Reflections on 9/11 as an Immigrant to this Country

Forty years ago Vo, my Dad, left the comfort of his Family in Portugal and came to the United States.  I was four years old and can still remember the day he departed to this unknown world.

He came with $100 in his pocket and hoped for the best.  As I got older, I never truly understood why you would leave the comfort of your family and friends to come to an unknown country.  From what I can remember, we lived a really nice life in Portugal.  Vo was a pharmacist and VoVo, my Mom, was a seamstress.  We had a nice home and I can’t remember ever wanting for anything.

When you ask Vo, he will tell you that he always wanted to Live the American Dream… He had heard so much about New York City that he just couldn’t imagine his life would be complete without experiencing life in the United States.

Two years later, Vo felt that he had settled into life in the US and I left the comfort of living on a farm with my grandparents to come to the United States.  I will never forget the site of New York City when the plane was descending.  I had never seen such large buildings, so many lights, so many cars and could those squiggly things shaped like the number 8 really be roads that the cars were driving on?  I remember asking Vo what are those blue things behind some of the houses?… he said they are swimming pools and that is when I realized I was coming to the best country in the World!  You could have your own swimming pool in your own back yard!  I just couldn’t comprehend such a thing.

I grew up in Kearny, NJ.  We had a beautiful view of the NYC skyline every day…. To this day the NYC skyline, in my mind, consists of seeing the Empire State Building and the Twin Towers.

I can remember cutting school as a teenager and taking the Path Train into the City and getting off at the World Trade Center… There was no better feeling at that age … a day of fun at the Greatest City in the World.

On September 11, 2001 I was watching Oprah with Riley, an infant then, on my lap.  Reis, at 2 was building Legos in front of me and Alexandra, 8 was home from school sick and laying next to me.  We were living the perfect life in the Suburbs of FL.

That defining moment when  you know your world will never be the same happened … the fist tower was hit…the scenes of the people running down the street…. I knew exactly where they were, I had walked that path many times.  I said to Alexandra, “what a tragic accident”… no sooner were the words out of my mouth …that I realized this was no accident… the second tower had been hit.

Time stood still and all I could think was I want my family together…. my 6 year old, Ronnie, was at school and my husband wasn’t home…. and I had not spoken to VoVo and Vo yet that day…

I could only imagine how so many families felt just waiting for the news of their loved one….. the unthinkable was taking place in this country and we would never be the same..

Vo had sacrificed so much to bring us all to the most amazing and safest place in the world….How could this be happening?  This was not part of his American Dream.

No matter who we are or where we came from, we all knew, we would never be the same.

We learned to hug a little longer, say I love you more often, forgive a little quicker and spend more time Around The Family Table.

Although the American Dream has a new meaning, there is no place I would rather raise my Family than here in the United States.

Just like a family, Our Country, was changed on September 11, 2001.  We learned to give a little more, love a little more and never miss the opportunity to make a difference in each others lives.

My boys enjoying the company of Vo-Vo & Vo