Las Vegas Sun

May 24, 2022

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It was an agonizing wait: WTC worker finally gets through to his children in Las Vegas

On the morning terrorists attacked the World Trade Center, Las Vegas siblings Peter, Liliana, Petra and Blaise Pisani went to school fearing for the safety of their father, Peter Pfabe, who worked at the office towers.

"The first thing that went through my mind was, 'Did I tell my father the last time I talked to him that I love him?' " said Peter, 16, a junior at Bishop Gorman High School. "It scared me a lot that I might never get to see him again."

Meanwhile, on a street in New York, Pfabe, the 41-year-old director of global marketing at Citigroup's Asset Management in Building 7 of the World Trade Center Plaza, was trying to find a phone to let his children and other relatives know he got away safely from the collapsing structures.

A former Navy pilot who had participated in retaliatory acts against Libya and Iran in the early 1980s, Pfabe said nothing had prepared him for the carnage he witnessed on Sept. 11.

"I felt the shadow of a plane cross my desk and heard a big shuttering boom unlike anything I had ever heard before," Pfabe said from his home in New York. "I ran over to the other side of the building on the 36th floor and saw the big hole in the side of the World Trade Center.

"It was horrible. I watched people jumping out of the building, some holding hands, as they obviously had to choose between being burned alive by 2,000-degree flaming jet fuel or leaping stories to certain death. I never will forget their faces as long as I live."

Because of his military training, Pfabe knew to keep his wits about him. He helped fellow workers get out of the building before it collapsed that afternoon, he said.

"When Tower 1 went down, so did the antennas for most of the cell phones in Manhattan and there were no phone lines working anywhere," Pfabe said. "It was frustrating that I couldn't make a call anywhere until I got out of the city that evening."

He succeeded by Tuesday afternoon in Las Vegas. The two younger Pisani children -- Petra, 13, and Blaise, 11 -- were at home to hear their father's voice.

"I had a feeling -- I was pretty sure he was all right," Petra said. "I was just in disbelief."

Peter, a varsity football player, and Liliana, 15, a cheerleader, were at football practice.

"They had canceled cheerleader practice, but I was at school waiting for my brother to give me a ride home after football practice," Liliana said. "Our counselors had tried to keep our spirits high that day, telling us that my father had time to get out and get safely away.

"Still, I was glad cheerleading practice was canceled. I didn't have a lot to cheer about."

The children's mother, Juliana Pisani of Las Vegas, is a single mother and daughter of former Las Vegas High School baseball coach and Major League scout, Lou Pisani.

Before the attack, the Pisani children had planned to spend Christmas in New York with their father, who is remarried. But now they are not sure whether that will happen.

"If New York is not put back together and we don't want to see it the way it is now, we have been told we don't have to go," Petra said.

Her siblings were unsure if they wanted to.

"I don't like to fly to begin with," Lillian said, "and this will be a transcontinental flight, just like the ones that were hijacked, so I am worried about that. I'm not sure what I will do in December."

The attacks affected Blaise more deeply. "I don't feel safe anymore not knowing what they (terrorists) are going to do next, especially with Nellis Air Force Base so close by as a target.

"Every time I hear a plane fly by now, I look up."