Things That Matter

Here’s The Story Of One Undocumented Family Torn Apart During The Devastating Attack On 9/11

Luis Alfonso Chimbo and Ana Soria had come a long way since they met as children in Cuenca, Ecuador. They were married, living in Brooklyn with their son, and 34-year-old Chimbo was working for the Windows of the World restaurant–the very top floor of the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Chimbo had been promoted to a management position in the receiving department that takes inventory and stocks supplies. They were living the American dream as undocumented immigrants in New York City. In August, Ana Soria suffered a miscarriage. He took nearly a month off to be with her and care for the family. 

He was due to return to work on September 11, 2001. 

The morning of 9/11, Chimbo got up at 5 a.m. and left for work.

Credit: “Luis Alfonso Chimbo at the Windows on the World restaurant in New York, circa 2000.” Digital Image. Time Magazine. 10 September 2019.

The night before, he set his clothes out for his first day back and prepared a bag. He was always prepared. Chimbo would usually kiss Soria as he got out of bed. That morning, he didn’t. Soria went to their window and said, “Goodbye, my love” as he drove away.

Hours later, while working at the restaurant, Chimbo was trapped on the top floor of the North Tower after a plane was flown into the tower.

The Windows of the World staff included immigrants from over 24 countries.

Credit: @JuedischeOnline / Twitter

The 9/11 attack killed 170 people in Windows alone. Chimbo was one of 73 employees who perished. Arguably, those employees were some of the least-paid victims of the attack, which presented a moral challenge for Special Master Kenneth Feinberg, who had to allocate the $7 billion in the Victims Compensation Fund. Five thousand five hundred and sixty people applied as injured or dependents of the deceased. Feinberg’s initial formula was based on “economic loss”–meaning families of stockbrokers would receive more money than Chimbo’s family. The formula also rested on the presumption that lower-income workers would remain in their earning class for the rest of their lives–the antithesis of “The American Dream.”

Stories like Chimbo’s made a “tremendous impact” on Feinberg’s new formula. 

Credit: @ayemojubar / Twitter

In fact, the owner of Windows of the World and the executive chef Michael Lomonaco testified to Feinberg on behalf of lower-paid employees with a high potential for further promotions. In the case of Chimbo, they gave Feinberg evidence that he started out as a stock boy and grew to become a manager in the receiving department. “The structure of the restaurant reflected the American Dream, which I don’t use as a cliché but as an actual possibility,” Debra Steinberg told Tom Roston, the author of “The Most Spectacular Restaurant in the World.” 

Steinberg represented Soria along with thirty-seven other Windows of the World workers. “When you drill down into the stories of the immigrants who worked at Windows on the World, most of them said that it was the dream job. They walked with pride in their step. It was an astonishing place.” Feinberg told Roston that he used “discretion to bring up the lower end worker and reduce the stockbrokers and hedge fund managers,” granting higher payments to lower-paid victims of the attack.

A dozen of the Windows workers were undocumented.

Credit: @jonthompsonDC / Twitter

Feinberg looked to the congressional statute that allocated the funds and said it became clear. Documentation or nationality was not a factor into who becomes a legal victim and who does not in the eyes of the United States. The fund was for all victims of the attacks. 

As an undocumented person, Soria was terrified to ask for help in the days after the attack.

Credit: @Sept11Memorial / Twitter

“I was scared,” she says in Roston’s book. “[And] I was thinking that maybe I did not deserve it because this was not my country.” Finally, it was her son that prompted her to recall that at least he is deserving of medical care. Amidst the terror, her son needed asthma medication, so Soria went to Manhattan. Still, she doesn’t remember much about that day but remembers the help of fellow Americans to ensure her family got what they needed.

Would undocumented immigrants be met with the same courtesy today?

In the decades that have since passed, Soria has become a chef.

Credit: Luis Eduardo Chimbo

She was taking culinary lessons at the time of the series of tragic life events –the miscarriage, the terrorist attack, the loss of her husband. Six years after 9/11, she returned to culinary school. Fifteen years after 9/11 tore her family apart, she received a green card. Her son has become a photographer and captured the above image of his mother.

She goes to the North reflecting pool every year on 9/11. Last year, she went on his birthday and left a flower and a birthday card which read: “To the love of my life, happy birthday to you. Surprise, you didn’t know I was coming.” 

READ: Three Years After Cancer Diagnoses, Luis Alvarez, A 9/11 First Responder, Dies At 53

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Katherine Díaz, Salvadorian Surfing Star and Olympic Hopeful, Died After Being Struck By Lightening

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Katherine Díaz, Salvadorian Surfing Star and Olympic Hopeful, Died After Being Struck By Lightening

Photo via isasurfing/Instagram

A tragedy born from a freak accident is rocking El Salvador’s athletic community today. On Friday, El Salvador surfing star and Olympic hopeful, Katherine Diaz, died after being struck by lightening. She was training for an Olympic qualifier.

