By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated January 18, 2002 12:10 PM

John McLoughlin, 48, believes in miracles. When the south tower of the World Trade Center collapsed on Sept. 11, the Port Authority sergeant found himself pinned from his hips down under 30 feet of debris and his helmet wedged so tightly that he couldn’t move his head. He stayed that way for 22 hours. “All I thought about was my family,” McLoughlin said. “I had to get out for them. I’m not saying there weren’t points of sheer desperation. There was a point of acceptance of dying.” But on Thursday, McLoughlin, in a wheelchair and surrounded by his wife and four children, met with reporters before going home from the hospital — the last survivor pulled from the Trade Center ruins, according to Deputy Chief Robert Caron of the Port Authority police. The sergeant, a 21-year Port Authority veteran, was taken to Bellevue Hospital after his rescue with severe damage to both legs. He underwent plastic surgery several times and went into respiratory and kidney failure, Dr. John Pellicone said, according to the Associated Press. Even by late November, McLoughlin was barely able to sit up and could not walk, said Elaine DeFrancesco, his physical therapist, the AP reported. But he was “the most determined patient we’ve ever seen,” she said, and now he can take 50 steps with the help of a walker. “In six months, you’ll see, he’ll be standing and walking.” McLoughlin said he plans to “jump back into life with both feet” and vowed one day to walk back into his precinct house — and go to his children’s ball games and Boy Scout meetings. As for his first night at home in more than four months, he had one priority, he said: getting a plate of his favorite dish, his wife’s eggplant Parmesan.