ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK
My 9/11 Story
By Peter Bisulca
(Copyright 2015 , Peter Bisulca – All Rights reserved)
<Edited by Robert D. Morningstar>
September 11, 2001
For those of you who don’t know me, my wife, Jen, worked in Tower I of the World Trade Center at the time of the September 11 attack and we had lived in the neighborhood, Battery Park, for a few years prior. When 9/11 occurred many of our friends and relatives were worried about us. I wrote this letter a few days after the attack to our friends and relatives
The 9/11 World Trade Center Attack
I know that you all must have been thinking of Jen and me on September 11th, so I just want to share with you how that day was for me. It started out as a very ordinary day. Jen woke up with morning sickness. This is actually unusual as throughout her pregnancy she has consistently been sick at night and fine in the morning.
Here is some background information (that I shared with my friends in the days that followed):
As you may know, Jen and I have moved from Battery Park City (across the street from the World Trade Center) and have been living on Long Island since May 2001. Since then, Jen and I have married and are now three months pregnant. However, she still commutes into The World Trade Center, 87th floor of Tower 1 every day (the building with the antenna on top). I now work in Jericho, Long Island which is about half way from our new apartment to “The City.”
On the morning of the 11th, I invited Jen to drive with me to Jericho, so that we could share half of the commute together, as we often do. I dropped her off at the Hicksville train station, which is about five minutes from my office. At first she declined my invitation because when we did this in the past, she always ended up late to work by approximately 20 minutes. Shortly after she declined my offer, she change her mind and said “You know, I think I will drive with you today”, and so she did.
It was a beautiful day, the air was clean and crisp, the sun was shining, the sky was blue and we took the ocean parkway, which is a very scenic and a low traffic roadway. We traveled along the beautiful beaches of Long Island and listened to the radio, laughing and having a great time. Every thing was “perfect” in our life together. I dropped of Jen at the Hicksville train station at approximately 8:10 AM. We said “good-bye” and it was one of those moments that I was perfectly in love with her. We made plans that I would pick her up in Hicksville when she returned from work so that we could drive half-way home together and on the way visit my grandfather in the hospital.
When I arrived at work I was pleased to see that the stock futures were trading higher. I was pleased because the night before, I went home “long stocks,” which means I make money when stocks go higher.
As I do every morning at work I went to the cafeteria and read my daily investment papers. At approximately 8:47 AM, I returned to my trading desk, as I approached my trading room I peered through the window of the trading room before mine to see that the stock market futures were now down, and down big.
I knew something significant had to have happened.
As I walked into my trading room the other traders in the room were frantically looking at the television. I looked up to see a black gaping, flaming hole in my wife’s building dead smack on her floor.
Instantly, I tried to calculate time. I began to ask my self-questions:
“What time did I drop her off?
What time did her train leave?
And, how long would it have taken to get there?”
I was trying mathematically and logically to figure out whether or not Jen was in the building so that I could relieve myself of the pain that I was feeling.
Every minute, my pain doubled. My calculations were too close; it was not obvious to me whether or not she was there.
I checked in with my own Spirit, my connection to God and my connection to her. It told me that she was safe, but my mind would not allow me to trust it.
9:00 AM came as I watched the fire spread. The pain of not knowing grew exponentially by the minute, the foundation of logic and spirituality that I had been relying on crumbled and my emotions took over, I was sobbing in the worst grief I had ever felt. I was sobbing over the loss of my lovely wife and unborn child, Peter Jr.
The only thing that my mind would allow me to do was to take action. I began to dial the phone. The circuits in my office were jammed. I ran out side to use the cell phone, But it was useless! Why? Because cell phone carrier’s transmitting antenna was on top of the World Trade Center.
Some people could still get through to me at this time, but it was impossible for me to get a call out. My friend Steve called me on my cell phone. He wanted to know if Jen was okay. I had no answers for him, he told me another plane had just struck “building two” and I ran back into the office to see the television.
I looked up and saw both towers on fire.
I then knew that we were under attack and that even if Jen was not in those buildings, as long as she was in Manhattan, she was in great danger. I ran down the hallway to my office, the head trader on my desk grabbed me and said that, “Jen just called, and that she is in Penn Station.”
I experienced a sudden relief, but then paranoia, and doubt:
I asked myself … “What if it was not her? He does not know her voice, maybe it was one of our friends or family members calling in a panic about Jen.”
Instantly the fear and grief came back and he could see it on my face. He then started shouting at me, “She is okay! She is okay!”, but I did not believe him.
Then the phone rang and it was Jen.
I heard her voice, and I knew with certainty that it was she who ws speaking. She was hysterical because (the same way I was grieving not knowing whether she was safe), she was worried about her employees. Her younger brother Michael worked one block from Penn Station, so I said to her in a very serious tone:
“Get out of Penn station, the city might be under attack, go find your brother Michael.”
