(PNS reporting from EL BRONX) Almost every adult American remembers where they were on Sept. 11, 2001, but few remember more vividly than Bronx janitor Alberto Qaeda.
“That was the first time I ever got my ass kicked. And the second time. And the third,” recalls Qaeda, who used to go by the more informal name of “Al.”
Qaeda (photo), who was 17 in 2001, was a student at City College of New York studying to be a cashier when the first plane crashed into the World Trade Center.
“I was actually in a job interview at 9:03 on that dreadful day. That was the first time I heard the name Al Qaeda on CNN. By 9:04, I was fighting for my life as angry New Yorkers came at me from every borough. It was like a scene right out of The Warriors. I used to love that film, now I sob uncontrollably every time it comes on TV.”
Qaeda struggles to hold back the tears, looking significantly older and angrier than his 29 years.
Qaeda, who is now a janitor at an undisclosed methadone clinic, keeps to himself mostly, pining for the days when he was a rising and carefree ballet folklorico star. This is the best job he has been able to get in 10 years, but if the old pattern reasserts itself, he will only be here for a few more months.
“I was a proud Chicano,” says the bearded and sullen Qaeda, “but when my name got blasted all over the news, even my most extreme Aztlanista friends turned their backs on me.”
Qaeda rarely travels, and lost his love for travel after missing too many flights due to delays in airport security.
Although he lives in a constant state of fear and miasma, Qaeda looks forward to a day when he can put the cruel twist of fate that has cursed his life behind him.
“I hope one day the name of Al Qaeda will be forgotten forever, and we can focus on the government conspiracies instead.”