Trapped deep beneath the rubble of 1 World Trade Center, his legs crushed from hip to foot on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, Lt. John McLoughlin accepted what seemed inevitable.
"I assumed I was going to die where I was buried," McLoughlin said Wednesday, 33 months after the terrorist attack, at a party celebrating his retirement from the Port Authority police.
Rescuers pulled McLoughlin from the wreckage about 22 hours after the twin towers collapsed, making him the last person rescued from the site where 2,749 others perished.
McLoughlin presided Wednesday over roll call on the 3-to-11 p.m. shift at the Port Authority Bus Terminal, where he was when the World Trade Center was attacked.
In a ceremony punctuated by tears and cheers, McLoughlin -- leaning on a cane for support after 30 operations on his legs -- bid an emotional goodbye.
"We few, we happy few, we band of brothers," he told his co-workers, quoting Shakespeare.
Dozens of police and brass saluted him, then offered hugs, handshakes and words of encouragement as a bagpiper played "Auld Lang Syne."
His wife, Donna, and their four children watched proudly, as did a collection of rescue workers, doctors and therapists who helped McLoughlin literally get back on his feet.
He grew weepy when recounting the work of his physical therapists.
His colleagues did the same watching McLoughlin.
"There is no greater gift than to see you walk into this roll call today," Port Authority Chief of Department Christopher Trucillo said.