Saved by the Bell

By: Karina Varela

On September 11, 2001, a plane crashed into the World Trade Center, causing more than 7,000 casualties overall. Officers, firefighters, and even strangers risked their lives to do whatever they could to save the lives of those lucky enough to vacate the area in which this devastating terrorist attack took place. Alfredo Varela was one of many to hear and be a part of this tragedy, and without a simple news broadcast, it is possible he would not be with us today.

“It was early morning and I was picking up a car to pick up some visitors,” said Alfredo Varela, a 56-year-old man, father to his four daughters. “I started listening to the news and they started reporting how the plane crashed into the World Trade Center.” He decided to turn back away from the city and returned to the office to watch the news. “It was very confusing and uncertain,” he stated. Unfortunately, many innocent civilians were caught in a situation they weren’t aware of at the time, and as a result, countless lives were lost. Alfredo was a lucky man.

He recalled that shortly after coming into his office he called his wife, Hiroko. “I remember telling her not to let [our daughters] watch TV or to put on something, like Nickelodeon.” Not only was he juggling the state of his situation but the weight of caring for his children. Parents, grandparents, relatives, were all dealing with the same question, do I want my child to be aware of this? For many, the answer was no. For others, it seemed crucial to permit a sense of this “confusing” and “terrifying” time. “I wanted to shield them, protect them from the news because there were a lot of horrible images on TV at the time,” Alfredo stated, “it was not the kind of thing you wanted your children to see.”

As a result of 9/11, people across the globe gained an awareness of the state of their country as well as the world. Alfredo now works with international students, part of the reason being the devastating event he had witnessed. “It made me question some of the policies that we had. It also, at the time, made me want to do more to create a better understanding of different parts of the world,” he conveyed. Although the origins of his occupation are indeed quite unfortunate, he works every day to create a bridge between different cultures despite the language barrier.

9/11 was an overwhelming time for many people of all kinds. It made us question the possibility that this could have been all prevented. It left us to decide what kind of life we wanted our children to remember. For some, this was the deciding factor for their future. Alfredo took this all into account when he realized just what kind of event he had witnessed. Not only did it change him, but it changed us all.

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