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September 11, 2006

Gregorio Manuel Chavez

Cassandra has graciously allowed me to post at Villainous Company so that I could participate in the 2996 project. Many thanks for this and so many other kindnesses she has shown me. I’d also like to thank D.C. Roe for having the vision of the 2996 project and bringing it to fruition.

My 9/11 tribute is to Gregorio Manuel Chavez. It won’t be the tribute I had hoped to write.

I wanted to write about Gregorio’s life, his hopes and dreams, perhaps his sparkling wit. That tribute won’t be written by me today because very little is known about Gregorio.

On September 11, 2001, Gregorio was 48 years old. He worked at one of the most prestigious restaurants in New York City. Windows on the World restaurant occupied the 106th and 107th floors in the North Tower of the World Trade Center.

I know that there were 71 other coworkers there that morning. There was also a security guard, Mohammed Jawara and 6 workers building a wine cellar for the restaurant.

After the plane hit the North Tower, I know that there were numerous calls to the authorities.
From Susan Mernit’s blog, I have the transcript of one such phone call:

From ABCNews.com:

… A PERSON CALLING FROM WINDOWS ON THE WORLD: Hi, this is [person's name], from Windows on the World on the 106th floor. The situation on 106 is rapidly getting worse.

POLICE OFFICER RAY MURRAY (To people in the background): I got a fourth call from Windows on the World, it's getting rapidly worse up there.

WINDOWS ON THE WORLD: We … we have … the fresh air is going down fast! I'm not exaggerating.

POLICE OFFICER RAY MURRAY: Uh, ma'am, I know you're not exaggerating. We're getting a lot of these calls. We are sending the fire department up as soon as possible. I have you, [person's name], four calls, 75 to 100 people, Windows on the World, 106th floor.

WINDOWS ON THE WORLD: What are we going to do for ai[r]?

POLICE OFFICER RAY MURRAY: Ma'am, the fire department …

WINDOWS ON THE WORLD: Can we break a window?

POLICE OFFICER RAY MURRAY: You can do whatever you have to to get to, uh, the air.


I know that one desperate Windows on the World employee , known as “the Falling Man (and probably was Jonathon Briley, a sound engineer at the restaurant), made a choice between being burned alive and jumping.

I cannot imagine Gregorio’s last hour of life without feeling a modicum of the fear that drove others to jump that day.

I know where I was at that time. I had been cooking dinner in our apartment in Cairo when one of my neighbors arrived to tell me to turn on the tv. The first plane had hit. As we watched the second plane crash into the building, reality hit us as hard. This was not an accident.

As that second plane hit, Gregorio’s life was down to minutes. I don’t remember how many friends ended up in my family room that evening. We watched al Qaeda’s vile plot unfold in horror and anger.
I hope that Gregorio had friends with him at the end of his life. I hope that he had family to call and that he was able to do so. I hope that he was able to tell them not to worry and that he loved them.

I’m not sure we’ll ever know what his last minutes were like and maybe, it just doesn’t matter.

Every employee of the restaurant who was working that day died. The surviving co-workers have created a website called “107 Stories”.

There are beautiful photos of the view from the restaurant, a view that Gregorio must have seen every day. There are stories from coworkers and former patrons describing just how special the restaurant and its employees were. The site is dedicated to the memory of all 79 workers who perished that day.

I don’t know much about my 9/11 tribute victim.

What I do know is that a man named Gregorio Manuel Chavez went to work on September 11, 2001 and never returned home.

Posted by at September 11, 2006 09:13 AM


I would like to thank Carrie for taking this on. As we researched the 9/11 "victims" (I still hate that word), I could sense Carrie's anguish at not being able to find out more about Gregorio.

And I don't think anyone who hasn't done this can fully realize what a gut-wrenching experience it was. I don't think I could have realized it. I made a comment on Right Girl's site earlier, because it struck me, rather forcibly, how each of these tributes has captured something unique. I think part of that is because we can't help bringing something of ourselves, something of our own personalities and our grief, to our tributes.

But I think also that in some unfathomable way, each of these men and women has managed to speak through us, to convey some small part of what they were. They have been taken from us, but they have not been entirely silenced.

Thank you Carrie, for making us see Gregorio. And damn you for making me cry.

Posted by: Cassandra at September 11, 2006 09:27 AM

No, they have not been silenced. I don't think calling them a victim robs them of dignity as much as shows their innocence in a vicious and ugly event that was premeditated. They were murdered. And any terrorist sympathizer who claims that sheethead bin Laden was only doing this because he 'had no choice,' needs a shrink.
bin laden had a choice. The men and women who died that day didn't.

