A man describes his journey from the tragedy and trauma of 9/11 to hope, healing, and renewal through Jesus Christ.
My name is Victor Guzman, and I'm a 9/11 survivor. I was on the 85th floor when the first plane hit the North Tower. Since 9/11, my life has never been the same. It's actually better. This is my story.
I remember the sky was a perfect blue. It was a beautiful September morning.
I know he had a long commute, an hour and a half, two hours. And one time we were sitting out talking, and he determined that he was commuting about 20 hours a week. And we said, "Well, that's a part-time job."
I get into my office and start typing my billing, as attorneys do. And I remember pressing Print. As I'm getting up, I hear this great explosion. And the building rocks forward to the point where I have to brace myself against the wall at my desk. And then it snapped back. There was nothing but smoke and smell.
We saw that the elevators weren't working, that some of them were actually blown out. We found the staircase. We slowly descend down.
I do remember, at the explosion, saying a quick prayer. And I still say that it was that prayer that kept me calm. All of a sudden, family became important. Before then it was getting the material things for the family. That was one of the reasons why I went to work at the Trade Center. I was going to make much more money.
He had started this job probably about three months before 9/11. He was gung-ho about his job.
I just remember sitting in front of the TV, grabbing a pillow and just rocking back and forth. And as I was doing that, I remember distinctly thinking to myself that he had kissed me goodbye that morning, and that was really odd for him to wake me up to just kiss me goodbye. And I was so thrilled that we said goodbye on good terms. At that point, I wasn't sure what was going to happen.
We finally get out. And as I started running, I hear a loud crunching of glass and metal. And when I turn around, I see that tower, that I'd been just a few minutes before running out of, starts coming down. The faster I ran, the closer that plume of smoke was coming. And all of a sudden, that plume of smoke just overcomes us.
And I was just at Pace University. I remember I'm still shaking, and I go in. And at that point, I hear the North Tower come down. And I remember just my knees buckling. And I just fell into the chair.
I put my hands in my face, and I'm like--the first question was, "Why me? Why did I survive?" And then the next thought was, "I was in that building that just collapsed."
And as the years went on, that guilt became an issue. First year, I suppressed it. The first year, it was more about the notoriety, the "Oh, wow, you were survivor of 9/11." And that took me through the first year.
And I remember around the second anniversary, I emotionally fell apart. I dreaded going to sleep. So I would stay up late. And then when I got to sleep, I didn't want to get up.
I just didn't want to deal with it. It was hard--again, I guess the ego, that I should be able to deal with this. "I shouldn't be an emotional mess. I shouldn't be teary-eyed." Or "I shouldn't be jumping at every noise that I hear."
The realization came that I couldn't do it by myself anymore. It was humbling to realize that I needed help.
How's it going?
The bishop, he would always talk to Victor and give him a hug and ask him, "Victor, are you OK?"
He became another father figure. I remember him always putting his arm around me, and how I needed that--how I needed someone else to realize that I was in pain.
The hard part about changing is that I was enjoying the money I was making in the city and realized that I had to have faith that 1) we were going to continue to pay our bills, and 2) that we were going to have to do without. I wanted a job that I was allowed to come home early. I took a job in Newburgh, which is about 30 minutes from where we live. And the difference it made--that I was able to go to a baseball game, my daughter was on a soccer team--and just those little things that weren't important before became the focus.
[WHISTLES] Scripture study. Let's go. John. Let's go.
One thing that we were lacking in, because I wasn't around, is sitting together as a family and reading the scriptures. And I found a new life in the scriptures. And I would bury myself in the scriptures, actually looking for solace. And as I continued to do that, I wanted to share that with the kids. I wanted them to have a love of the scriptures.
What I saw through Christ's life was that He was the healer. He was going to make me whole for the sacrifices that He went through. It wasn't the pursuits of money. It didn't talk about commuting four hours a day. It talked about loving the little children and how He blessed them throughout His life. And that opened my eyes.
Well, he was always a great man. But he became greater, I think, because of his experience. He's more family-focused. He's more focused on his community and focused on serving others, in addition to his job.
Yeah, he's still working hard in his employment. But he's paying attention to the real basics in life, the things that really matter. He's focused right in there.
Even till today, he has called me on 9/11 since the first time, just to say hello, that he was thinking about me. And that made all the difference in the world.
After 9/11, some have said there is no God. For me, He's never been more real.