Armando Reit
Pace University

Café 101 Employee

Joeta Kacou, Breanna Romaine-Guiliano


Joeata: What is your name?

Armando: Armando Reit

Joeata: Where were you born Armando?

Armando: I was born in Panama City that's in Central America.

Stop the tape.

Armando: We start again right?

Joeata: Yes, where were you born?

Armando: Panama, that's in Central America.

Joeata: And did you grow up there?

Armando: I came here, I left Panama in 1968 and I came here and I've been living here ever since. I did the majority of my schooling here. I went through high school, high school. I went to college here and states. And Iíve been here ever since.

Joeata: Here in New York, orÖ?

Armando: In New York City.

Joeata: So itís quite your home town?

Armando: Yes! (Laugh)

Joeata: So where do you work, Armando?

Armando: Iím working right now; Iím working at Pace University. Before I got here I was working the New York Stock exchange. Yeah I was, I was working at the Stock Exchange for possibly ten years. Ten-and-a-half-years I worked, ten-and-a-half-years before I came here. So, when everything went down with this 9/11 situation, I was just basically just a few blocks away from where it happened.

Joeata: Oh?

Armando: So with that experience, just seeing the devastation that was created, unbelievable the magnitude that the whole situation that occurred. It was very bad, you know?  Just going outside on Wall, Wall Street and Broadway and looking up at Tower Two and seeing one of the planes actually protrude outside, out the upper floors. Then possibly a little after nine, 9:10am, 9:15am, somewhere around that area, the second plane hit; when the second plane hit thatís when thereís chaos, everything just went haywire. It was a beautiful day that day that September 11th. It was a very beautiful day. The sun was out, the weather was so beautiful outside. All the Downtown just turned when the uh, first building fell. The sun turned to blackness that day. And the whole uh, Lower Manhattan was covered with uh, smoke and debris. And people running for their lives and we actually have to run back inside the building because everybody wants to come out, you know come out and see what was going on. So the second plane hit and everyone was running for cover. We were seeing people jumping out the buildings and I mean uh, fire fighters, police officers injured. Regular pedestrians, people just walking, uh, shoes and pocketbooks and people just laying on the side of the street begging for somebody to help them. So that was a, that was a very bad experience, just to see that.

We got back in the building at the Stock Exchange.  We got back in the building and they shut the building down. And after they shut the building down, they didnít, you had a choice, if you wanted to leave the building you couldnít come back in. Your best bet was to see what was going on and make sure everything was safe. We decided to stay in the building. I did not leave the building until probably like uh, a little after two and when I, when I got back outside I couldnít believe what I was seeing. You know, it was just devastation. So we actually have to walk and you couldnít even breathe because there was so much smoke and debris and dust everywhere. I thought literally, I was covered, I was totally covered with soot and white. So we got to the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge. Me and uh, and about fifteen other workers that were with me, we left the building. We had to put uh, these bandanas on to keep our faces from inhaling all the smoke. So we walked over to the Brooklyn Bridge and we went to the Brooklyn Bridge. There were a lot of buses taking people, taking people from this side of the bridge to the Brooklyn side. And the police officer that was there, the police officer was covered in blood and still giving people directions on how to get to safety. And thatís something I will never forget.

And now walking from Lower Manhattan, from Wall Street up towards, past North Bay Center, see people here on the street, total chaos. I looked up and you just, it was just a bad experience. And by the time we got over to the Brooklyn Bridge, there was, everybody, so many. They didnít have enough buses to transport the people over to the other side of the bridge. So what we did, I decided to walk. They didnít want you to walk across the bridge but at that time everyone was trying to get out of the city. So myself, and I and it was like four other construction workers and a couple of other people I guess that worked down here in one of these couple buildings, we decided to walk across the bridge. By the time we got across the bridge we was covered in white, in soot. I called um, my wife, my wife was worried. By the time I got over to uh, downtown, what is it, I think the Borough Hall are, a they had a triage there, a medical triage where people were giving out water and they asked you if you needed medical attention. 

