Contributor's location on 9/11:
Home in Woodhaven
Contributor's local union affiliation:
September 17, 2001
José Santos was raking the leaves in front of his Woodhaven home when his neighbor rushed outside to tell him that a plane hit the World Trade Center. José, who worked as a starter in the building, rushed into his home. He turned on the television, then picked up the phone to call coworker John White, who was in the basement of the North Building.
'I was scheduled to go into work at 12 PM. So I asked John what I should do. Should I come to work or what? He tells me that everything is chaos. I should forget about going to work. I'm talking to him, and I see the second plane hit on T.V. I couldn't believe it. I thought it was an instant replay,' José said. That was the last time he heard from John White. 'I don't know what happened to John, he's missing. And James, the guy I usually relieve is also missing. Just a couple of hours later and it could've been me,' José said.
Shaken by what he saw on television, José's attention quickly turned to his wife, who was at work in a building directly across the street from the World Trade Center. 'For two hours, I didn't know if my wife was alright. She wasn't able to call me until after 11 [AM],' José said.
José was at work in the tower in 1993, when terrorists bombed the building. 'I helped put that place back together. We cleaned it, and helped get it in order. Now it's gone, and so many lives have been lost,' José said.
As a starter, someone who works to insure that the elevators run, José knew hundreds of people by sight, if not by name. José's role as the organizer of the football and baseball pools also makes him a popular guy known to many.
'Guys who called me to save boxes [in the pools] for them are gone. No more boxes. No more Super Bowl. No more nothing,' José said, with sorrow etched on his face.
Trying to move on in the wake of the horrific tragedy, José and his wife are working to help others. They have donated food to feed rescue workers. José has been working the phone bank to reach 32BJ members who work in lower Manhattan. The local is calling members to be sure they are safe and to offer support.
'There were hundreds of 32BJ members – over a thousand people -- who worked in the World Trade Center. They were cleaners, starters and security,' José said. 'How will they find jobs? How are people going to take care of their families? This is such a tragedy. It's too enormous to understand.'
José Santos ,
Story #52, The September 11 Digital Archive, 17 September 2001, <http://911digitalarchive.org/stories/details/52>.