The next call I received was from my brother in-law, Michael. I told him to find his sister and get away from Penn Station and to call me when he’d found her.
By approximately 9:15 AM, Michael called back to say he had found Jen and they were together. I knew the police were going to close down the city and that there would be no way out, except maybe to walk out of the city through one of the tunnels or over one of the East River bridges, all of which were jammed with thousands of fleeing New Yorkers.
Jen was pregnant and I knew that she was not going to get special attention because the city was in a panic. So I told Michael to wait where they were and that I was coming in to get them out.
I sprinted out of my office and tuned into Bloomberg radio in my Landrover Discovery to hear the devastation continuing on the radio. At this point I could not communicate with anyone because my cell phone was dead and I was not going to waist one second to pull over to use a pay phone.
I felt it was a race against time to get them out. I knew that the authorities were going to begin closing down all major highways leading into Manhattan, and I felt the most practical bridge to cross was the 59th Street Bridge. I took the highways as far as I thought I could. Somewhere in Brooklyn, I started taking back streets. I finally made it to the Queens entrance via the 59th Street Bridge.
By this time, both towers had collapsed and I had been able to observe the aftermath of the scene with my own eyes as I was driving.
I filled up my car with gas, so that when I found them, we’d be able to leave the City quickly, safely and with no delay. I also bought two bottles of water, a few maps of Manhattan and the surrounding area, a pre-paid phone card, and $100 from the cash machine. I knew that I was going to be doing a lot of walking, and as far as I was concerned, we were still under attack. I knew Manhattan well, but I needed to know it better as my intent was to plan routes that would avoid walking through hot spot areas, like past the Empire State building, etc.
I then proceeded to walk across the 59th Street Bridge.
Thousands of people were pouring out of Manhattan on foot as I was going in. I was swimming up stream in a river of fleeing people. As I walked over the bridge, I was bumped by hundreds of shoulders moving in the opposite direction. I heard bits and pieces of hundreds of different 911 conversations by New Yorkers. The bridge was filled with thousands of people walking out of Manhattan, shoulder to shoulder.
I could smell the odor of burning plastic and destruction was in the air. As I was walking, I looked South over my left shoulder, I could see the dustbowl that once was the World Trade Center and the ‘in-complete’ skyline of NYC.
I was walking at a fast pace and drinking a lot of water. I walked to 5th Avenue and started heading down to Mid-Town. A woman in a cab gave me a ride for seven streets. Jen and Michael were to be waiting on corner of 7th Avenue and 33rd Street. By the time I arrived, they were not there, and it was now 12:30 PM.
Intuitively I knew they would not be there before I arrived. While traveling there, I realized that it was a “bad plan” to tell them to wait there. I knew that their mother was at home and that they would be calling into check in with her. So I waited on line for 15 minutes to use the telephone and to call my mother-in-law. No one’s cell phone was working, so there were long lines of people, 7 to 10 people deep.
When it was finally my turn to use the phone I called Jen’s mom. She told me that they were headed to East 75th Street and York to our friend’s apartment. So I then proceeded to walk “Uptown.” I arrived at the apartment shortly after they did. I was so relieved to see Jen. I needed to just look at her and hold her for about 15 minutes before I could believe that she was safe. It was my friend Michael’s apartment. I was now with people that I knew for the first time since I’d left my office that day.
It was approximately 2 PM. There were now four of us; the two Michaels, Jen and myself. We sat and watched the news for a while and made a plan to leave. Jen felt she was up to walking out. So we went to a local pizza parlor, shared a pizza, stocked up on water and began our trek. After walking for three blocks we were able to get a cab. The cab driver took us all the way to our car in Queens. Cars were now allowed to leave Manhattan. The Cab let us out right by my car and we were home within 90 minutes. This was a miracle because if a cab left Manhattan there was almost a guarantee that it was not going to get back in. This is where my $100 came in handy. I gave the cab driver the money to take us out and he agreed.
All day on 9/11, while I was walking to find Jen, I continued to grieve for all the people I knew and loved that worked there. From the sciene of the devastation, I assumed that they were dead.
I thought “Over 20,000 people must have died.”
I thought we’d lost them all. However, as the next few days passed, people started reporting in. Eventually I realized that we’d lost no one that we knew personally and everyone that worked with Jen survived. We have hundreds of stories, but this one is mine.
Everything is different now, and I am doing my best to accept the change. Our country will never be the same and neither will I be. I have come to believe that it was the love that I hold and everyone holds for Jen, and the love she holds for herself and our baby that protected her that day.
Love is a very powerful force and it was the magnificent power of Love that had her end up safely in my arms again. And to anyone that reads this, I tell you that Love will protect you also and Love will protect our country and our planet. Hatred is a powerful force too, but not nearly as powerful as Love.
Jen and I have forgiven the people that have done this, but at the same time, we still want them to be held accountable so that in the future their hatred may not hurt more innocent people.
New York City
September 11th, 2015