John Dell’Isola

SEPTEMBER 11

September 11, 2001 started out as just another day for my son and I as we started out on our usual commute from Staten Island, NY. We boarded our bus at 8:50am and our driver was listening to an emergency radio transmission. “A plane had just hit one of the WTC towers” crackled the dispatch. The alert was for all drivers to stay away from the downtown area. It didn’t affect us since we traveled over the Goethals Bridge and up the NJ Turnpike. We started to roll at 8:55, and from our vantage point a short distance down route 440N we were able to see the tops of the towers. Large billows of thick black smoke poured from the top of the north tower. As we approached the Goethals Bridge the entire unobstructed view of Lower New York Bay came into view. A tragedy was unfolding before our very eyes. We were both were transfixed on it as we listened to our Walkman radios to get any information we could. At a little after 9:00am we were a little shy of mid span on the bridge, out of the corner of our eyes we noticed a plane that flew over the bridge just to the right of us. It didn’t register what size the plane was or it’s altitude in relation to the towers, but I remember thinking it odd that a plane would be headed in that direction, right toward the building. Maybe it was on official business, photos or surveillance perhaps?

What we saw next, I will never forget as long as I live. The plane disappeared momentarily from view into the cloud of smoke and simultaneously exploded into a tremendous orange fireball that mushroomed and within seconds consumed the entire top third of the south tower. As we listened to an eyewitness on the radio at that moment scream “OOOOHHH MYY GOD!!!!!” The city was locked down, going into the Lincoln tunnel at that moment didn’t seem like a very good idea, we turned around and could not get back on to either the Goethals or Bayonne bridges. We spent the next 7 hours stranded in Bayonne NJ, but unlike any of the innocents who lost their lives in this atrocity, I will by the grace of God live to possibly have grandchildren some day.

One of the Girls in our office lost her husband, who was attending a meeting on the 94th floor of the south tower. A co-worker from a previous job lost her husband who was a broadcast engineer who worked in the control room atop Tower 2; my brother in-law down the street from us, has a next door neighbor who lost his son, a firefighter; our neighbors on the next block lost two brave firefighter husbands and fathers.

We came in on the Staten Island Ferry the morning after and the scene approaching the terminal was surreal. An acrid smoke permeates the air. Anyone who is assigned there is wearing a protective mask to protect their throats from burned air, there are military personnel patrolling the streets, exhausted firefighters trudging along shoulder to shoulder, police and emergency workers dotting the streets on the way to the only working subway entrance.

As I rode by the Statue of Liberty, I thought of all the brave people who have fought for our country in past conflicts against foreign invaders to preserve our freedoms. This enemy must be found vanquished and exterminated.

Sadly the enemy is already within our borders. This war must now be fought wherever terror resides.