The world remembers today the 911 attack on America, 15 years since it happened, particularly in September 11, 2001. As I remember that fateful day, I got prompted to share a story I wrote for my ‘Overseas Filipino Workers’ column on Suite101.com, an online hub for writers established in 1996 in Canada. Published in September 24, 2001, more than a week since the tragedy transpired, herewith is the full reproduction of the story:
OFWs Among Victims of Terrorist Attack
Author: Freda Editha O. Contreras
Published: September 24, 2001
AS top absorber of Philippine labor, the United States of America, employ as many as four million Filipinos, naturalized individuals and family members included. It is no wonder that Filipino workers were among the thousands of people reported missing – and presumably dead by now – after that unprecedented and tragic attack of terrorists in America last September 11, 2001.
Official report coming from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) in Manila states that around 18 Filipinos, as of September 21, have been reported victims of the recent tragedy in America. Two were confirmed dead, passenger each of two of the four hijacked planes. Ruben Ornedo, 39, of Los Angeles, California, was a Boeing propulsion engineer who was on board the American Airlines Flight 77, from Washington to Los Angeles which crashed into the Pentagon. Ronald Gamboa, 33, of Los Angeles, California, was a Gap store manager and on board the United Airlines Flight 175, from Boston, Massachusetts, to Los Angeles, California, the second hijacked plane to strike the World Trade Center.
Those officially reported missing, as gathered by the Philippine Consulate General in New York from the Family Assistance Center of New York City’s Mayor’s Office, are: Cesar Alviar, Marlyn Bautista, Grace Alegre Cua, Jay Ciril Dichavez, Benilda Domingo, Judy Fernandez, Bernardo Gallardo, Ramon Grihalvo, Frederick Kuo, Jr., Arnold Lim, Manuel Lopez, Carl Allen Peralta, Rufino Flores Santos, Maritess Santillan, David N. Sullins (Fil-American), Larry Sumaya, Hector Tamayo, and Cynthia Motus-Wilson (earlier reported as Cynthia Betia or Betita).
CNN’s database of missing persons, as submitted by families and friends of those missing, reveal quite a number of Filipino-sounding names and those with photos are easily identifiable as Filipinos. As more people become aware of the victims’ list, wherein photos and/or vital identifying information can be submitted by anyone who is aware of a missing loved one, it is fairly expected that the number of Filipino victims will still increase. A brief visit to the site earlier showed more new faces, a significant increase in the entries as compared to yesterday’s list of missing persons.
Looking at those faces and faceless names, one can’t really help but feel sad and angered as I had been at the very first instance I saw the initial few photos shown on the site. I still can’t believe that such a barbaric act could happen to one civilized world, and to the greatest of all nations!
What has happened in America, I believe, can happen anywhere. We are all vulnerable to this kind of an attack. It doesn’t really matter which country we are stationed because terrorists are everywhere. If they managed to actualize an obviously well planned operation of attack on America and its multi-national people, these terrorists and/or terrorist network are/is widespread, that anytime, a simultaneous attack of the same or less proportion as that which transpired recently in America can materialize. And this can possibly happen even before America can stage its well announced war against these terrorists!
Should this happen, what will become of us overseas Filipino workers? Should we go back to our country or should we stay put where we are now?