By Atty. Malthie Militar*
In a few days, the U.S. and the freedom-loving world will commemorate the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attack in NY, DC, and PA. I have an experience to share with you about how that event affected my family.
Please bear with me for a few minutes as I narrate my 9/11 story in New York City for whatever lesson and encouragement you may learn from it. Here is the story:
Appointment at ACM
The Law Offices of ABAD CONSTANCIO & MALLONGA (ACM) was at the 28th Floor of the South Tower of the World Trade Center Complex in New York City. Its Senior Partner, Atty. Ramon I. Constancio, Esq., was a fraternity brother (Aquila Legis) of my friend Atty. Antonio C. Pacis, as are his two partners, Atty. J. T. Mallonga and Atty. Leopoldo Abad, and an Associate, Atty. Dennis Ortiguero.
My friend who heads and manages a Makati-based law firm PACIS & REYES, introduced me to Atty. Constancio when I informed him that my wife Ace needed legal representation in New York to get a Temporary Work Permit as a skilled alien worker. That was what brought Ace, my sister-in-law Hope Coloma Ube and me to the law offices of ACM on September 10, 2001.
We went there to submit Ace’s credentials that had to be annexed to the petition to be made on her behalf by an employer who agreed to hire her as a Day Care Teacher — The Jamaica Day Nursery, in Jamaica, Queens, New York City. The petition had to be filed before September 30, 2001, the end date of our legal stay in the U.S. under our multiple entry visitors’ visa.
A staff of ACM examined Ace’s credentials and noted one document that was missing — a Certification by one of her previous employers. We were therefore instructed to come back the following day, September 11, 2001, at 9:00 A.M. with the document that was inadvertently placed in another folder at home.
After leaving ACM the three of us descended to the basement of the WTC, a huge shopping complex where the department stores were. We bought a few items before boarding the New York Subway’s E train, which was also in the basement level of the WTC that would take us home to Jamaica in the Borough of Queens.
Job prospect at Shoeworld
By 3:30 p.m. of September 10, 2001, we were already home at 85-53 164th Street, Jamaica. Our next floor Filipina neighbor, Mrs. Julie Rivera Kneiling, handed to me a note from a Filipino friend, Boy Zabala, who was living two blocks away from us, and who was working as a stock inventory clerk at SHOEWORLD, along Jamaica Avenue.
Boy Zabala instructed me to go to Shoe World at 8:00 A.M. the following day, September 11, 2001, and see a certain Filipino Supervisor to whom I should submit my application, inasmuch as the establishment was hiring more people.
Delighted at the prospect of getting a job, I prepared all my credentials. At around 3:20 P.M., I left the house to pick up our youngest son G-boy (Gonzalo) from PS-86, along Parsons Boulevard, where he was attending as a Grade IV pupil.
G-boy’s PTA meeting
On our way home, G-boy handed me a letter from the School Principal enjoining the parents to attend the school’s PTA meeting scheduled at 9:00 A.M., September 11, 2001. The note itself did not mention it but G-boy emphasized that his teacher warned them that a pupil will not be admitted to class the day after the PTA meeting if his/her parents, or at least one parent, is not present in the PTA meeting. I already told my son that I will not be able to attend because I didn’t want to miss the opportunity of getting hired at Shoe World.
When Ace told G-boy that she is not attending the PTA meeting either because she had to be at the ACM law offices the following day, our boy started to cry and was inconsolable. And so, by way of compromise, Ace agreed to attend the PTA meeting in the morning, and then go to the WTC after that.
At the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001
At 7:20 AM, the following day, September 11, 2001, I went to Shoe World to submit my job application. To save $2.00 bus fare, I walked the one-kilometer distance from the house to Jamaica Avenue.
I arrived at Shoe World five minutes early, and so by 8:25, I was already through writing and filling-out the application form. After submitting the same to the Filipino Supervisor, I was told to wait for his call to find out if I’m accepted or not.
Walking back home, I dropped by the supermarket along 163rd Street to buy some groceries. I intended to be home by 8:50 so I could still be able to attend the PTA meeting and let Ace go to the WTC to give the document at ACM.
