Statement from the Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) United on the 20th Anniversary of 9/11

September 11, 2021

Today, 20 years after the 9/11 tragedy, we honor our fallen brothers and sisters at Windows on the World. We remember their heroism, their valor, and their sacrifices. We remember their beautiful smiles; their echoing laughter; their inspiring stories; their diverse backgrounds; and their precious lives.

To the Windows on the World survivors, including myself, 9/11 has brought us closer together for two decades now. Through pain and grief of the loss of our friends and co-workers, we are right here— speaking their names, remembering their families and loved ones, and keeping their memories alive.

I was Employee #12495 at Windows on the World. I was a cook, dishwasher, sous chef—I did practically everything in the back of the house. I made true, lasting friendships with many of my co-workers there, and I will cherish that for the rest of my life.

My thoughts and prayers are always with my good friend, Moises Rivas, a cook at Windows on the World. One day Moises and I switched shifts. He worked in my place on Tuesday, September 11, 2001. That saved my life, but I lost my dear friend. 

Those were profoundly dark and harrowing times. I thought I could no longer work in the restaurant industry. The jacket, uniform, the smell of vegetables, meat and desserts—all of that reminds me of the tragedy. 

With the unprecedented public health crisis that we are facing, I have seen various parallels to  the impact of 9/11 on restaurant workers. Since early March 2020, millions of restaurant workers—the majority of whom are women, immigrants and people of color—have lost their jobs, faced a lack of healthcare and paid leave, evictions or foreclosures, and mounting bills with little or no relief in sight.

But with effective leadership and policies to address the welfare, living wages, health, security and job protections for our restaurant workers, along with ROC United’s continued commitment and engagement, I am optimistic that we will see a post-COVID rebound in the restaurant industry.

On this 20th anniversary of 9/11, I reflect on the lessons that I learned from such a terrifying experience. It reminds me that love tramples hatred and prejudice, and that every person is entitled to dignity and respect. Let’s all come together for positive change. For all of us, from many faiths and many backgrounds, let’s make great efforts for unity and equity, for kindness and compassion—the true heart of our nation.