The scene was apocalyptic with a sense of urgency and panic. It was December 13th, 2001, just a couple of days after the tragic terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. An estimated 3,000 people lost their lives from the attacks and rescue and recovery crews were risking their own lives to clean-up and navigate through the debris and rubble in hopes of the possibility of saving any survivors.
Some people would describe the men and women who selflessly volunteered their time and services to help clean-up the after-math of the devastating attacks as heroic. Lou Pabon, one of the construction workers who worked in the rubble of the World Trade Center, doesn’t consider himself a hero for his actions, stating: “I’m no hero. It’s not about being a hero. The heroes were the people in that building helping each other during time of crisis.”
Lou Pabon, born and raised in New York City (uptown Manhattan), worked for six months in the recovery efforts post-attacks at the World Trade Center. Starting out as a volunteer, Pabon started out the first few days doing everything by hand in bucket brigades. Soon Pabon began to work for the construction company Grace Industries, which was assigned to clean-up the southwest quadrant of the World Trade Center on West Street. Pabon did everything from working by hand the first few days of the job to staging trucks to load-up debris.
Pabon stated that his experience at the World Trade Center opened his eyes as to what is important in his life: his family. A moment that specifically stood out to him in his time working at the World Trade was meeting John Vigiano, a man who lost his two kids, a firemen and police officer respectively, in the incident. This hit him particularly hard, because Pabon has two kids of his own. Pabon recalls offering Vigiano his condolences and being embraced by Vigiano, who told Pabon “Everything is going to be alright” as well as Vigiano seeking out Pabon one day to introduce his wife. To this day, Pabon and Vigiano remain in contact.
Pabon also reflected back on earlier parts of his life, specifically his time working as a bartender at famed comedian, Rodney Dangerfield’s night club, Dangerfield’s comedy club, where he bartended for 25 years. Pabon described the experience as “jumpy” and reminiscing on the celebrities he had the opportunity to interact with and see perform, including John Belushi, Red Fox and Sarah Vaughan.. Pabon is also known for selling old pieces of the Brooklyn Bridge.
Pabon moved to Florida after the 9/11 tragedy and lived there with his sons, Cory and Louis. After convincing them to move back to New York, they in turn convinced Pabon to enroll back in school at FMCC where he’s interested in fine arts. Pabon’s goal currently includes a 50 state capital photo tour show. In conclusion of the interview, Pabon stated he hopes people learn from his experiences before ending with this quote:
“I’ve always been in contention that whatever you start, you finish. You don’t quit, whether you like it or not. You keep pushing through it because it becomes a stepping stone towards the next phase of your life. We are in an environment at FM, this school is a great school, for learning and growing. If I can impart anything on anybody that I meet in school is you shouldn’t let this opportunity slip through your fingers. It is a challenge, but life is a challenge. When you challenge yourself I an educational environment, there is a safety net that catches you. If you don’t empower yourself with knowledge, you will work hard and struggle all your life. It’s better to work hard for a little while and reap the rewards for the rest of your life.”