According to reports, lightning struck and killed 22-year-old Katherine Díaz right after she entered the water at El Tunco beach.

“Katherine came over to hug her [friend], as soon as she finished hugging her, the noise was heard,” her uncle Beto Dia “She, the friend, was thrown by the force of the lightning strike too, the board threw me back. Katherine died instantly.”

According to NBC News, onlookers pulled Katherine Diaz to the shore and attempted to revive her, but by that time, it was too late.

Her family, of course, is mourning the loss of their loved one. “We were very close,” her sister, Erika Diaz said to a local publication. “Katherine was a girl full of energy, with a free spirit who made everyday feel worthwhile. Unfortunately, she left us.” But Erika said she is glad that her sister passed while doing what she loved the most–surfing.

Katherine Díaz had dedicated her life to the complicated and rewarding sport of surfing.

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A post shared by KATHERINE DIAZ (@katherinecook7)

Katherine Díaz Hernández had been surfing since she was 9-years-old. The 22-year-old was training to qualify for the 2021 Summer Olympics–the first time surfing would ever appear at the international games.

El Salvador’s surfing federation, FESASURF, released a statement lauding Díaz for her talent. “Katherine was a girl very passionate about sports, she was very motivated and happy for the event that was approaching.”

The International Surfing Association posted a tribute to Diaz on their Instagram page.

“Katherine embodied the joy and energy that make surfing so special and dear to us all, as a global ambassador of the sport,” they wrote. “She excelled at the international competition level, representing her country with pride at both the ISA World Surfing Games and ISA World Junior Surfing Championship.”

“We send our heartfelt condolences to Katherine’s family, the surfers of El Salvador, and to all those in the international surfing community whose lives she touched. We will never forget you.”

El Salvador’s surfing community has planned a “paddle-out” ceremony that is traditional in the death of a surfer.

According to Surfer Today, a paddle-out ceremony is “an ocean-based ceremony consisting of a mix of spiritual, metaphysical, and ritual actions that acknowledge, remember, and celebrate a fallen peer.”

“It’s a symbolic rite of passage that showcases traces of connection and separation, departure, and continuity.”

Katherine Díaz’s funeral services were on Saturday morning. The paddle-out ceremony will be held on Tuesday.

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Rite Aid Refused To Give Undocumented Residents The COVID-19 Vaccine Even Though They’re Eligible

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Rite Aid Refused To Give Undocumented Residents The COVID-19 Vaccine Even Though They’re Eligible

As the United States ramps up its vaccination program (with more than two million people getting vaccinated each day), many Americans are eager to get that jab in the arm. But who is eligible varies from state to state and sometimes even county to county.

Despite the different eligibility thresholds in each state (depending on age group or risk factors), there is no immigration requirement whatsoever at the federal, state or local level. However, not all places are following that guideline and some undocumented residents are being incorrectly turned away.

The pharmacy chain Rite Aid is apologizing after two undocumented residents were denied vaccines.

The giant pharmacy chain Rite Aid has apologized to two undocumented immigrants who the company said were “mistakenly” denied COVID-19 vaccinations at Southern California stores. However, since then, the two women have been invited back by Rite Aid to get their vaccinations and the chain has issued an apology.

Rite Aid spokesperson Christopher Savarese described both cases as “isolated” incidents resulting from workers at the stores not following established protocols for vaccine eligibility. The employees will be re-educated on the protocols to make sure everyone is on the same page.

In a statement later sent to ABC News, Rite Aid officials said, “In such an unprecedented rollout, there are going to be mistakes and there will be always areas for providers to improve — we’re seeking out those opportunities every day.”

Savarese added, “This is very important to us that this is corrected. Both of the situations that we’re talking about have been resolved, and both of those people will be getting their vaccine at Rite Aid.”

To clarify, just who is eligible for the vaccine at this moment?

Although vaccine eligibility does vary from state to state, even county to county, there is nothing requiring that someone prove their immigration status to receive a vaccine. Rep. Tony Cárdenas, who represents Los Angeles, told ABC News that the legal immigration status of a person is not supposed to interfere with them getting vaccinated.

“That is not a requirement whatsoever at the federal, state or local level, and that organization (Rite Aid) has been told very clearly that that was wrong, and they immediately apologized for doing so, but it left the woman very distraught,” Cárdenas told KABC of Rager’s employee.

On Feb. 1, the federal Department of Homeland Security issued a statement that the agency and its “federal government partners fully support equal access to the COVID-19 vaccines and vaccine distribution sites for undocumented immigrants.”

“It is a moral and public health imperative to ensure that all individuals residing in the United States have access to the vaccine. DHS encourages all individuals, regardless of immigration status, to receive the COVID-19 vaccine once eligible under local distribution guidelines,” the DHS statement reads.

However, the confusion over whether undocumented immigrants qualify to receive vaccine has continued to occur not only in Southern California, but elsewhere in the country. The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley issued an apology to at least 14 people who were rejected Feb. 20 at its vaccination site because they could not provide proof of U.S. residency.

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