A few months after the World Trade center bombing in 1993 I stood by a gate on the second floor of the Port Authority bus station. I was waiting for my then wife and six-year old son, who where returning from Martha’s Vineyard where they’d spent a week at her mom’s home.
They were on a Peter Pan bus, or maybe it was Bonanza, but I know for sure it was not a Greyhound. The bus was late, and I was getting anxious. I went out into the bus bay to smoke a cigarette. You could still grab a smoke there without getting hassled.
I went back in to the waiting room proper, and I saw out of the corner of my eye the elevator door open and someone pushed a large suitcase on wheels out of the elevator but did not get off. From where I was standing I could not see the person. No one else got off the elevator, just the bag.
There were a few people in the waiting area with me, but no one else had noticed, or if they had, gave no sign of it. I walked over to it, and looked around. It seemed to belong to no one; it was just there, a large, solid, black, and ominous. This was classic terrorist behavior, I thought. Just drop off the bomb and split. My first instinct was to run. Get out of here; get away before this very large bomb goes off. The bag was probably three feet high and two wide, the largest suitcase you can buy.
I thought of my wife and child, what if I ran and the bomb went off when they were getting off the bus?
I had to tell somebody. I walked up the platform to look for a cop. It didn’t take long, there were a couple of P.A. cops two bays down. They were both in their late thirties, from New Jersey from the sound of their accents and both had big bushy cop mustaches. One had black hair and the other light brown hair.
“Ah, I don’t know how to put this, but someone left a large suitcase in the waiting room over there and got back on the elevator.”
“Let’s go have a look” the elder of the two said. The three of us made our way back to the Wood’s Hole gate. The cops approached the bag, examining it carefully. The older cop took a pair of gloves out of his pocket and put them on. He started looking for a tag. He didn’t find one, and then he stood upright and looked around.
“Excuse me, does this bag belong to anybody here?” He asked in his best loud cop voice.
This got the attention of the thirty or so people in the waiting room, and a crowd began to form. No one claimed ownership.
“Should we open it?” The younger cop asked.
“Nah, let me call supervision.” He keyed the radio mike clipped to his shirt and called it in. more curious on lookers started to gather. I was starting to sweat. I wanted to shout, “Get away! It could be a bomb!” Inside all of my viscera tensed up in anticipation of being torn to shreds any second now. My heart pounded.
Suddenly the elevator door opened and another bag the same size was pushed out. All eyes turned to the elevator and the new bag. A small thin middle-aged man stepped out of the elevator. He wore thick glasses, and had wild, wispy brown hair. He was wearing a shabby tweed jacket over a loud sport shirt. His pants were baggy and his shoes scuffed.
“Hey, what are you doing to my bag?” He shouted in a thin, reedy voice.
“This your bag?” The head cop asked.
“Yeah, that’s my bag. I’m going to Philadelphia!” The crowd erupted in laughter.
“Ah, OK, sir, no problem, we were just wondering why it was unattended.”
“I got two bags, can’t you see?”
“Yeah, yeah, I can see. You shouldn’t leave your bags unattended, though, you know. The bombing and all…”
The little man pulled his bags closer to the gate one by one, muttering to himself. I felt like an idiot.
“Look sir, you did the right thing,” the cop said to me as if he read my mind.