On September 11, Brian Murray's wife saw her husband flash up on her tiny TV screen in a breaking news report. That was the last time she ever saw his face.

But Brian was not a victim of the Twin Tower attack that claimed 2996 lives in 2001. He was the sole casualty of a little remembered terrorist attack that struck New York City on September 11, 1976, reports news.com.au.

"It's the forgotten 9/11. No one knew about it," said Brian's widow Kathleen Murray Moran, who has written a book about her life in the wake of the tragedy, entitled Life Detonated.

Her world was changed irrevocably that day when two Croatian "freedom fighters" placed a bomb inside locker 5713 in New York's Grand Central Station before hijacking a plane that had flown out of one of the city's airports.

Advertisement

Kathleen's 27-year-old husband was unlucky enough to have scored the 4pm-to-midnight shift with the New York Police Department Bomb Squad that fateful evening.

At 11pm, she watched the news of the bomb threat and the hijacking on the 11pm news.
As the camera panned across the station, she saw Brian in a Kevlar vest lifting a white Macy's shopping bag from a locker.

"I was able to watch my husband on the screen take the bomb and place it in a truck," Kathleen told news.com.au.

"I still reel that reel. I take solace in that, remembering that kind of bravery and him as a hero. He went where no one else would."

She woke at 4am the next day to the sound of a persistent doorbell. But it was not her husband on the other side of the threshold.

"We lost him," Brian's colleague Charlie Wells told her.

THE FIGHT FOR ANSWERS

"The main question everyone has when a tragedy occurs is 'why?'" Kathleen told news.com.au.

The horror of losing her husband was exacerbated by having to fight for answers about how he ultimately died.

When she asked the unit's commander: "How did it happen?", all he would say was: "Brian was a hero".

When she asked to see the body, she was told it was "not suitable for viewing".

"They kept pushing me back, they would say 'no' from the very beginning," Kathleen told news.com.au.

"I wanted to go see my husband, I wanted to have an open coffin. They took these things away from me and I was too weak, too grief-stricken to fight back."

Brian was the one to take the Macy's bag outside of the locker in the railway station.

Inside, he found a pressure cooker with its handle missing, along with an eight-page manifesto that espoused the need to free the Croatian people from subjugation and promised that there was another bomb hidden somewhere in New York City.

"We are willing to blow up an aircraft filled with innocent people to be heard," the manifesto read.

Cops fanned out across the city in search of suspicious packages and the subway system was ground to a halt.

The bag was transported out of the station on a pole with Brian on one end and his colleague Hank Dworkin on the other. The bomb was put on a truck and driven to a demolition site in The Bronx where it was placed in an 8m crater.

Squad member Terry McTigue ordered Brian and his colleague to cut the wires on the pressure cooker.

When the bomb didn't detonate, Brian, Terry and Hank went to re-enter the crater when the device suddenly exploded. Brian died instantly and Terry's fingers were blown off.

Brian Murray was killed in the explosion and Deputy Inspector Fritz O Behr, police officer Henry Dworkin and Sergeant Terrence McTigue were injured. Photo / AP
Brian Murray was killed in the explosion and Deputy Inspector Fritz O Behr, police officer Henry Dworkin and Sergeant Terrence McTigue were injured. Photo / AP

In the weeks following, she lent on Charlie Wells for answers. Was it human error? Was the bomb booby trapped? Did Brian know he was going to die?

"He didn't know what hit him. When dynamite explodes, there's no delay, there's no time to think. It's immediate. Nano-seconds," Charlie said.

"A piece of metal caught him in the throat. That's how he died."

But given she was told that her husband was "not suitable for viewing" at the funeral, she wondered whether Charlie was telling her the whole the truth.

Her fight for answers took her all the way to court, with her unsuccessfully suing the NYPD.

Kathleen said she thought she would never know exactly what went wrong that night.

"I'm positive every single person who survived without injury was evasive," Kathleen told news.com.au. "Had they answered my questions, I would have been fine.

"The fact that they couldn't tell me or wouldn't tell me made me reach out and ultimately get in touch with a terrorist."

THE HIJACKER

Trans World Airlines 355 was headed from La Guardia Airport in Queens headed to Tuscon, Arizona, on September 11, 1976. Among the 81 passengers on board were Zvonko and Julie Busic, a Croatian and his American wife.

Zvonko went into the aircraft's toilet, filled empty cylinders with Gak - a harmless, homemade slime - and wrapped them around his body with black tape.

He emerged from the toilet with wires around his neck, entered the cockpit and handed the pilot a terrifying note.

It read: "1. This airplane is hijacked. 2. We are in possession of five gelignite bombs. 3. We have left the same type of bomb in a locker across from the Commodore Hotel on 42nd St. 4. Further instructions are contained in a letter inside this locker. The bomb can only be activated by pressing the switch to which it is attached, but caution is suggested."

The hijackers ordered the plane be flown to Paris, where authorities shot out the tyres.

Police refused to negotiate with the terrorists so, after hours of waiting, they eventually surrendered. There was no second bomb.

Years later, a letter arrived for Kathleen from a California jail. It was from Julie Busic.
Over the next three years they exchanged 50 letters.

"I knew it made no sense, but my appetite for Julie's letters and their intensity felt almost sexual in nature," Kathleen writes in the book.

"She wrote like a lover, crawling back to me, and sometimes I found I had memorised lines of her letters without meaning to."

Through their correspondence, Kathleen was ultimately able to forgive her for her role in the deadly plot.

"She helped me heal more than anyone else," Kathleen said. "The letters allowed me to open everything out, examine it and understand it.

"She was a very wise, very sage woman who committed an egregious crime and was very sorry for that."

Kathleen said her memoir is actually three stories in one - the story of how she escaped an impoverished childhood, the story of the bombing and the story of Julie Busic.

She said the common thread was forgiveness.

"Forgiveness feels so much better than anger. I've held on to anger for so long against the hijackers, against the city of New York, against anyone who tried to stop me from doing what I wanted to do," Kathleen said.

"I need to just drop all of this and certainly having written that, I'm very glad."