John McLoughlin, a Port Authority Police Department sergeant who overcame being trapped beneath the rubble of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, and who is a 1975 SUNY Oswego graduate, will return to campus to serve as the keynote speaker at the 2019 Commencement Eve Torchlight Dinner and Ceremony on Friday, May 17.

SUNY Oswego graduating senior Erin McLoughlin was only 4 years old when her family got news that would change their lives. Her father, John, who served with the Port Authority Police Department of New York and New Jersey (PAPD), was trapped while trying to assist victims in the infamous terrorist attacks.

Her father would eventually be rescued 22 hours later, and his story would become the subject of the 2006 Hollywood movie directed by Oliver Stone, "World Trade Center," in which John was portrayed by actor Nicolas Cage.

John McLoughlin, who was severely injured, sees his participation in the movie as a testimony to the fallen officers from the Port Authority Police Department who died in the attacks.

Family of Lakers

In addition to speaking, John will also celebrate his fourth and youngest child’s graduation from SUNY Oswego, as Erin joins her alumni siblings Steven (2008), Caitlin (2012) and John (J.J., 2014).

Erin McLoughlin, who will graduate in May with a wellness management degree“This is so exciting for me,” said Erin McLoughlin (right), who graduates with a bachelor’s degree in wellness management and a minor in nutrition. “I openly admit my dad has always been my hero and having him there to speak at Torchlight makes the weekend that much more special for me.”

Erin said she remembers fondly going with her father to his physical rehabilitation sessions, and she said that experience has helped shape her future goal to become an occupational therapist or a career path that allows her to mix recreational therapy with physical therapy.

“In watching the therapists help my dad, I realized I wanted to be that person for someone else,” she said. “I want to help people gain back their leisure abilities and reclaim the parts of their life that they think they’ve lost.”

She also remembers clearly her father’s message to graduates when he spoke at the Commencement Eve Torchlight celebration in 2007: Sometimes when one plan doesn’t work out, it helps lead to something better.

A business administration major at Oswego, John McLoughlin worked in banking for five years before joining the PAPD. He had been assigned to the Trade Center for 12 years, serving during the 1993 bombing of the complex. He helped evacuate the buildings and tend the wounded. His unique knowledge of the area and its emergency services came from his next position, in which he was responsible for the complex’s emergency equipment. An emergency services officer, he helped to redesign the safety and emergency protocols for the Trade Center complex.

Working in law enforcement became his passion -- a passion he would have never known had he not changed paths.

On Sept. 11, 2001, he was assigned to the Port Authority Bus Terminal, but headed downtown to assist victims. As he and his fellow officers entered the concourse, they were trapped next to an elevator shaft after the collapse of Tower Two. Since his rescue, he has had more than 30 surgeries and years of rehabilitation, and he still struggles with long-term health issues from the incident.

He has remained an involved alumnus, returning to campus to speak in classes over the years, including during Erin’s freshman year when he spoke to cinema and screen studies students about being part of the major Hollywood film.

The family has strong Oswego ties that continue to get deeper. They all look forward to adding another Laker when J.J. McLoughlin marries 2015 Oswego alumna Alyssa Derasmo this June.

Looking back at her life, Erin said her family has tried to make the most of their time together.  The 9/11 attacks and their father’s near-death experience also brought their already-close family even closer, and she treasures her daily texts and calls with her siblings and parents, who will all be in attendance at the Torchlight Ceremony on May 17.

For more information on Commencement Eve and Torchlight, visit the event's page.