Sept 11 was a terrible tragedy that reverberated around the globe, including in Malaysia, which counts three among the nearly 3,000 who died on that day.
IT’S been 10 years but the tragedy of 9/11 lingers on for the survivors and the family of those who died on that terrible day.
Three Malaysians were killed in the World Trade Center attacks in New York, but they have not been forgotten.
At a forum called Remembering 9/11 last Thursday, S. Paramsothy, whose son P. Vijayashanker was one of the victims of the attacks, said the pain of the loss remained to this day. “Without Shanker, life is empty and different for my wife and I. There is no purpose in life,” he said.
Vijayashanker, 23, fell victim when the second plane hit. He worked as an actuary with AON Corporation, an insurance brokerage firm on the 103rd floor of the South Tower. According to accounts, Shanker could have escaped but concern for his injured boss made him stay back.
Shanker had, in fact, survived a near-fatal incident at the WTC in August 2000. He was badly injured when an elevator he was in overshot the highest floor, hit the ceiling and fell back down. He hurt his back and spent four months in a cast.
His family, friends and colleagues noted that he was a person of compassion and care, and would go the extra mile for someone in need. They said he made friends easily, and was very bright and hardworking. Shanker’s father, Paramsothy, only found out that his son was a high achiever after his death.
He was elected to the “Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities & Colleges 1998-99”, and was among the top students in the insurance exams he sat for. Shanker’s father was on his way to visit Shanker, and was on transit in Dubai, when the tragedy struck. Five days earlier, Paramsothy had had a heart scare.
“But I survived. If only I had died, he would have come home, and he would still be alive,” said Paramsothy in a New York Times article in 2002.
In an interview with The Star on the first anniversary of the tragedy, his father and his mother, Pathawathy, spoke of Shanker’s love for art and photography. The family home in Petaling Jaya is filled with his work and the objects collected in his travels.
“Sometimes when I miss my son, I will read the letters from his friends from all over the world, and I will cry. I never knew he had so many friends and that he had touched so many lives. He was such a wonderful affectionate soul, and he will live on in our hearts,” said Paramsothy.
On the legacy.com page, dated Sept 10, 2006, a friend of Shanker’s, Jonas Enstrom, wrote: “Sometimes I think of you every day, sometimes I think of you once in a while, and sometimes I don’t. Years pass by but what you left inside of me remains intact. To be honest, you have unwillingly become an icon of my great years in NYC. When I think of good times (fondue at my place) or bad times (exam results and so on) or even times with no special meaning (watching TV with you and the boys), you automatically pop up. You have had (and still have) a truly positive impact on my life.”
Ang Siew Nya
American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the World Trade Center North Tower at 8.50am, where Ang Siew Nya, 37, a technical analyst for Marsh USA Inc, was in her office on the 95th floor. She had returned to work just two days earlier after a week of medical leave.
According to an article that was published in The Star-Ledger, Ang enrolled in a Canadian college when she was 18. She moved to the United States three years later to study electrical engineering at the University of Southwestern Louisiana.
While there, she met husband Lee Kui-Liong. By 2001, they were residing with their two daughters, Jeanee, eight, and Winnee, four, in New Jersey. A New York Times report noted that she encouraged her daughters to take up dance, piano, ice skating, gymnastics and French.
Ang not only valued family time, but was also very serious about her job, where she quickly won promotions.
Ang would leave for work early before anyone else in the house was awake. She would then call at 8am to check on the girls. After Sept 11, the paper noted, the girls said good night to a picture of Ang, which hung on the bedroom wall. Some nights, they complained to it too.
“Sometimes I have to let them know that Mommy is in heaven, and other than that I just don’t know what to say,” the father said. “Sometimes if they say ‘I want mommy,’ I can’t do anything’.”
The following year, Lee and his two daughters flew back to Ang’s hometown in Penang to attend her memorial with her family. Ang’s father, Ang Ah Bah, and her brother, Khee Kheng, had flown to New York the previous year for Ang’s memorial.
In an interview with The Star in 2002 to mark the first anniversary, Ang’s brother Kee San voiced the anguish the family felt. “There’s nothing to say. It’s over. There’s nothing we can do. It’s really no point bringing it up. The more we talk about it, the sadder we are. The kids will cry,” he said.
In 2006, Ang’s eldest daughter’s responded to a tribute left on the Internet (legacy.com) by someone who did not know her mother.
“Hi, I just want to say thank you for choosing her. She was my Mom and I miss her so much. She was a great person and now that she is gone, (it) is hard for me to deal with even though it has been five years. Now I have to help my dad take care of my little sister who was too young to really understand what had happened at the time.”
Khoo Sei Lai
According to a 2002 article in The Star, Khoo was 38 when she perished in the tragedy. She was a mutual fund manager at Fred Alger Management at WTC and was often sought by the media for her views.
Khoo, the second youngest in a family of seven, did her secondary education at an international school in Singapore before continuing her studies in the United States. At the time of her death, she was engaged to be married.
According to a New York Times article, Khoo taught her younger brother Yeng Leng survival skills when he first arrived in New York to attend college. This included which subways to take and how to use Zagat’s to find the best dumplings in town. She also took him to his first Broadway show.
“She always remembered what she ordered and what was good the last time we ate some place,” said Yeng Leng. He said she was also usually first to “fight for the bill.”
Her family has said that what’s passed is in the past.
Khoo was also listed on the legacy.com page (dated April 10, 2002), with an acquaintance called Heidi Dokko paying tribute to her memory: “I’ve had the honour of meeting Sei-lai a few times through her younger brother Yeng. I still have an old winter coat she left at the upper west side apartment. I remember dining with her once at a Brazilian restaurant in NYC (New York City) and thinking for such a petite, harmless-looking woman, she was sassy, bold and fierce. That made her an inspiration to me. Her legacy will surely live on through her wizardry in the financial world and through the people who loved her.”