Remembering Albanian -American victims of terrorist attack on September 11, 2001

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Qazim Doda, September 11, 2019

The horrific events of 9/11 are etched in our memories and engraved in our hearts. They are among the defining moments in history. Probably everyone present here recalls what he or she was doing when the Twin Towers fell. And I am sure most of us still recollect the horror and disbelief they felt at that moment – as if it happened yesterday. This is certainly the case for me.

I also remember walking around the ground zero during those days. The area of devastation where the towers once stood bore silent witness to the unbelievable horror and human loss and on the other side our firefighters searching for any possible remaining’s of the victims. At Ground Zero, I saw families of the victims and heartbreaking hoping to find their loved ones. It was a disheartening and chilling experience. But I was also impressed at the strength and courage of the people of New York. I was encouraged and touched to see the American people again showing their resilience and optimism in the face of terrible tragedy.

I was a newcomer in the US but felt as a real American from the bottom of my heart. Our Albanian-American community lost 3 people. Mon Gjonbalaj, Rrok Camaj and Simon Dedvukaj. They were Albanians from our occupied territories in Montenegro, from Plave e Guci and Tuz. We lost also dozens of arberesh with Albanian descent.simon dedvukaj

Personally, I knew the youngest man, Simon Dedvukaj who was living in Mohegan Lake – Westchester, NY. The son of Marash Dedvukaj. He came from a well-respected family of Albanian national hero – Ded Gjon Luli. His parents emigrated to the US during 60’ of the last century, they worked hard to educate their children and live the American dream,

In 2006, five years after the terror attack took place, I went to visit Simon’s family. Still very sad for their loss and started an interview with Marash Dedvukaj. He was explaining to me how the family got the bad news and how did they respond to that.

One of his son’s was there and saw the second tower falling down. He was not able to talk to me about that, still felt too emotional. He went out while I was talking to his parents. His mother was not saying anything at all, she was observing us while we were talking and she was crying constantly. After I interviewed Marash for more than one hour, his wife Viktoria – Simon’s mother came near me and brought a small crystal ashtray and another small box with ashes and small stones.

I had a mixed feeling about that, I had no clue what was that. I thought that she doesn’t want to talk to me at all since I saw constant tears in her eyes. After a short silence, she started talking to me: “I was there every day for weeks, hoping that I will find Simon’s body. Everyday I took a little bit of these ashes and I put here,” showing the crystal cup. “I was sure that Simon is watching me from above and I wanted to have a peace of his remainings.” She said.

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When I was leaving the house, his parents Marash and Viktoria showed me the closed door of Simon’s room. Since Simon was gone, she never opened that door. Sadly, his wife didn’t have any child and based on Albanian tradition, after 6 weeks, if the wife is not pregnant or doesn’t have any child, she is free to go and continue with her life. So, that door remained closed for years.

Mon Gjonbalaj, Rrok Camaj and Simon Dedvukaj  were very good Albanians and proud Americans.

Together with the families of the fallen, we remember all that is good, all that is true, and all that is beautiful about those we have lost. They will be remembered forever from the civilized world, from their families and friends.

May they rest in peace!