men did everything right, including securing items on the scaffold that could have fallen, WCBS 880's Marla Diamond reported.

"I know, this job, safety is number one," Lizama said. "One mistake, no story here."

Although Lopez admitted that the emergency stop didn't work, their union reps weren't letting them talk about what failed on the scaffold, 1010 WINS' Juliet Papa reported.

One World Trade Center is America's tallest building and stands at the northwest corner of the site where the twin towers were destroyed in the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.

The $3.9 billion skyscraper opened for business last week with more than 170 Conde Nast employees moving into five of the company's 25 floors.

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(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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