Personal Story: WTC Survivor

This is a partial transcript from The O'Reilly Factor on December 24, 2001. Click here to order the complete transcript.

JOHN GIBSON, GUEST HOST:  Welcome back to The O'Reilly Factor.  I'm John Gibson.  In the Personal Story segment tonight, a survivor's story.

On September 11, 27-year-old stockbroker Manu Dhingra was on the 83rd floor of the north tower of the World Trade Center when the first jet hit.  In an instant, Mr. Dhingra was covered in flames, more than 40 percent of his body burned.  Now Mr. Dhingra says he's just beginning his second life, and he joins us here tonight.

I think everybody would like to know, this -- the plane hit on -- you believe, the 96th floor.


GIBSON:  So you were on 83.

DHINGRA:  Right.

GIBSON:  So flame and fire traveled 10 stories down and engulfed you just as you were stepping off the elevator?

DHINGRA:  Well, I had stepped off the elevator, and believe it or not, there were people on the first floor who were in front of the elevator who pressed the button, and the door opened, and fire engulfed them, and they were about 80, 90 percent burned.  So it pretty much found any air pocket it could, and anybody who was in the elevator were in pretty much serious danger at that time.

GIBSON:  When this -- you were burned over 40 percent of your body.  You were obviously in terrible pain.  But there were people there who helped you out.  How did you get out?

DHINGRA:  Well, they really couldn't touch me, but I had to pretty much walk down the stairs myself.  Luckily I had enough energy where I had enough adrenaline at that point where I was able to walk down.  I obviously had no expectations of walking down 83 flights.  I was hoping one or two flights, maybe somebody would find me and help me down or something, but it just didn't happen.  Luckily there were people who let me go and gave me water, because I was very dehydrated at that time also.

GIBSON:  So you walked down 83 --

DHINGRA:  Absolutely.

GIBSON:  And you walked outside and into the waiting arms of some rescuer?

DINGHRA:  I walked down underneath where all the stores were.  Still couldn't find an  ambulance.  Finally got to the main road where the ambulances were.  And I just waited until  there was a spot open for me.  And I just passed out in one of the ambulances.  And they took me to St. Vincent's.

GIBSON:  So what do you think about that moment that you actually walked through the fire  and lived?

DINGHRA:  I mean, I keep asking myself why.  I mean, why me and why not somebody else?  I know most everybody who was above the plane, if they had that same chance, they would have done the same thing.  It's just that I was lucky enough to have that chance.  And you know, everything was very random that day.  And you know, I just don't know.

GIBSON:  What do you think about the people who did it?  What do you think about what was done?

DINGHRA:  Wholeheartedly, I want them brought to justice, but a lot of my anger is also  because we were exposed as a government and exposed as our airport system,  our flight system.  And I mean, I was very angry in the beginning.  And I was just, "How could this happen?  How could this ever happen?"

But I wholeheartedly support our government and what they have done since to try to make up for what happened.

GIBSON:  You know, I've got to ask you this before I go on.  I want to talk about your rehab.  But occasionally you read somewhere out in the Muslim world, they say well America had this coming.

DINGHRA:  Right.

GIBSON:  America's arrogance is what caused this.

DINGHRA:  Right.

GIBSON:  If that is true, you were made to suffer for America's arrogance.


GIBSON:  What do you think about that argument?

DINGHRA:  I don't believe it because I was in the hospital.  I mean, obviously the people who feel this way, and they'll hate America or American interests forever.  I was in the hospital.  My best friends are Muslim.  They're from Pakistan.  They probably spend more time with me, just as much or if not more than my parents did.  So I see that different cultures can co-exist.  And so those people I totally disagree with.  And I think they're criminals and they're trying to justify this act somehow. 

GIBSON:  Let's talk about your rehab.

DINGHRA:  Right.

GIBSON:  What has that been like?  I mean, show me your hands.  These are special gloves?

DINGHRA:  Yes, these are pressure garments.  They go all the way up my sleeves pretty much to my shoulder.  I have to wear an ankle sock also for my ankle grafts.  What they do is they squeeze the grafts down, so they'll be limiting scarring.  Obviously, you'll be able to tell what -- you know, after a year or so when I take these off that I had grafts done, but at least they'll be flat.

GIBSON:  Are you in a lot of pain?

DINGHRA:  Not as much pain, but more discomfort with the grafts, the stiffness.  It's kind of hard to sleep at night.

GIBSON:  Are your bigger wounds psychological or physical?

DINGHRA:  Well, the physical is healing.  And they will heal.  But I have new scars to deal with and go all my life with.  But it's more psychological, the fear of flying, fear of tall buildings, elevators.  But I think a lot of us, we all fear those things and we all have  concerns about them.

GIBSON:  What are you going to do with your new life?

DINGHRA:  I don't know.  I mean, it's not the same as before.  And I volunteer.  I spend a lot of time at the hospital because those people make me feel good about myself.  And it was such a comforting environment.  I'll hopefully go back to school maybe.

GIBSON:  Mr. Dinghra, a very inspiring story on this holiday night.  Thank you very much.

O'REILLY: All right.

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