9/11 Eyewitness Takes Time to Volunteer at Memorial

9/11 Eyewitness Takes Time to Volunteer at Memorial

Volunteer Angel Caballero helps visitors outside of the museum's showing of "Rebirth at Ground Zero." (Photo: 9/11 Museum Staff)

On Sept. 11, 2001, Angel Caballero was at his office at Prudential Securities on Water Street, where he worked as a compliance officer. A North Arlington, N.J. resident, Caballero would take public transportation into the city and walk from the World Trade Center to his office every day.

That Tuesday morning, he heard a vibration from his office, and a colleague said, “There’s a fire at the Trade Center.” A few moments later, Caballero saw the second plane hit the south tower and soon after witnessed people jumping off the building.

Caballero and some of his colleagues left soon after and saw one of the buildings collapse while already on the street. He ran into a woman crying. She’d said her son worked in one of the towers. Caballero’s own sister-in-law worked in the north tower but had taken off that day.

“Part of what compelled me to volunteer [for the memorial and museum] is the thought that you're going to work and you never come home,” said Caballero, 51. “Close to 3,000 people never come back ... I feel for them and their families. That's why I do it.”

When the 9/11 Memorial opened in September 2011, Caballero visited with a few family members and spent hours there.

“I was fascinated by what volunteers did there,” he said. “The following weekend I discovered the volunteering website and filled out an application.”

Years later, Caballero has clocked more than 175 volunteer hours. Caballero is one of 245 people who volunteer as either visitor services hosts or museum docents. Of those, 25 percent are from New York City and 22 percent are from New Jersey.

The 9/11 Memorial has had more than 15 million visitors since opening on the 10th anniversary of the attacks. As of September 2014, the museum had more than 1 million visitors since opening on May 15.

The best part of Caballero’s volunteer experience has been engaging with people who ask several questions about the Survivor Tree or the memorial in general. His least favorite experience is when people begin to cry.

“You cry with them sometimes,” he said.

On days he does volunteer, Caballero carries a picture of Lance Cpl. Osbrany Montes De Oca, one of his son’s middle school friends who joined the Marines and died in Afghanistan in 2012.

“I carry his picture in my ID,” Caballero said. “When I got my 75 [volunteer] hours, I got a cobblestone in the memorial, and I dedicated it to him. Osbrany was definitely fighting for what happened [on 9/11].”

By Carmen Cusido, Freelance Journalist
This work was first published by Cusido on LinkedIn.