And so far so I got over, I got over the bridge. I waited for an hour for my wife to get from where I lived downtown, downtown Brooklyn on Atlantic Avenue, to pick me up. When I got there I looked around and I looked to see the city from that side where I was standing–unbelievable sight. The smoke, constant smoke. These cars, everybody was on the road. That was a very experience that no bodyís ever seen, I mean devastation. A lot of devastation that people went, that a lot of people went through. What you experienced, what are you gonna do? What are you gonna do? So thatís something you got to really, you got to be in it.  You really got to be there to see what happened. But I mean in the long run, the people that did it they should pay for it. I had, we had another unit in building two on the thirty-sixth floor which was Lachmann Food Services.  And um, we had a possible thirty-two workers in that, on that floor. Now when the first plane hit the first building, the second building, they just made it out. See when the second plane hit, possibly ten minutes before the second plane hit. And I was thankful for that because all the workers were able to get out of the building. My brother even worked, my brother worked in there, the eighty-sixth floor of that building also. He was able to get out but a lot of other people didnít, were unable to get out and thatís the sad part. Moreover a lot of people got hurt, a lot of people died and just seeing people jumping out of buildings, thatís not a sight, thatís not a good sight.  And I will never, never forget it for the rest of my life and I know a lot of people suffered from that, you know.

Right now everything with the, I try to watch my health a little bit more now because we were breathing the air for a possible month, two or three months later, after that time. The Stock Exchange closed down for possibly I think three days and reopened.  We went back to work and um, we were still inhaling that uh, smoke. Government claims that they, it was okay to go back in the area, it was fine. To find out there were a lot of asbestos particles in the air. So you know they have um, they have an agency thatís dealing with the Department of Health that monitors your health just to see what was the outcome and if any ill effects happen to these boys that were working Downtown and this part of the area.  So in that area, they call you on the phone and ask if anything change in your health, how you have been feeling. They monitor that because they trying to go, their trying to get enough information to see. And now they found out a lot of people that was working down here that worked on the site at the World Trade Center, a lot of people are dying because they were inhaling the asbestos in the air. And people were just out their trying to help one another.

Thatís the first time Iíve ever really seen the city pull together, you know, a lot of people out of state to help us out and that was something that I really, that was special just to see that. But ever since that day I will never forget that. And once I wanted to stop working that Lower Manhattan area anymore, but you know what? You canít let them stop you from living your life so you got to continue on and uh, and go on to work, make a living for yourself. So I decided I uh, Iím not, no longer at the Stock Exchange, Iím at Pace now. But from the time to time I pass by there and I, I just visualize that, that particular day because I use to go and they um, the first building. I still get my shoes shined down there. I use to go down there for the little stores. So the building was beautiful, beautiful building. I use to take the train there some times. And just going by there and visualizing what I seen there, it was unbelievable. Thatís something; I donít even think you would like to see.  No body. I donít know, I guess this campus was open at the time so they were affected by it too. So everybody who worked in this lower area, downtown area was affected by that.

You know, itís something you got to really, you know, you got to sit back and think about it. Hopefully the people that were responsible for it are brought to a court of law and uh, you know and theyíre charged to the fullest extent. There were lives and uh, a lot of live, a lot of lives were taken. Innocent people going to work, not knowing what was going on and these guys decide to do something at the magnitude that they did and that was unbelievable. I will never forget that. I had a couple of guys that I knew from the uh, police department. And his nameís, heís Lieutenant and he worked at um, one of the precincts in Brooklyn. Then he use to, use to do a lot of security work for the Stock Exchange and he was in Brooklyn at the time it happened. They, I guess when they started making these calls to the precincts he decided to come over to Manhattan with I think six other guys. The police department started racing over to Manhattan--over the Brooklyn Bridge to get over here. Itís like chaos, two of the guys ended up getting uh, killed by falling debris. And seeing him an hour, like an hour later it reminded me of the Stock Exchange, and heís full of, collared white shirt covered white shirt, black. And heís covered in all this soot already and   heís crying and I said Mike what happened and he said I just lost two of my guys from the police department. So that was a sad thing to see because it was this gentleman was a very good friend of mine. And he was a, he was a gentlemen and to see that, you know he always want to really help anybody out. So I, reminds us, you know, during the course of duty that helping people out, two of his people, two of his guys got killed. Two of his guys got killed.

