Server’s future lost with tower

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When the North Tower of the World Trade Center collapsed on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, the iconic Windows on the World restaurant on floors 106 and 107 fell as well, killing 73 workers.

“I was shocked, because suddenly I lost my job, I lost my colleagues,” Windows on the World server Delwar Khondoker recalled recently.

Khondoker, 45, worked the evening shift at the restaurant and had just returned to his home in Jamaica after sending his daughter to school when he saw the South Tower of the World Trade Center crumble on television at 9:59 a.m. The North Tower toppled a half hour later.

“Now I’m really scared — thinking, dreaming [about 9/11]. Mentally, I’m very upset,” he said.

In his department of about 22, which served the main dining area in the North Tower, six lost their lives.  On the 106th floor that morning nearly 70 people were attending a financial technical seminar and Neil Levin, the executive director of the Port Authority, was having breakfast at Windows on the World. They all perished.

Khondoker came to the United States from Bangladesh in 1988 and worked at various jobs in the restaurant business, including serving at the Hudson River Club in the World Financial Center. He began working at Windows on the World in 1996 after his cousin’s friend told him of an opening there.

 Distraught by the catastrophe and left without a job, Khondoker sought help at centers established by the Hudson River for 9/11 survivors by organizations like the Red Cross. He lived on unemployment for a year while looking for a job and dreaming of starting his own business.

More than 300 employees at the fabled restaurant were left jobless after the attacks.

In 2002, with the assistance of Restaurant Opportunities Center of New York, Khondoker and other unemployed workers from Windows on the World had the opportunity to work and manage their own restaurant, Colors, at 417 Lafayette St. in Manhattan. “Our goal was to open a business we could work ourselves,” he said.

But when the restaurant lost business within a few years due to mismanagement, Restaurant Opportunities Center closed Colors and decided to renovate it. All the employees, including Khondoker, were laid off.

Colors reopened in the summer of 2009 under new management, but few of the former Windows on the World workers were rehired.

Khondoker said the new restaurant had contacted him initially, but did not hire him because business was slow downtown in the aftermath of the 2008 market collapse. He and some of his colleagues from Windows on the World now work at the restaurant in a  Hyatt hotel in New Jersey.

“My goal now is my family,” he said. “I can invest in earning money for them.”

Yet he has not forgotten his colleagues who died on 9/11 and prays for them at the mosque Friday nights.

“I wish their souls go to heaven,” he said.

Updated 7:09 pm, September 14, 2011
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