On September 11th, we all know what happened. Here, however, is a bit of a different story. In the Film Viewing Room I watched the towers collapse, having just left my shift at faculty computing. I immediately called my mother to verify whether or not she had heard from my father. He worked a safe eight blocks from the explosions. I figured he would be fine.
I was wrong.
A month later, we have heard nothing about the whereabouts of my father, Juan Lafuente. The last trace we have of him was his swipe into the subway at Grand Central Terminal at 8:06 a.m. He would then ride the number 4 train down to Wall and Broadway, which would bring him up the steps at approximately 8:45 a.m. —the moment of impact one.
We called every hospital, morgue, shelter and organization in the greater metropolitan area. We sent friends down to look for him. We retraced his steps and found nothing. We had stories run in the Poughkeepsie Journal, The New York Post, The New York Times, and even on "Dateline." We spoke to police officers, witnesses to the explosions, friends he would commute with—everyone. We exhausted our possibilities. We've only one conclusion to draw.
My father must have gone into those towers that morning to help.
He was trained as a fire marshal by his company to help evacuate buildings on fire. He was a man who trusted engineering and technology with all of his heart, and must have trusted (as we all did) that those towers would never collapse. Of course, we were wrong.
Hence my father, at age 61, is presumed dead.
I see the legacy he left behind. He worked his fingers to the bone for his family, loved to be at home, and was just learning how to play the piano. He had a wife of 37 years, four daughters, numerous friends and a love for life. As much as my heart breaks when I think of all these things cut short, I am comforted by one thought: if he did, in fact, go into those towers that morning, then he died a hero.
He gave his life to help others. He was selfless as he always was, and resilient until the last moment. I still have a lot of tears yet to cry. I still don't even know for sure where he is, if he went in, or what happened that morning. I may never know. For all I know, he could show up tomorrow… But I can't let myself dream. All I can do is love my father until it hurts and then love him some more. I always will.
—Catherine Lafuente '02
Juan Lafuente, born in Cuba, escaped on the eve of the Revolution in 1959. He claimed political asylum in the United States, taught himself English, earned four university degrees, and helped the rest of his family leave Cuba. His wife, Colette Mericle, is the mayor of Poughkeepsie, NY. Catherine Lafuente, his youngest daughter, is a senior at Sarah Lawrence.