Saturday started just like any other day for Joseph Lozito, as he woke up and headed to the Hamilton New Jersey Transit station to catch a train to New York City for work.
The station's Dunkin Donuts news stand wasn't open yet when Lozito arrived, so he didn't buy his daily issue of the New York Post. Had it been open, he might have seen the face of 23-year-old Maksim Gelman-- a face that would unfortunately become all too familiar later that morning.
Gelman was making the news for his alleged Brooklyn killing spree, which included stabbing three people to death, hijacking cars and running over a pedestrian. Police had been pursuing him overnight Friday in a city-wide manhunt through the dark subway tunnels. Meanwhile, an unsuspecting Lozito, 40, was making his way through Pennsylvania Station to the No. 3 train.
Usually Lozito, who lived in Levittown from 1984-95 and attended Division Avenue High School, takes the No. 1 train to his job at Lincoln Center, but because of construction the No. 1 was running express, so he went to the No. 3 platform.
"I do not normally take that train," he said. "It was a bad choice that day."
Just moments after he stepped on the train, Lozito was approached by Gelman, who came up to him, stared him in the eyes and said "You are going to die," before lunging at him with a knife.
"I was in shock," said Lozito. "It's something you see in a movie. I knew my only chance of survival was to defend myself."
Lozito, who did not have any training in mixed martial arts as was falsely reported by several news sources but is a longtime fan of MMA, took Gelman down by his legs.
"Everything happened so quickly," he said. "It was more survival than anything technical."
Luckily, two police officers were in the motorman's compartment of the subway when the attack occurred, and by the time Gelman hit the ground the male officer was on top of him, helping secure the madman, he said.
Lozito, who suffered several lacerations to the head, face, left hand and left tricep in addition to a black eye and abrasions on the knees in the struggle, was then told by the officer to sit down until he could get medical attention.
Due to the search for Gelman, policemen were down in the tunnels and the electricity had been turned off, Lozito said. All officers had to be removed from the tunnels before the power could be restored safely, delaying his access to medical aid.
"I thought I was going to die," Lozito said. "I've never seen so much blood in my life. I was sitting in a pool of my own blood."
Lozito emphasized that he would not be alive without the two NYPD officers, the EMTs and a good samaritan who helped him on the train.
Lozito said the fellow commuter noticed a deep gash in the back of his head and applied steady pressure with napkins to stop the bleeding until he could be transported to Bellevue Hospital from the 42nd Street stop.
"The medical staff at Bellevue treated me and my family amazingly," said Lozito. "The job they did was remarkable."
Lozito's gashes are now full of stitches and staples, and he was discharged from the hospital on Sunday.
"It changed my life," Lozito said of his near brush with death. "I take nothing for granted anymore and I tell my family I love them every chance I get, hug them just a little tighter."
Lozito isn't sure when he will return to his job, but he said his boss and co-workers have been nothing but supportive and are putting no pressure on him.
As for riding the subway, Lozito said he has no choice and will have to start taking it again once he resumes working.
Lozito is being hailed as a hero for stopping the lunatic who was loose in the city for more than a day, killing innocent strangers as well as people he knew, including an ex-girlfriend. While Lozito said he appreciates the kindness, he modestly denies being a hero.
"It's hard to say what would've happened," he said. "I defended myself and maybe in the course prevented something. I was fortunate enough to have the police officers and the EMTs, the people who do something dangerous every day. They're the heroes."
Lozito is now heading back home to Philadelphia to heal with his wife and two sons, ages 10 and 7.
"You never know, you could lose everything tomorrow just because somebody's having a bad day," he said. "It's a horrible thing to know, but it's a reality. You have to cherish what you have."