911 Closure for Ilongga in US

By Florence F. Hibionada

Senior Reporter, Philippine News Service (PNS)

‘I never thought this day will come,’ Ilongga in US says as she recalls family’s 911 ordeal, this as news broke out on the killing of Usama Bin Laden, “Master Terrorist” in the eyes of America and most of the world, one Filipino-American was particularly moved.

A former resident of Iloilo City, Selah Labarbera nee Malundo thought this day would never come to pass. The terror of September 11, 2001 was all too clear to her with “Ground Zero” a regular sight and destination in years of employ in New York.

Reached for her sentiments on Bin Laden’s death, Selah willingly shared her thoughts.

“I never would have thought that this day will come to pass – knowing the complexity of our battle against terrorism, & the character traits of its players,” she began in an emailed message.

Then her recap of that day America went under attack.

“I was getting ready for work when I first heard the 9/11/01 World Trade Center (WTC) attack over the radio. It was an unbelievable & nightmarish news – especially that my sister Binky worked in the building, and my Dad worked a few blocks away! There was no answer when I called Binky’s WTC office which got me very nervous!! Luckily when I called her cell phone, she picked-up. I was so relieved especially when I found out that she took the morning-off for an Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) medical exam. She didn’t have any clue what was going-on in New York City! When I reached work (4 miles from home), my colleagues informed me that both WTC buildings had collapsed. I was speechless! I right away called (my husband) Peter who also worked in Manhattan but I couldn’t reach him. The message I got each time I called was “We’re sorry all circuits are busy now, please try your call again later”! After around 9:15 AM, my outgoing calls were 100% unsuccessful. I could only receive calls & yours was the first one! I will never forget it. That was when I told you about my sister & my Dad which I believe you were also able to reach them for interview. I noticed that international calls were not affected by the phone traffic. By the way, I didn’t hear from Peter until after 5 PM. It was a relief to learn that he was okay. Due to the crippling situation in the city, he didn’t come home until almost midnight. He was exhausted with tales to tell. For weeks, he smelled the WTC wreckage right from his private office in Greenwich Village – approximately 2 miles away. Except for my sister Marissa, my whole family was living in New Jersey when it happened,” Selah wrote.

“I thank God for allowing America to have this level of closure,” she ended.