September 11th, 2001. A day no one will forget. We all have our stories of where we were when we heard. For me, it was a convoluted day.
I was still living at home with my parents in my second year of college. I woke up to my dad’s voice saying “A plane flew right into the building”. For those that know me, they know there is no life before coffee, so in my groggy state I simply thought “that sucks…”. It wasn’t until I got to school and heard the second plane hit that, like so many of us, I realized something was very wrong. Yet that day, none of my teachers wanted to watch any of the news, so I went the entire day without really seeing anything. It was later that night I finally got the full scope of what happened.
Much of it, I didn’t get to process right away. I would say that the magnitude of 9/11 hadn’t fully got to me. Maybe because I didn’t know anyone who died, maybe because it happened so far away from where I was. Or, maybe I simply wasn’t mature enough to grasp it. That is until two years ago when I had an encounter.
I was in Financial District running some resumes. Every time I am in the area, I always stop at the 9/11 Memorial. Some things are just too sacred to say, “not this time”. So, I was walking up to the South Tower. The sun shone down on one of the panels and the glare from it was very bright, very centralized, very orange. Normally, I would have covered the glare with my hand and kept walking. But something stopped me and said, “you need to walk towards this light”. So, I did. It was so bright, so orange it hurt my eyes. But I kept walking towards it, not taking my eyes off it for a second. As I got closer, the light got smaller. When the light finally disappeared, it disappeared on a name…
Karl Henri Joseph
I was immediately overcome. It meant something, though I had no idea what. I pulled my phone out and looked up the name. He was a fire fighter. A member of Company 207. He was born in Haiti, became a US citizen, and grew up in Brooklyn. He was 25 years old.
I dived into google to learn as much about him as I could. Karl immigrated to Brooklyn from Haiti when he was just a child with his parents and 8 siblings. He joined the fire department in 2000. He was what they called a “probie”, a probationary firefighter. Apparently, the higher ups played pranks on him, which it’s said he took with great humor. He had a big smile and a great laugh. And as they have described, he was “top-notch” at his job.
Since 9/11, there has been a foundation in his name, the F.F. Karl Henri Joseph Education Fund providing educational resources to children in Haiti.
It would be easy to say none of this means anything, that my encounter two years ago was all a simple coincidence of physics; I just happen to catch the light at the right time to land on this particular name out of a multitude of names.
But I do not believe that to be so.
I believe I was meant to see this name. I don’t know why; I may never know why. But what I do know is I will never forget it. Ever. For as long as I live, I will remember his name and will proudly carry this hero with me, this hero who died trying to save others, I will carry him with me for the rest of my life.
As I told my mom this story, she told me something that made the most sense to me. She said, “maybe he’s your guardian angel”. Maybe. Maybe I didn’t find, maybe he found me.