So seeing that and seeing that and that whole episode, I, you know, talk to people about it and I can still um, I even, you know you can always visualize, you know, sometimes you think about that, sit up thinking about that, about that and um, and somehow people are killed, just killed. You know what Iím saying. And I think that itís stupid that there are people out there like that. A lot of people that died, the family members I respect how they feel. You know by not wanting that to happen or build a memorial, thatís just nonsense, you know. But uh, thatís something I will never forget.  

Joeata: Um, when the first plane hit the building what did you think it was? Did you haveÖ

Armando: Well, well my first reaction was the pilots didnít know how to drive the plane.   They seemed to fly probably off course and made a wrong turn and realized too late and he ran into the building.  But we realized it after. because I was in 20 Broad Street and we had a small television from the triage set up on the eighteenth floor of 20 Broad. There was a group of people standing round all looking at the television and thatís when we went down, we were just like ďwhat happened?Ē We went outside in front of the Channel Five News. We went out the building. We walked to Wall Street and um, Broadway. Oh man, this guy was another you know, canít navigate a plane. Then the next thing you know, the second plane was on its way. Once the second plane hit, everybody knew that it was a terrorist act. And everybody was running for cover, they start shutting places down and thatís when we knew it was a terrorist act.

Your emotions kick in and you know, you got to do what you got to do to try to survive.  Because I mean that building was over one hundred floors. And like I said that day was a beautiful day and the place just turned into black. The whole Downtown was just black. Well uh, some of my employees they tried to call their family members. While they were calling their family members they were crying and trying to get everyone uh, under control. The New York Stock Exchange set up a triage, a medical triage downstairs in the uh, B level to help injured people. You had fire fighters; you had regular uh, pedestrians just walking on the streets who were injured that they pulled into the building. Not knowing if one of those people were the terrorists. But they were there to help, help to save lives and seeing that um, unbelievable. 

You canít even breathe in the building really. Um, like a hour or two later, everything just started to uh, you know, the smoke was coming up from the buildings. So we had to go to lower floors. So we shut our area down and went to a lower floor. And uh, we just camped.  Everybody and, at that time the chairman, the President of the New York Stock Exchange, Grasso, Mr. Grasso, Grasso and he tried to keep everybody calm and telling everybody to stay inside. That we would prevail and we were going to be all right and this man really stepped up to the plate and made sure everybody was calm and safe. And he took care of his people and I respect him for that. You know, he showed he cared about his people.

But uh, two days, I think it was Tuesday, Tuesday, Tuesday. We came back to work on um, Thursday or Friday. Get the place cleaned up and we resumed our duty. We went right back to work and uh, you know we helped, we served. At the time in the food service so for three days, three of four days we served over 4,000 people in the Stock Exchange and uh, fire fighters, police officers and all the type of different branches of the law enforcement. We served um, medical people. You know, we took care of them, made sure we feed them and everybody ate and we did that for three or four days straight. We took everyone in the area at that time. Construction workers, anybody that was able to come in the building, that had the right, they would come in the building and we would take care of them. Basically medical people, sometimes police officers; different branches, different branches of law enforcement so that was, that was another special thing.

We received, we received a plaque from the police department for our part that we did to ensure, you know, everybody was fed. You can see the plaque from the uh, fire and police department and the medical institution. [Inaudible]. It turned out; it turned out pretty uh, after everything that happened it turned out pretty good because now we started to get back into focus. And a lot of people that I work with at the time in that building decided to either retire or just no longer work in the area because they thought that the building that we be worked in at the time was a um, a terrorist threat. And what it is, at this time it is and it is always going to be that way. Because I thought that if they would have had an opportunity to do something over at the Stock Exchange they probably wouldíve. But we have a high level of security there and we have a different branch of law enforcement and we have the police department. We have um, top security services there to run the building so the people in the building are safe. Theyíre definitely safe. They donít have to worry about things like that. It was uh, that was when, that is one I will never forget – a very, very serious thing, very serious thing.

Joeata: But, do you feel safe now in your life?

Armando: Yeah!

Joeata: You do?

