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Woman, Dog Guide Blind Man Down 70 WTC Floors
Updated: Fri, Sep 14 6:40 AM EDT

By Jason Webb

BOGOTA (Reuters) - A blind Colombian man accompanied by his faithful dog was led to safety by his female boss down 70 flights of a narrow emergency staircase of a tower of the World Trade Center after it was slammed by a hijacked plane.

Seated with his golden Labrador retriever guide dog beside him, Omar Eduardo Rivera told Caracol television and radio on Thursday how two days earlier he fled down the stairs for more than an hour with his hand on the unnamed woman's shoulder.

He unleashed the dog to let it escape, but with glass falling around them, the animal led him to an emergency exit and stayed by his side as a crowd of people descended the stairs to escape the building which collapsed soon afterward.

Computer worker Rivera was in his office on the 71st floor of the one of the trade center's twin towers on Tuesday, his dog underneath his desk, when suicide hijackers crashed a jet into the 110-story building some 25 floors above him.

"I stood up and I could hear how pieces of glass were flying around and falling," Rivera, said in a quiet voice in a peaceful garden somewhere in New York. "The dog was very nervous, and he ran off but came back and kept by my side. He didn't bark."

At the emergency exit, his boss led him down the stairs.

"I took hold of her arm. She went down on my right side and the dog on my left. When it became narrow and people were pushing and shoving more, she went in front and I just held on to her shoulder," said Rivera, who is from Bogota, the capital of Colombia, which is fighting a war on leftist guerrillas.

"At first there was panic, and some people tried to run and go first. But really most people behaved quite prudently and grasped what was happening, so we walked down in an orderly fashion, but it was slow-going."


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