9/11 survivor savors gifts of life

COPAKE — For the last 10 years, Angel Rubet has celebrated two birthdays each year: September 3, the date of his actual birth in 1962, and September 11, which he and his family consider a date of rebirth, the date that Mr. Rubet survived the destruction of the World Trade Center.

As with many in Building One/the South Tower, Mr. Rubet’s survival that day was a fluke: a bit of fatigue, a lot of work to be done, a decision to buy coffee earlier rather than later. And so he was on the 44th floor, not the 84th floor, when he felt the building shake. Looking out a wall of windows, he saw furniture and paper falling through from the sky.

He made his escape then, in a process he remembers as if it were yesterday — by staircase, on foot, in a bus, in a taxi with four other people. He reached his parents’ apartment, at 163rd Street and Riverside Drive, where he kept his car. He calmed his parents — they both thought he was dead — and then he drove home to Copake. He spent the evening with his wife and their two children, then ages 2 and 4.

“For me, the last 10 years have been a gift,” says Mr. Rubet. “I’ve been able to watch my children grow up. My son starts high school this fall.

“I cherish the time with everyone I meet,” he says. “I tell people that things aren’t bad; if I made it out, there isn’t a bad day, there are days with challenges.”

The gift of life did come with challenges. Mrs. Rubet was pregnant at the time and miscarried through the shock of the day.

Mr. Rubet worked as an account executive for Temenos, which dealt in corporate systems for banks. In fact, Temenos had found new office space and was ready to move. The company continued to pay its employees and in November 2001 it reopened in new quarters.

There it remained until June 2002. “Then they let us all go,” says Mr. Rubet. With the upheaval in banking after 9/11, “there just wasn’t any business.”

Mr. Rubet was unemployed until March 2003, when he took a job with Key Bank in Albany, at a 50% cut in pay. “And we still had to pay the bills,” he says.

The situation was rough for many of the survivors, he says; his situation was not unique. “You have the shock, and then the financial burdens. Many families suffered. You think, ‘Are we ever going to get out from under this?’

“But we climbed out of that hole, and got much higher than I expected.”

Mr. Rubet now works from home for Softpro, a company headquartered in Germany that deals with bank fraud. “God compensated me,” he says. “I have more time with my wife and children.” Financially, they’re fine, he says, and just as important, “we try to live a good and respectful life.”

To honor the 10th anniversary of 9/11 on Sunday, Mr. Rubet suggests commemorating the people more than the event. He and his family will be at home. “We spend the day together,” he says. “Maybe we have a special dinner.”

It’s a celebratory occasion; calls come in from friends and extended family. One Temenos coworker always calls, says Mr. Rubet. “We say, ‘Well, we’ve lived another year!’ And we’re thankful for that.”

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