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Wednesday, August 13, 2003 - Issue #44  


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Meet Bill Pekrol

A Photo Essay of a

September 11th Survivor

                                                                                  Editor's Note: When I think of September 11th I think of my friend Bill Pekrol. I am really very proud to share his story with you as he's recovered from his experiences on September 11, 2001. The following is a reprint of an essay done by New York photographer Paul Roberts. I am very proud to call Bill one of my best friends.

A world tragedy occurred on September 11, 2001: the terrorist attack and destruction of the World Trade Center in New York City. Media sources have focused attention on the victims and the heroes. But what about the survivors? Have they been forgotten in our
fascination with America�s--and the world�s--loss?

Bill is one of those survivors and was on the 72nd floor of the North Tower when that first plane hit at 8:47 a.m. attending a meeting with thirty people. The public address system issued its "all is safe" announcement. Bill and two attendees left the meeting after the building swayed and shook and  numerous explosions set off by the jet fuel. Bill climbed down all 72 floors but when he arrived in the lobby of the Tower, 20 elevators exploded from the plane�s jet fuel...   the noise was horrendous and the tower was beginning to collapse.

Bill spent the next three months in St. Vincent's Hospital where he clinically died twice but was resuscitated.  He saw "the light," the tunnel, angels, and his sister who died seventeen years ago.  He was unconscious the first twenty days he spent in the hospital and was told he would probably not walk again.   Bill sustained fuel burns on the dorsal sides of both hands and suffered three skull fractures, a crushed knee, a broken jaw, burned corneas, and a lacerated abdomen that required 200 stitches to close. His injuries were sustained from steel beams that were blowing apart. Later, Bill was told that he was brought out of the North Tower unconscious and less than five minutes before it collapsed.

Bill says he faced death many times that day, and survived, but the emotional toll has been overwhelming and impossible to explain or even to try to put into words.

These portraits of Bill were taken recently and for someone who was told he would not walk again, I believe he�s a living miracle. I think this universe has a special purpose for Bill to have survived this horrific world event.

Here�s a little background: Bill was born in Newark, New Jersey and the oldest of eight children (of which 3 sons were gay and 2 daughters were lesbian) (and what are the odds of that happening!!) Bill, in his younger days, was going to be a priest, but he realized that was not a lifestyle for him.

Bill has a bachelor�s degree in English and a master�s degree in Health Administration and was a Captain in the United States Air Force where he graduated from Physician Assistant School.   That training led to a position on staff at St. Clare�s Hospital and Health Center (NYC), followed by a leadership position as an Associate Executive Director for a nonprofit AIDS organization in New York City. Bill is divorced and the father of a son and daughter.

Bill is in constant battle with nightmares and "survivor's guilt" from 9-11 and continually asks, "Why did I survive when so many thousands died that day? What plan does God have in His agenda for me?   I have been blessed in so many ways over September 11, 2001. I'm alive, albeit with an injury that will bother me till the day I die; but I have been blessed by many friendships that have helped me to smile again."  Bill is a very lucky and proud man.  He has made remarkable progress on his recovery.

If you'd like to write Bill, his email is survivorbill911@aol.com



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