The Infamous Day

After everybody left camp we all settled in in one cabin. My two brothers from Uganda, Luis, my Costa Rican brother, and James from the UK who you could smell from miles away; very particular guy. We were doing regular hours of work from 8:00 to 5:00. We were getting about $200 per week cash; which for me represented, at the time, about half a year of a salary in Venezuela.

One day early in the morning, we were all spreaded around painting the nurse building. Luis had headphones on, carrying on with some Boyz to men tunes as we all moved up and down intermittently covering the building with a fresh coat of red paint.

At some point someone, I can’t recall if it was Momo or Luis, came from the main office and says that something had happened in New York. Maybe a bomb. We were all wondering, but without caring much we continued working. At that point the nurse comes out and says there was a plane crash in Downtown New York. We were confused. Puzzled.

The camp directors have gotten a call to pick up their kids from school and they were rumors of a possible terrorist attack.

At that point we had stopped working  and went to the nurse office, where she was watching the news live. Immediately she let us know that a plane had crashed against the World Trade Center. As we were watching the news live feed I wondered if those towers on T.V. were the twin towers?”

The nurse didn’t know. I specifically asked her if those were the “King Kong” towers. She wasn’t sure. As we were thinking about this the second plane crashed against the other building. Minutes later you could see the antenna on top of the building succumbing slowly before the world’s eyes. That shocked me! I had been there not even three full months before.

From that day on, we would just watched the news on TV after work, hearing all the different accounts of the victims’ relatives, the phone calls from victims in the last minutes before the buildings came down, the firefighters hoping to find survivals in the rubble…

It was impossible not to think that I could have been there. Every time I see the image of the antena coming down I just think how I was there just days before.

After passing customs at the airport I had felt so safe. Now that sense of safety was gone. I felt sorry for the victims and I definitely shared the feeling of vulnerability that everybody had at the time.

World Trade Center
WTC, 2001
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10 thoughts on “The Infamous Day

  1. That day certainly was infamous. Just reading your piece took me back to that day: the confusion about what was happening, followed by the fear. I can’t imagine what it must have been like, being so close to it. So scary, even all these years later. Thank you for this poignant piece!

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  2. Definitely a day in American history that everyone will remember where they were when the news broke. Didn’t matter how close you were, how busy you were, everything came to a stop, and all were frightened. Powerful memory, Miguel.

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  3. As soon as I read the line about New York, coming after the carefree Boys to Men, my heart dropped. I remember that day clearly- my second year teaching and it sits with me to this day.

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  4. Isn’t it strange to think how that moment of painting the building would soon become forever ingrained in your memory?

    I’m sure having been there only a few weeks before really rattled you.

    Very descriptive and well-written account of that moment.

    Liked by 1 person

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