Armando: Yeah, you know, you canít let these people knock you down! Sure, sure I do. I go on to work on the train every day you know, youíre more aware, youíre more aware  of your surroundings. Youíre more aware of your surroundings but you, at the same time youíre a little more cautious. I know ever since 9/11 Iím a little more cautious. I watch people a little more now, huh, you know. If I see things out of place I try to move from that area and if I can find a police officer and let him know. Listen you gotta go away and investigate the situation a little and see what, whatís going on. But Iím much more cautious then Iíve ever been in my life. And um, even when Iím away from here they just kick in. The instincts just kick in. You know, when I go out with my kids Iím more aware whatís going on. You know, I take the train every day and uh, I have to go to work, I canít drive every day. So I can take uh public transportation but Iím not going to make that stop, Iím still getting off right here. You know, but you just be a little more cautious about what youíre doing now. Once you become unaware, anything is possible because these people are sick people.

Joeata: Yeah.

Armando: Very sick people. They took a lot of lives. They made a lot of bad memories, a lot of bad memories. They have this thing, you know, city provided this um, seminars and um, things like that. Where you can go and just conversate what youíre feeling. You know if you have emotional problems or if youíre sick so they have a bunch of different things set up so people can go get what they need. Iíve been coping with it. I guess Iíve been coping with it pretty good since it happened. But you never forget. You never forget and thatís something that I uh, that like I said I will, I will always remember [Inaudible] what happened that day.  

A lot of people I knew are gone. A lot of people I knew just by going in the building and being people. They had Windows of the World there. I knew two of them uh, two of them already dead. And umm uh I canít remember the exact number but there was a large number, a large number of people from that Windows of the World. They died because they were on the last floor. The plane hit like eighty-sixth, eighty-ninth floor, somewhere in that area so they didnít have a chance to get out. Could you imagine those people, how they felt? Thatís something that really – they paid a lot of hardship to people in this world and in New York City. Well you now umm this city so far been, itís picked up a lot. You know a lot more police officers around. You see a lot of more people around and people are more---even yourself, you get more into it.

Anyway, Anyway, anywhere you go you always got to be aware thatís just how the world is. But in this area got to be a little more up on their Pís and Qís because you donít know what these people are gonna try to do again. You know? And theyíll go hide out in some little rat hole for two three, four years, plot something else and, you know, come back and try to do something at that magnitude again. You always got to be aware, got to be ready.

Joeata: What did you think of the reaction of the country to terrorism, the international reaction?

Armando: They, I mean, me personally, if you have a president, I guess the president did what he could do in the events that followed but I think by now they should have caught this guy. I think that if they, if they said he had something, they thought that he had something and they have the proof that he has something to do with this notorious act. Well as the United States and the type of resources that we have in this state, I felt they should have caught him by now and dealt with him. You know, and make him feel the same way all the people that were, the people that were, the family members how they feel today. And have him--bring him to a court of law. You know, Iím not saying, Iím not saying pin it on him, but a lot of people would probably want to put him in something, hang him.  But you know what? You got to bring him to a court of law and go through all the steps and, and deal with him as accordingly. But, the guyís still running around somewhere in another country. Flat in the middle of a situation like this, you donít need that. So all parties that have something involved in it should be caught, and should be prosecuted, prosecuted by a court of law.  I not saying lynch him or anything, weíre not about that. But um at the same time,  deal with him on, on the right plan and make sure--do the crime you got to pay, you got to pay the price for it.

And now this guy I donít think they, I donít know at this day if thereíre still going about it, trying to find this guy. Itís been a while ,so I think itís time now, got to step up to manhood, find this guy and bring him to light and try to shut down the organization if they possibly can. Which now I think that probably would never be because these people are just brainwashed from a young age. And theyíre walking around with bombs on their body and just go into a public place and just blow the place up. Thatís really, thatís sick. Thatís something you really have to think about so. When you have those types of people, like that organization, you have to really sit back and think. Its,  its catch them in the gut and stop the chain, I think it is. Get the man at the top and all the other pieces underneath should crumble, slowly. But um, I mean, in the United States I think theyíre doing the best they can do right now but I think they shouldíve do more. You know what? If you had a family member and God forbid somebody got injured you know, you would go over there and look for yourself. If you had the resources you would go and find him yourself. So I think what weíre doing about it is [Inaudible]. As far as I knew, yeah like I said, heís out there so we got to find him. We have to find this guy.

