Monday, September 11, 2006

We Will Not Forget: Ezra Aviles, Age 41

Today I join with thousands of fellow Americans to honor those killed in the terrorist attacks of September 11. I dedicate this post to Ezra Aviles, 41, of Commack, NY, who worked for the Port Authority of New York/New Jersey at the World Trade Center.

From the Newsday website:

Ezra Aviles
He Worked to the Last Seconds

October 11, 2001

As the first hijacked plane struck One World Trade Center, Ezra Aviles was on the phone calling Port Authority officials from the 61st floor, describing the plane crash, giving emergency guidelines and warning colleagues to stay away from the building.

Aviles, a Port Authority senior manager for strategic planning and development, had seen American Airlines Flight 11 pass his windows before it plowed into the North Tower some floors above. Rather than flee for safety, Aviles stayed on the phone informing police of what was happening. He also briefly called his wife, Mildred, in Commack at about 8:50 a.m., but continued working, helping others to escape. His body was found in the rubble four days after the collapse of the towers.

Lewis Eisenberg, chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, praised Aviles' heroic action, calling it "the best of America in the worst of times." He listened to Aviles' voice-mail messages on his cell phone as he toured the wreckage.

Aviles, 41, formerly assistant commissioner of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, had responded to the previous terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in 1993, when six died and many suffered smoke inhalation. An expert on building materials and air quality control, he came to the Port Authority six years ago where he "hoped he could do something to make a difference," said family friend Debra Ferguson.

A geologist, Aviles was also a dedicated environmentalist. His daughter, Jacqueline, 13, who eulogized her father at services Sept. 19 at Christ the King Church in Commack, said, "We have all been impacted by his passionate pursuit of a better environment for all and future generations ... he made the ultimate sacrifice by placing the lives of his fellow co-workers before his own. My dad is a hero never to be forgotten, a peaceful warrior of the 21st century."

Another daughter, Kathryn, observed her fourth birthday Sept. 30. She was given a party and gifts at the Pumpkin Patch Day Nursery in Commack, where she attends with her 2-year-old brother, Andrew.

"Ezra's first priority was his family," said his wife's aunt, Carmen Rivera of Puerto Rico. "He would not schedule any meetings on the first day of school so he could take his children to school, and he would always be there when one of his children had a dance recital or a soccer game."

His co-workers "absolutely adored him. He would make them laugh. He was always in a good mood," Rivera said. A busload of Port Authority workers attended his funeral.

Born in Far Rockaway, Aviles graduated from Beach Channel High School. He met his wife, the former Mildred Marti, when both were students at York College. He earned his bachelor of science degree at York and a master's degree in geology from Brooklyn College. They were married 21 years. --Rhoda Amon (Newsday)

This link will take you to a page where those who knew Mr. Aviles recorded their memories about him and offered condolences to his family. The portrait these leave is of an ordinary man; a man who cared for his wife and his family; a man who was not looking to become a hero.

But, like the passengers on Flight 93, when the call for heroism came, he answered it.