My 9/11: I Was a Cook

September 9, 2011 7:00 AM

The 50-mile view from the Windows on the World restaurant atop the World Trade Center in 1996. Sekou Siby worked at the restaurant from 1998 until Sept. 11, 2001. AP/Chris Kasson

I was a cook at Windows on the World. I loved that job. One day, a co-worker asked me to swap shifts with him. He had a guitar gig on Saturday night and asked me to fill in for him on Sunday, Sept. 9, 2001. He said, “Siby, you’re Muslim, you don’t have to go to church on Sunday, can you work for me?” I took his shift but on the condition that he worked in my place on Tuesday, Sept. 11. That saved my life.

After 9/11, I could never work in a restaurant again. The dress, the chef jacket, the chef hat, that all reminds me of the friends I lost on that day.

People always used to ask me at the restaurant: “Siby, how are you?” I would always say “I’m excellent!” They’d reply: “How, you make 12 dollars an hour.” I’d tell them that I’m happy to be alive, that each day for me is a blessing. Those who I gave that advice to are no longer here. So for me, the reflection after ten years is that we have to learn how to live in the moment. Can I change the past? No. The people who died on 9/11 are gone. The people you care about and the people who care about you today are what’s important.

Sekou Siby left Africa’s Ivory Coast to cook at Windows on the World. After the Sept. 11 attacks, he helped to open Colors restaurant in 2006. Today Siby is one of the co-directors of the Restaurant Opportunities Center of New York (ROC-NY), an organization that provides support to restaurant workers displaced as a result of the tragedy.

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