Last month Jonesville resident Antonio Delgadillo visited New York City. It was no ordinary date and far from a typical vacation to the Big Apple. Delgadillo returned to the city he once called home on the 20th anniversary of the deadly terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Delgadillo was at the World Trade Center as the second plane hit the buildings on that horrific day and had to flee for his life amid the chaotic streets. In a recent interview with The Tribune, Delgadillo said he in the past 20 years he did not speak often of the day and what he experienced. He did, however, share a detailed account of his experiences for a special section published in The Tribune commemorating the 20th anniversary of 9/11.
Thanks to encouragement from friends, particularly, his best friend Sherrie Shoaf, Delgadillo returned to New York City this Sept. 11.
“My visit was a chance to free myself of the heavy bonds of guilt, make new memories, and solidify a friendship that will last many lifetimes,” he explained.
Here, in his own words, Delgadillo shares the story of his return to New York City on the 20th anniversary of 9/11.
In his own words
“I am indebted to my best friend, Sherrie Shoaf, for making this trip happen. She planned the entire trip fully knowing that this was my journey. Though I feel like this was a trip that I should have made many years ago, I could have only done it with a friend who knows my heart and mind as well as Sherrie.
“The real meat and potatoes of our trip happened in the morning of Sept. 10, the date of my late father’s 81st birthday. After we disembarked from the Staten Island Ferry at South Ferry station, our original intent was to get to Whitehall subway station in order to make our way to Central Park in order to make our way southbound so we could see as many historical sites and tourist attractions as we could. However, our plans instantly changed as we left South Ferry station. I told Sherrie that we had to walk northbound. We walked through Battery Park and the Financial District. Then we got to Washington and Liberty Street. Though I had been back to New York City several times in the last 20 years, this was the first time I had been back to the site of the old WTC. I felt my heart sink. We stood across the street on Liberty Street for about a minute until I could absorb every sensation. We walked past the Tower 2 memorial fountain and made our way to the memorial fountain where Tower 1 once stood. I uttered the name Ivan Bautista to my best friend. Sherrie knew what to do as she stepped forward and led the way. She finally stopped and waited for me. All the composure and emotional strength I had left seemed to vanish as I saw the name cut into the steel frame of the memorial. I doubled over and cried alone in solitude and silence all the while seeing that picture in my mind of Ivan holding a cob of corn wrapped in aluminum foil over a charcoal grill as we enjoyed our Labor Day weekend just days before. The guards at the memorial informed my friend that I wasn’t allowed within the temporary barriers of the memorial until 10 a.m. Still, they allowed me inside to grieve while standing reverently by my friend’s side. As I gained my composure, the guards allowed my best friend to take my hand and take me aside while informing me of the memorial’s normal hours. So, we walked across the street, sat down and waited for the memorial to open. And, when the memorial did open, we walked back and repeated what we had done before. This time I uttered the name, Brandon Buchannan. This time there was no solitude. I was surrounded by tourists and others like me who had made their pilgrimage to that holy site. I gazed upon Brandon’s name and meditated. I offered up prayers. And, I realized that this couldn’t be my only visit to the memorial. There were seven more names that I still had to visit on the memorial fountains. But, I didn’t have it in me to stay any longer. I knew that I would have to come back at a later date to complete what I had set out to do — to pay proper respect to my friends and assuage the obtrusive thoughts and voices in my head that had been so pervasive to my mind and spirit.
“As it was the day of my late Father’s 81st birthday, Sherrie and I elected to spend the rest of the day celebrating the life of my father. We remembered our lives with him and lamented his passing earlier this year of COVID. It was my father’s mandate that we live everyday with joy and happiness whenever we could. In honor of that holy mandate, Sherrie and I partied, had fun, and even got matching tattoos reaffirming our friendship.
“On Sept. 11, we both returned to Manhattan. However, we did not attend any of the memorial ceremonies that were scheduled during the morning. I felt that those ceremonies were for the families of the fallen. Instead, we walked through as many districts as we possibly could. We walked through the Financial District, Tribeca, Greenwich Village, Soho, Noho, Alphabet City, Hell’s Kitchen, Chelsea, Times Square, Central Park and countless other areas. We even walked over the Brooklyn Bridge. In total, we had walked over 35 miles during over that Friday and Saturday. As Saturday night had turned into Sunday morning, we finally made our way to the ferry station in Downtown Manhattan. Before doing so, we stopped by the Tribute in Light which are set on top of the Battery Parking Garage off Greenwich Street. Like the memorial fountains at the site of the old World Trace Center, the Tribute in Light was indescribable in mere photos. If the memorial fountains were like the collective tears that fall into a dark abyss, the Tribute in Light are our hopes and prayers sent to the heavens.
“I will always be tormented by my experience on Sept. 11, 2001. Everything about that day changed me. That said, this year, I made beautiful memories with my friend, reclaimed Sept. 10 as my father’s birthday, and left the agony of guilt on the very site that left me with so many wounds. From now on I can lay my head down at night knowing that I didn’t abandon my friends, that I finally went back to honor them, I finally went back to bring some peace to my soul.”