Bob Kustra: An Eyewitness to History

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Posted at 4:07 PM, Sep 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-13 09:41:10-04

Imagine planning a trip to New York City only to have it fall on September 11th, 2001. That's exactly what happened to former Boise State president Bob Kustra and his wife Kathy.

They were staying at their son's apartment near the World Trade Center. On Monday, September 10th, they bought two tickets to go to the top of one of the towers. It was raining so they were told they could come back on Tuesday morning. "Early in the morning we thought we're on vacation, do we really have to get there at 9:00 in the morning for a 9:30 opening? Maybe we'll just be a little late."

So Kustra went for a short walk in search of a bookstore. What happened next changed everything. "I was on 10th street and as I got to the corner of 10th and 6th Avenue, some guy grabbed me and said, 'Hey look a small plane went into the towers,' and I remember at that moment I had just seen this huge plane go overhead on my walk."

Kustra rushed back to the apartment where he and Kathy tried to process what was happening just blocks away. Kathy explains. "We did know for a fact that we were completely isolated because they cut off traffic on the Hudson, the tunnels everything. You couldn't get into Manhattan after that happened because they really didn't know what was going on." And when they left their apartment together for the first time, they saw something they weren't expecting. "We had to step over firemen, policemen, emergency personal that were sleeping on the sidewalk trying to catch a few hours of sleep before they were sent back to duty at ground zero."

They stopped by a local hospital to give blood, and they were in line when this happened. "All of a sudden a guy came out of a hospital with a sign that said no blood needed today, and that's when it hit us that no survivors, this was about people who were lost and who got out."

Now twenty years later, the Kustra's do look back and wonder what if. "But you know it was one of those things, Don, that you were there, or you weren't. It wasn't a time to be thinking I was almost there."