Celebrating Artist Peter Ruta’s 100th Birthday
On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, artist Peter Ruta was on a Metro North train bound for New York City, intending to return to his studio on the 91st floor of the North Tower of the World Trade Center.
On the cold winter morning of Feb. 26, 1993, Carl Selinger headed to work at the World Trade Center where he was employed by the Port Authority as the manager of business development for the aviation department. Later that day he was preparing for a meeting and decided to grab a quick lunch.
After visiting a cafeteria inside the building, Selinger entered an empty sky elevator and began his ascent up to his office on the 65th floor. Thirty seconds later, he felt the elevator shake. Then the elevator slowed to a stop.
Selinger had no way of knowing that a 1,200-pound urea nitrate bomb had been detonated inside the parking garage below the North Tower of the World Trade Center. At first, Selinger believed the stopped elevator was caused by a minor power failure until the elevator began to fill with smoke.
He soon heard desperate noises from people trapped in the surrounding elevators. Attempting to remain calm, Selinger used a white handkerchief to cover his mouth and nose. When he saw that the handkerchief was covered in soot, he worried that he might not survive.
Believing that he might be living his final moments, Selinger grabbed a pen and one sheet of loose-leaf paper and began to write a heartfelt letter to his family.
“A few thoughts if I am fated to leave you now – I love you very much. Be good people,” Selinger wrote. “Do wonderful things in your life.”
Soon after he finished the letter, the lights in elevator flickered off. Selinger was trapped in darkness for about five hours before he was rescued.
Twenty-five years have passed since the first attack on the World Trade Center on Feb. 26, 1993. Selinger remembers that critical moment of penning the letter as a rare opportunity to write something meaningful to each member of his family and to reflect on his life with sincerity.
His letter, donated to the 9/11 Memorial Museum collection, is now on view as part of the Museum’s commemorative installation, Remembering the 1993 Bombing at the World Trade Center, which tells the story of the bombing plot, its effects on the World Trade Center and the effort to bring the perpetrators to justice. Selinger also participated as a panelist in a special program entitled "25 Years Later: The 1993 World Trade Center Bombing, Then and Now," in which he reflected on his firsthand experience of the attack.
By 9/11 Memorial Staff