Bus Driver Hero Recalls Taking 10 Firemen to Ground Zero, but Only Five Back

NY Daily News - September 10, 2011

by Pete Donohue DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER

MTA bus driver Barbara Byrd was driving her route in Brooklyn when the transit command center broadcast an alarming message: A plane had struck the World Trade Center; stay clear of the area.

She did the opposite.

Initially, Byrd had no intention of heading toward the twin towers and the billowing smoke. But everything changed as she neared the Rescue 2 firehouse on BergenSt. in Bedford-Stuyvesant.

"A fireman came running out, waving down my bus," Byrd recalled in her first-ever interview about 9/11.

"He said, 'We're in a state of emergency, and we're going to have to commandeer your bus and take it to the World Trade Center.'"

Ten firefighters loaded her B15 bus with equipment. Then she and the crew raced to lower Manhattan, navigating horrendous traffic jams.

"They were really excited. They were really pumped. Their adrenaline was high," Byrd said. "They were saying things like, 'Let's go. This is what we were trained to do, and we're all going to come out of this.'

"I was amazed. The bravery, the camaraderie and the love they showed for each other was amazing."

In about 10 minutes, Byrd brought the firemen, accompanied by a chief in a separate FDNY vehicle, to Park Row near City Hall. The chief told her to stay with the bus, and they'd be back.

"It was a mess, a real mess," Byrd said. "People were screaming. Dust was everywhere. Debris was everywhere. It was like one of those Bruce Willis movies. I thought I was in a movie.

"The firemen jumped into gear. It was, 'Let's go. You know what you have to do. Be safe out there.'"

Byrd stayed in the bus for what seemed like an eternity. One of the firefighters came back to give her some gauze to cover her face. He said the air might be toxic, she recalled.

A search for a bathroom led Byrd to an abandoned Starbucks where she and a police officer dispensed coffee and food to first responders.

It was about 3 a.m. the next day when the fire chief returned with five of his men. Take them to Brooklyn, he said.

"I took 10 there and five back," she said. "The other five died."