Page 5 - MidWeek Kauai - Sep 8 2021
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   Survivor Sanchez Recalls 9/11 Two Decades LaterS
apartment, and then rushed was asking me questions if ly watching rubble from the till, Sanchez wasn’t to his family’s house, a I knew where she was, and World Trade Center build- completely free from
 10-minute drive away, to be I didn’t know. I had no idea. ings still being taken away
with his kin. “It turns out she perished. prior to their replacements sasters. In May 2018, he
“I was very lucky. I didn’t get any debris on me ... (When) I got home, I cried with my family for the rest of the night,” says Sanchez, the son of a Chilean father and Lebanese mother.
That was really an emotional part, to have her husband call me looking for any informa- tion on his wife. She was pregnant.”
being erected.
“I think that affected me
was forced to evacuate his Leilani Estates home af- ter cracks opened up under his house, right before an earthquake hit and lava be- gan spewing all around the neighborhood.
In the days afterward, Sanchez also started receiv- ing calls from people franti- cally looking for loved ones who worked at the World Trade Center and were still missing.
ollowing 9/11, San- chez continued to work for Aon Corp.
“The fact I had just gotten married, just had a child and was commuting to Manhat- tan, it was a bunch of things that I believe were causing stress in my head, so I had to change my life a little bit,” he explains.
At the beginning of the eruption, he remembers hearing sirens, and then friends phoned him telling
at a temporary office, but eventually was laid off in 2006 when his division of the company closed down. He then found work at Wil- lis Group insurance in an office at World Financial Center, which is locat- ed next door to where the twin towers once stood. He remained there for seven years, while simultaneous-
in a way that’s hard to really explain. But being near it ... living in denial, too, about how much it may have af- fected you,” Sanchez ac- knowledges.
life-threatening di-
  “There’s this one call I re- ally remember,” notes San- chez. “This gentleman was looking for his wife because he couldn’t find her. I don’t know how he got my num- ber, but he called me and he
Upon leaving Willis Group for another job that offered more money, San- chez experienced an epilep- tic seizure during his proba- tionary period, which caused him to miss work for a week and ultimately cost him his job. Despite the unfortunate circumstance, Sanchez was suddenly free to seriously rethink his future, including whether New York City was the right place for him.
(Left) A young Paul “Pablo” Sanchez shares a moment with his father, Fernando. (Above) Sanchez and his 9-year-old son, Zy, take time out for a recent picture. PHOTOS COURTESY PAUL SANCHEZ
Paul “Pablo” Sanchez stands in New York City with his newborn son, Zy, with the Brooklyn Bridge in the background.
In his mind, it was another way of making a break from his past.
Because he had previously visited the Aloha State on a trip, Sanchez and his wife gave serious thought to per- manently relocating to Ha- wai‘i. Eventually, in 2014, they moved to Pāhoa on the Big Island.
“My house is right across the street from fissure 8, it’s so close. But I just rolled with it. I thought to myself, ‘I don’t have time to com- plain.’ My entire world now revolves around my son, and I just wanted to get us out of there,” he adds. “Lava has a particular sound, like air blowing, almost like a jet ... There was a lot of sulfur in the air.”
Another of Sanchez’s favorite hobbies since he’s moved to Hawai‘i has been spending hours watching Andy Bumatai videos and getting lots of laughs from those pidgin comedy rou- tines.
“I felt terrible, like may- be I should have looked for other people. I didn’t look. It’s almost like a knee-jerk reaction. I ran right for the stairs,” Sanchez explains.
“We flew to Hawai‘i with suitcases, but no other stuff, nothing,” says Sanchez. “We came to the Big Island only because we were looking for the least stressful existence.”
“Pidgin is an amazing dialect. I wish I was able to speak it like a local. I’ve been trying to get rid of my New York accent for years, but it’s just the way I speak,” he admits with a laugh.
He sums up his thoughts by considering himself lucky to have survived the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center.
Although he went by the name Paul during his days in NYC, Sanchez opted to use his nickname Pablo once he moved to the 50th state.
Although he and his wife are no longer together, they both still live on the Big Island and have one son, 9-year-old Zy.
Turning serious again as he reflects on the 20 years that have passed since 9/11, Sanchez elaborates that one of the things that made him feel terrible was crying during phone calls with peo-
“I feel extremely fortu- nate, of course, that I’ m still alive, but even more so, that I didn’t really have anything bad happen to me physically because of it. I’ m so lucky ... I feel really sad for the people who perished,” San- chez says.
him to get out of the area be- cause lava was coming.
Meanwhile, Sanchez current- ly is employed as
ple looking for their missing loved ones who never made it out of the World Trade Center.
 “I grabbed my son, and grabbed the cat and put the cat in the carrier. We just left. The house is still there. It never was taken (by lava), but it was scary. I remember being prepared for several days before and having bags packed. I was happy to get out of there,” Sanchez says.
a sales producer at Hawaiian Islands Insurance Inc.
He says sometimes, look- ing back in hindsight, he feels guilty, and he wonders what he could have done.
Sanchez also has lei- sure-time activities that he enjoys very much.
“I am an avid chess play- er,” he shares.
However, he didn’t even stop to think about what was happening during the time of the attack, because it all took place so suddenly.

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