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The 9/11 attacks: ‘Pain is like a sharp knife, which dulls over time’


Jupiter Yambem had opted to work the morning shift at a restaurant in the World Trade Center on 11 September, 2001, to spend more time with his five-year-old son, Santi.

His night shift at Windows on the World, the restaurant atop the North Tower of New York City’s tallest buildings, had left him with little time for his family. All he wanted to do was play football with Santi, teach him how to ride a bike, and do all the things that a father does.

Jupiter awoke on that Tuesday, showered, dressed, kissed his wife, Nancy, and drove away into the night. Soon after, dawn broke, revealing a crisp and clear early autumn day.

What happened on 9/11?

Jupiter, who came to the United States in 1981 from the north-eastern Indian state of Manipur to attend a summer camp for visually impaired children in Vermont, had worked his way up to the position of banquet manager at the prestigious restaurant.

For the previous five years, he had worked in the 110-story twin buildings. 50,000 people worked on the 16-acre complex, and tens of thousands came here every day for business, shopping, and meals at Windows on the World.

Jupiter was in charge of a technology conference that the restaurant was hosting on September 11th.

Nancy prepared for a busy day at home in Beacon.

Santi was in his second week of kindergarten, and she followed his bus to school because it was always late, and she wanted to know what time it arrived so he could report to his principal. Then she drove to work, a residential home for people with mental health and substance abuse issues in Orangeburg, about 40 miles (64 kilometres) away.

When she arrived at work, she learned that a jet plane had crashed into the World Trade Center.

“Everyone was glued to the television. I didn’t see the planes collide with the buildings “Nancy informed me from her home in New York.

Where the group behind 9/11 is still a threat

At 8:46 a.m. local time (12:46 p.m. GMT), American Airlines Flight 11 collided with the North Tower between the 93rd and 99th floors, trapping everyone on the floors above.

As thick, black smoke engulfed Windows on the World, people choked. The restaurant’s assistant general manager made frantic calls to officials, seeking advice on how to “direct our guests and our employees as soon as possible.”

A conference attendee called a colleague to report that there had been “a huge explosion, all the windows had fallen out, all the ceilings had come down, and everyone had been knocked to the ground, but everyone was fine, and everyone was going to be evacuated.”

However, none of them made it outside.

The chef, who was supposed to be at work by 8:30 a.m., survived by stopping to get new spectacles in a shop beneath the tower. It took days to count the dead at the restaurant – 72 people died that morning at Windows on the World.

“In complete shock and disbelief, I witnessed the towers implode and collapse. I dialled his number several times. He didn’t answer the phone “Nancy stated.

Jupiter’s body was discovered quickly on top of the rubble by rescuers. The family provided a DNA sample from his hairbrush, and he was identified by the weekend.

“We were extremely fortunate. We held a proper funeral for him and collected his ashes. Many others were not so fortunate “Nancy stated. Only about 1,600 of the 2,754 victims’ remains have been identified two decades later.

Jupiter was 42 years old when he died, and Nancy, who was 40 at the time, had known him for two decades.

When they met in college in 1981, he was studying economics and she was studying music therapy. Jupiter would come to a deli where she worked to meet her, and they would bond over a slice of carrot cake. They ordered a carrot cake for their wedding in 1991. Nancy’s family friend, folk singer Pete Seeger, performed at the wedding.

Jupiter, the youngest of five brothers, grew up in north-eastern India, the son of a doctor mother and an engineer father. He studied German in Delhi after graduating from high school. He was a pleasant and friendly man, “my best friend, really,” his elder brother, Yambem Laba, recalls.

Nancy described him as “a real dude… a ladies man.” Jupiter was a “good sportsman” who held a long jump record at his Indian school. He was a music fan.”

“You know, he was a gregarious guy. He could light up a room.”

Jupiter was pleased with his work at Windows on the World. He’d return home, giddy with excitement about the celebrity diners he’d met: Bill Clinton, broadcaster Barbara Walters, and figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi. “His biggest regret was that he didn’t get a picture with Mr Clinton, his favourite president,” Nancy said.

9/11: ‘All we could see was smoke in the distance’

It all came to an end on a beautiful Tuesday morning. A painful void ensued.

“I couldn’t sleep the first year.” “Every night, I cried myself to sleep,” Nancy explained.

“I was perplexed as to how this could have happened. How could so many people despise us? I started reading and learning. I forgave the terrorists in my heart.

“I told myself that I couldn’t live with hatred. I needed to start over. “I needed to rediscover who I was.”

Nancy began dating about a year and a half later. She married Jerry Feldmann, a civil engineer, in 2006. “In the end, love saves you,” she said.

Nancy stated that she does not go a single day without thinking about Jupiter. At home, there’s a small shrine dedicated to him. Jupiter’s business card, two bottles of wine from a special event, and a wooden wine kit box were among the items she donated to the 9/11 museum.

Every few years, the family travels to Jupiter’s home in Manipur. Santi, 25, works in a Beacon restaurant and has learned to play the pung, a traditional Manipuri drum. “Our second home in Manipur is Jupiter’s link to his father,” Nancy explained. “It’s critical to stay connected to your roots.”

If Jupiter was still alive, the couple would have celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary in October.

“Trauma is an odd thing,” Nancy observed. Forgetting “isn’t an option,” but having to relive 9/11 every year can be difficult.

“Pain is like a knife that is very sharp and intense at first. The knife becomes blunter over time, and the pain becomes duller.”

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