After picking up a few items, I noticed a group of shoppers with their eyes fixed on the television inside the supermarket. Curious at finding what it was, I went nearer to see and hear what was on TV.
The TV reporter was very excited. He was reporting that an accident happened a few minutes earlier when a passenger jet slammed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan.
Events that caused us to avoid the fury that was 9/11
I was gripped with apprehension upon hearing that the building that was hit was the World Trade Center. When I realized that it was on the North Tower that the plane slammed into, I felt a little relief, knowing that ACM law offices was at the South Tower.
I was thinking that Ace might have decided to go to Manhattan despite her promise to G-boy. While I was pondering on this thought, my eyes were still fixed on the television, listening to the TV reporter who was reporting on site, with the smoking middle part of the North Tower in the background.
As the TV reporter was still speaking, I saw another plane approaching the South Tower of the World Trade Center. After it finally crashed into the South Tower, there was pandemonium inside the supermarket. The TV reporter got even more excited and said: “THIS IS NO LONGER AN ACCIDENT! THIS IS AN ACT OF WAR!”
I was half-running on my way home. I immediately turned on the television set at the living room upon entering the house. Ace, who was still in the room inquired if I got accepted at Shoe World. I told her there’s more important event going on in Manhattan that she needed to see.
Then she saw it herself on television, the North and the South towers of the World Trade Center smoking. Her immediate reaction was concern for Atty. Ramon Constancio and his partners and staff.
It was two weeks later that we were finally able to contact Atty. Mon Constancio. It was again from Atty. Tony Pacis himself that I was able to get the home phone number of his best friend and fellow Aquila Legis lawyer, whose residence was in Connecticut.
According to Mon Constancio, he arrived at around 8:15 A.M. at the WTC on September 11, 2001. Since it was still early, he decided to have coffee in a nearby coffee shop outside the WTC Complex.
It was while he was in the coffee shop that the first plane crashed into the North Tower. He told me that none of his partners and staff was hurt, but all the records and documents in their office were lost.
He was happy to know, though, that I took the initiative and learned how to process Jamaica Day Nursery’s petition for Ace on my own, with the help of the materials I borrowed from the Queens Public Library.
Was it not for G-boy’s insistence and my excitement at the prospect of getting hired by Shoe World, the list of 9/11 casualties might have increased by two?
While I am certain that the Lord makes a way to deliver from harm His children, my heart goes to those who didn’t make it that 9/11 tragic day. My prayers goes to the family and kin of those who lost their love ones. May the peace of God that passes all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Praise the Lord!
MALTHIE G. MILITAR is a member of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines. In 2001, he resigned as an Assistant Provincial Prosecutor in the province of Oriental Mindoro in the Philippines and, with his entire family, went to the US.
After the terrorist attack in New York City on September 11, 2001, he stayed in the U.S. for six more years, hiring himself out as family driver, contract drafter, tutor, store assistant, and caregiver, among others.
Although he passed all the teachers’ certification examinations in New York, schools that wanted to employ him could not do so because there is no demand for teachers in his field of Social Studies.
On September 18, 2007, while working as a caregiver to a 93-year-old Ultraorthodox Jewish Rabbi in Wickliffe, Ohio, he suffered a hemorrhagic stroke caused by ruptured brain aneurysm that rendered him comatose for two weeks at Metro Health Medical Center in Cleveland, Ohio. A top Jewish neurosurgeon in New York whom he saw for follow-up consultation attributed his survival to God’s miracle.
Returning to the Philippines on February 15, 2008, Malthie Militar dedicated his life in the service of his Lord and Master Jesus Christ by serving “the least of the Lord’s brethren” through his profession. Malthie Gabilo Militar, a lawyer by profession, a Christian by commission, faithful and committed to the cause of Christ, is also a Pastor’s Kid.
God is greatly to be praised! He saved you for a purpose, Miracles happen everyday and the experiences stay with us for a lifetime. “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? Will there be any stars in my crown?”. Christ is coming soon and a lot of souls still grope in the dark. May we be channels of blessings to many.