Vol. 15, No. 7      March 28 - April 10, 2002


Life After 9-11

WTC Survivor Struggles to Regain Life Lived Before 9-11

By Jordan Moss

After a late evening of working a banquet at Windows on the World, where he had been a waiter for several years, Norwood resident Mohammed Shamim was headed back to work early the next morning to serve at another event.

He got as far as the elevator banks in Tower 1 of the World Trade Center - and then came the loud crash that sent everyone in the lobby racing out of the building.

Shamim, a native of Bangladesh who arrived in the Bronx in 1978, was one of the lucky ones. Seventy-three Windows on the World workers died that morning, including two very close friends, and Shamim would have been among them had he arrived only minutes earlier.

Still, Shamim doesn't feel so lucky these days. Six months after the horrific attack, he is still out of a job, and his hopes of saving for a house and buying new furniture for the apartment on Hull Avenue he shares with his wife, Laila, and two children, Ibtehaj and Tahsin, are all gone.

"I thought I was going to buy a house," said Shamim, who often earned $1,500 a week as a waiter. "I was happy."

Shamim has been collecting unemployment. Restaurant jobs are difficult, if not impossible, to find. Even those of his neighbors who worked in restaurants that weren't obliterated by the attack are working only part time, maybe two or three days a week. Things are made even more difficult by his glaucoma, which requires that he work in a low-light environment.

Shamim is grateful to his union, Local 100 of the Restaurant Workers, for setting up a fund that extends his family's health insurance through at least June. But he is sharply critical of the way the large charitable funds, set up in the wake of Sept. 11, are being administered. There is help now only for the relatives of those who perished, not for the families of those who survived but are struggling without work.

"I should die so my family would be taken care of," Shamim says. "I'm alive so they can't do anything. That's what I feel like right now."

Meanwhile, Shamim tries to get his family back on track financially, taking computer classes one day a week in Manhattan - he would go more often if it was offered - and trying to find English classes for his wife so that she could perhaps find a job herself.

"If I have to change my career I'm going to do it, but I need training right now," said Shamim, who once worked at Merrill Lynch on mainframe computers.

Before Sept. 11, Shamim had great hopes for his family. Now he lives day to day.

"It's very hard to survive," Shamim said. "The work we do is very hard to find in New York right now. I'm very unsure about the future."

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