After a brief retirement, the most decorated bus in the MTA's fleet is back on the road. Transit Reporter Jose Martinez filed the following report about a bus that almost got put out of commission for good on September 11, 2001.
The image at left is what bus 2185 looked like in the wake of the September 11th attacks.
The image at the top of the page is what it looks like now, as Joseph Rotondo drives it along the X27 express route from Bay Ridge to Midtown.
"It's beautiful," Rotondo said. "The best of the best."
The bus had been in service just a few months when it was badly damaged by falling debris while parked on Church Street, across from the World Trade Center.
It was back on the road by the fourth anniversary of the attacks, with Dominick Spinelli driving it until he retired a few months ago. He asked for Rotondo, his vacation fill-in, to take the wheel permanently.
"I always felt that when I saw her right after they finished rebuilding her, that it had to be kept in pristine condition," Spinelli said. "And it was an honor to drive her."
A bus rider's question led Spinelli to give the vehicle a name in honor of a friend killed in the attacks.
"We were going up Madison Avenue one afternoon, and she just happened to say to me, 'Dominick, do you have a name for her?'" he said. "And it just clicked in my head. I said, 'Yes, I do have a name for her. Her name is Pamela.'"
That's Pamela Boyce, a friend who worked on the 92nd floor of the North Tower.
The bus is pampered, making limited runs and getting a prime parking space at its depot.
Bus 2185 is the only bus in the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's fleet of 5,000 buses that has a mural on its side. In addition, at the Ulmer Park Depot, the bus is parked in the same spot every night. No other bus has that privilege."
"She's one of a kind. She truly is," Spinelli said.
Both drivers said they kept quiet about the bus's past unless riders asked.
"Especially when she was parked, people would come over and look at her and wanted to know why she was so clean, and most of them thought it was a brand new bus," Spinelli said.
The MTA said the bus will likely be added to its fleet of vintage buses once it's retired, but with 60,000 miles, its current and former driver hope that day is still a long ways off.