When 9/11 happened, I was newly graduated from high school in the state of Delaware. I was so nervous about the upcoming 1st semester at Del Tech Community College. I was finishing up a summer filled with freedom and fun without a care in the world. Life was great, until the phone rang in the morning of Tuesday, September 11th. It was my father calling from work.
At the time he was working for Merrill Lynch in New Jersey, which was about 4 hours away from our home in Delaware. He sounded worried and my father is a calm and rationale man so to hear the sense of urgency in his voice sparked my attention immediately. He said, “Patty, turn on the news! Two planes crashed into the Towers and one crashed into the Pentagon. Stay home and keep the phone lines open in case your uncle calls. This is serious, I think our country is under attack!”
My uncle, Det. Luis G. Fernandez was an NYPD Emergency first responder so hearing from him was extremely vital. I did exactly what he directed me to do and turned on the TV. It was breaking news on almost every channel! I was mortified as I watched the horror Live from my living room couch. The sight of people jumping out of the windows, desperately trying to escape from the tumultuous heat was overwhelming.
All of a sudden the South Tower collapsed and I felt my stomach jump to my throat! There I was, 18 years old and just an hour before I was peacefully asleep and in an instant the world around me seemed to be on fire. All I could keep thinking about was my uncle Louie because I knew he was there. I waited for what seemed to be forever for a phone call from him and felt such relief when we heard from him later that day. Unfortunately, he was still at the World Trade Center site working.
After the attacks, Uncle Louie and many other first responders participated in long strenuous hours searching for survivors. Uncle Louie described the scene to be gruesome and exhausting. I could only imagine!
Years after the attacks, my uncle was diagnosed with post 9/11 cancer. He contracted the illness from inhaling toxic fumes from the World Trade site. He fought his illness long and strong until he parted from the world on October 16, 2014. My uncle was my hero and I felt I needed to keep his memory alive.
Once I saw an opening for TSA on USA Jobs, I immediately applied. My first official day with TSA was October 16, 2017, exactly three years after his passing. It will be four years with the agency this October and I look forward to many more to come.