Thirteen years after 9-11
DIRECT FROM THE MIDDLE EAST - Atty Josephus Jimenez (The Freeman) - September 12, 2014 - 12:00am

Thirteen years ago, I was in New York on that fateful day of September 9, and at that precise moment when the Twin Towers was attacked, I was actually on board the subway train from the heart of New York to Jersey City. Minutes later, I heard some passengers screaming and shouting their griefs away after hearing the news from their hand phones. My wife suddenly embraced another Filipino woman aboard the train and they were crying their hearts away. Then everyone, blacks, whites, Hispanics, and Asians were screaming and hugging each other in a moment of unity. It was chaos when we disembarked, people running in every direction, calling from their phones, shouting and crying. People were embracing each other in tears. The unthinkable happened and the rest is history.

Instead of proceeding with our itinerary, we decided to stay and condole with family and friends of Filipino victims. We were scheduled to drive some nine hours one way to Niagara Falls in convoy with my cousins and then proceed to Atlantic City to have a reunion with my US-based high school classmates. Then, we were to visit Connecticut to see a doctor who was my classmate in college and now already a very famous surgeon in that state. All our plans were shelved. We were supposed to drive from east to west traversing the freeway from Washington DC all the way to California, passing by Las Vegas, of course, where cousins work in the casinos, and Reno and South Lake Tahoe. Then we would drive to Seattle where my dad and mom live with my youngest brother. But then, 9-11 changed all those.

We condoled with the grieving wife and children of a cousin who perished in that disaster. We stayed in their home in Staten Island. We then learned from there that another cousin was saved when, last minute, he decided to take a two-week leave and went home to our town in Ronda, Cebu, to attend the fiesta for our patron saint, Our Lady of Sorrows, or Mater Dolorosa every fifteenth of September. Well, today, the then young widow has remarried and is happily going on with life and livelihood just a few blocks away from Ground Zero. The kids are grown up and it seems all wounds have healed, although the pain still lingers in memory.

A few days after 9-11, our friends and relatives gathered in Jersey City and told stories about that tragic incident. My nephew told us that his brother-in-law who was working in that building was late because he had to see a lawyer. The lawyer was delayed in coming for their appointment. He was under investigation for some administrative offenses involving him and a colored office mate. Because he was late, he was still in his car when the first tower collapsed. He was saved by his guardian lawyer. I told him that it was a case of justice delayed and death denied. And we all laughed to cover up for our grief. Another joke was that a Filipino came down to buy a cigarette and that was it, the building came tumbling down. Smoking could prolong your life.

Today, my cousins called me just to cry over the phone. They are missing a lot of people and my mom and dad are still in Seattle praying for the repose of souls of loved ones they are missing too. Indeed, 9-11 shattered us and yet, it also bonded us all the more.



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