Posted by: Cricket at September 11, 2006 10:03 AM

What is so sad to me is the ones who we don't know anything about, like Gregorio. They will forever be a mystery - it's as though they left no footprint upon the earth. They were precious to someone.

But people move through this world, some leaving a larger wake and some a smaller. I've never been convinced the latter meant, or mattered, less. Perhaps they merely make less noise. I always think about them more.

Posted by: Cassandra at September 11, 2006 10:26 AM

I'm glad I did it even though it was frustrating to just keep seeing the same line on every Google hit:

"Gregorio Manuel Chavez, 48, Manhattan"
I really wanted to give him more than that. None of the people I emailed got back to me but if they ever do, I'll add to this in comments.

I understand why the word "victim" gives you some trouble. I don't much like the word the way it is used by some these days but I agree with Cricket.
The civilians who died on 9/11 really are victims.

Marines, soldiers, sailors, airmen, coasties, firefighters, policemen and paramedics who die in the line of duty are NOT victims.
They are heroes.

Posted by: Carrie at September 11, 2006 10:32 AM

PS: the phrase for today is "waterproof mascara"...

Posted by: Carrie at September 11, 2006 10:34 AM

Carrie, you are right. They are heroes because they cast themselves into a fearsome hell to help others who were bewildered, frightened, hurt and dying, who didn't know what happened and why. And they do that now, half a world away and close to home to let us sleep safe, watch over our children and protect us.

Posted by: Cricket at September 11, 2006 11:06 AM

We know Gregorio well as it turns out. Gregorio is each and every one of us. His hopes, dreams, and life reflect our own.

He is an American and that is the tie that forever envelops us in the sweet arms of liberty!

Rest In Peace my friend and GOD SPEED!



Posted by: vet66 at September 11, 2006 11:16 AM

I had been to Windows on the World many times.
I wonder if I met Gregorio there?
Rest in peace, brother.

Posted by: spd rdr at September 11, 2006 02:23 PM

I lurk at a couple of sites, one of them being
A frequent commenter there, Hosedragger, had this to say as an addendum to his previous comment.
Both are worth reading but if this addendum doesn't grab your heart, give it a huge squeeze and make your eyes tear up, you don't have a heart.
Addendum to my post:

There was haunting sound that we heard that morning as we watched the news. As they began to show footage from people that were at GZ during and immediately after the Towers collapsed, we heard it. It is a sound all firemen know and all firemen dread hearing. I was asked if I heard all the car alarms going off. In the dead silence that followed the collapse, you heard it piercing through the smoke and dust.

Those were not car alarms you hear in the videos my friends. Those are what we call P.A.S.S. alarms. They are what is activated on a downed fireman. You can activate them on your own or after you have not moved for over 30 seconds. They are mounted on the SCOTT S.C.B.A. breathing apparatuses.

Each and every one of those tweeting sounds you hear on those tapes is a downed, and more than likely, dead fireman. That is the sound that pierces my very soul. There were alot of them going off."

Posted by: Carrie at September 11, 2006 03:07 PM

Thanks, Carrie. Luckily, I don't wear mascara...because if I did, it would have to be the waterproof variety. My honoree was someone I didn't know either, but I suppose that's true for a lot of participants in the 2996 Project.

Cass was right, there really do seem to have been a lot of people around my age (48½) killed on 9-11-01...

Posted by: camojack at September 11, 2006 06:41 PM

For every Rick Rescorla there were hundreds of Gregorios'...thank you Carrie, for giving Goyo a face.

Posted by: WildBlueYonder at September 11, 2006 08:27 PM

There was only ONE Rick Rescorla, only ONE Ronnie Bucca, only one Todd Beamer, but all the people lost that day had meaning and lives that need to be remembered.

They aren't just totems, or political talking points. Gregorio Chavez was real person, whose life meant something and had an intrinsic value of its own, and he was robbed of it by a gang of nasty criminals.
We have to remember, even when others don't or won't. Not to wear his life on our sleeves, but to remember how precious are the lives of our fellow citizens, even those we don't agree with or don't like, or who we will never know personally.

"We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal.."
Meaning we ALL have a God - given right to life, and freedom and justice, and not to be denied by a gang of psychopathic homicidal nuts. When one or many are denied these rights, we all are diminished. That's why we stand up to al Qaeda, the Iranian mullahs and deposed the Taliban and Saddam Hussein. All these people are THUGS, and if their way of life becomes ascendant in the world, we will all suffer for it.

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at September 11, 2006 09:30 PM

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