As reported to me by a reader on September 12, 2001:
This story seems unbelievable: A man was trapped above the 50th floor in one of the towers of the World Trade Center. He apparently was very near or hanging out a window when the tower began to collapse. He clung to a large part of the structure and "surfed" down the building as it collapsed. He miraculously lived with just a few broken bones. Can anyone corroborate this story?
And by another reader several days later:
Stories abound regarding the supposed WTC survivor who “surfed” his way down from the 82nd floor riding the debris of the building as it fell only to suffer mild injuries. Many report seeing it on network TV and actual interviews with the man who took the wild ride and lived to tell about it. A little hope encourages us all, but it this a fact?
The same story was told and retold a thousand times over in the ensuing weeks, including by veteran journalists who even put a name to the miracle survivor: Port Authority policeman Sgt. John McLoughlin, who had reportedly fallen from the 82nd floor and broken only his legs.
In the end it was found out that McLoughlin was on the ground floor of the tower when it crashed to the ground, at which point the story, too, fell apart.