Joeata: Is there something you want to add?

Armando: Well Iíll say, look the only thing that I can say is that, this country has, thereís so much people, thereís so much wrong doing. A lot of things are wrong in this country thatís not right. That we as a people, we  have to come together as a whole, no matter  what color, what color you are. They have to come for all. I think that this country needs to stick together. I mean as one people. It would be such a better place to live. Anything comes our way we can deal with it. We have the resources, you know, we have the resources but thereís a lot of division in this country. In this country thatís not good and it creates, it creates a bad law where people are gonna have this tendency, ďWell Iím not gonna help this guy because thatís not part of my ethnic groupĒ or whatever. You know we should be one people. Everyone should be together no matter orange people, white, black whatever, yellow, we should work as one color. We could be in this country really well moved. And now itís about power, weíre powered up in this countryís not weak. Weíre weak in certain areas but weíre strong in a lot of other areas. Imagine if you had everybody on the same page. Everybody on the same page, you know the things we could do in this country?

We once had, we have homeless people out here. Everybody has to go out, everybody wants to make a decent salary. You know and I think a lot of things wonít happen. A lot of things wonít happen, the way people--they donít care about anything. They donít care about their next door neighbor, about the guy down the street just trying to make it on a dollar. You know everyman for himself. And I guess who knows? You know, the only people that can change that are the people, yep, you know the guys in the White House. The congressman, the presidents, and these people, the lawmakers, these people can change that. Me and these other guys our voice probably doesnít count. You know, but I wish they can, they can really get together and, and put their heads together. Its politics, this countryís about politics. But if they can get all their heads together and set aside politics and then as the united, like a united country; if everybody would just work together then we would be on top, be on top.  Hopefully before I get old....   

Joeata: uh-huh.

Armando: and Iím not longer here Iíll see that and my children will be able to live in a uh, in uh, feel they live in a safe place but. Things would be a lot different for them and uh, everybody elseís kids. Right now at this rate, you got to take it day by day and hopefully tomorrow, or the next few days, the following month it gets better or things will be safer for you.  But right now sometimes you wonder, you know you wonder, whereís this place going? Iíve been here from very small, a very young age. And I was able to accomplish a lot of things; accomplish. I respect, I respect that and  I would not be down, not down, because basically Iím living here, this is my country, this is where Iím living. So whatever I can do on my part to help Iím going to do. We to, we have to do it together, not a certain group of people, all people work together and this would be a safe place to live [Inaudible].  You be careful too. 

Joeata: Yeah.

Armando: You be careful too. When youíre walking down the street always be aware of your surroundings and whatís going on around you. You know people are selfish in situations and we all know how to get out of them. I have a son and a daughter. My sonís in college now, second year of college. My daughter is turning ten, ten, you know, predictable now. And it just, I mean [Inaudible] it just, you have to sit back and let them know  twenty, thirty years from now how are people going to be, you know? 

Joeata: Yes

Armando: But I canít worry about things like that. The only things I can do at this time is make a better life for them and hopefully uh, everything else will kick in. As the years go by I mean, work [Inaudible] Thatís something you really have to look into, youíre going, you going to college you got to get the most out of your education you can. Get as much knowledge as you can get while youíre here and use that knowledge to benefit your life. And hopefully you can give that back to some other kid and they can take it from there. You know thatís for them, you always got to, give them; you give them whatever life experience you had, you know, let them know about it. You know thatís something else, show them a different way, a better way. And I think itís not, it starts in the home, your parents have to be involved and your, your, your church. Your church gotta be involved. So many people got to be involved to make a better communityÖ honestly I want to leave, I want to move. Like this is my home, no matter where I go. If I go live in California someday Iím going to still have a home here because this is where I grew up at I would definitely miss this. SoÖ

Joeata: Okay, Thank you very much!

Armando: All right no problem, youíre welcome. Anytime you need this come see me now and Iíll sit with you again, all right?

Joeata:  Okay, thank you!

 

 

Pace 9-11 Oral History Project


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