Meet me in Chicago
October 4, 2001
Yoseph was born in Egypt, but came to the United States with his family, so remembered little
about his home country. To him, he was an American with slightly dark complexion and an
accent he seemed to have picked up from his parents. He studied hard and soon was able to go to
the University of Chicago, where he met most of those he would later call his life-long friends.
On graduation, he and about 25 others from that class made a promise that if something should go
wrong they would return to Chicago and meet in the pub where they hung out as undergraduates.
It was one of those acknowledgments to the uncertain times in which people lived, although none
thought the world would turn so sour as to actually make them show up.
Life scattered them, although many kept in touch by e-mail or telephone, some even took up
employment in the same financial firm, although each seemed to wind up in a different part of the
country. Many of Yoseph's friends found themselves in the World Trade Center. Yoseph won up
in the San Francisco office, until late August when he was required to fly east to do some work
in New York.
When the planes hit on Sept. 11, Yoseph didn't think. He just ran, leaving his keys and wallet in
the jacket on the back of his chair. He fled down the stairs and out of the building, and somehow
got to an airport, where he talked himself into a ticket and waited out the several days it took
before the FAA let planes get off the ground again.
He didn't think to call anybody in New York. He had his mind made up to get to that pub,
thinking everything would be all right when he got there. Somehow, he managed to get to
Chicago, before a clerk there spotted him, pushed a button, causing a host of FBI agents to jump
He was after all an Arab man, traveling without identification into one of the busiest airports in
the nation. At first, the agents didn't seem to believe him when he told them whom he was and
where he worked. The FBI, of course, tried to contact the New York office, but the entire firm,
except for a few lucky individuals such as Yoseph, had perished with the collapse of the
building. A call to San Francisco, however, produced better results.
People -- his friends -- from around the country had been calling him, reporting him missing. The
company itself was so glad to hear that he was alive, that it send a representative to Chicago to
make certain he was taken care of. They wired money ahead to make certain he had food and a
place to stay.
The FBI apologized profusely. They could not be too careful, they said, and offered to take him
back to New York City or even to San Francisco. But Yoseph said he wanted to remain in
Chicago. He claimed friends would soon be meeting him there. So as soon as he was released,
he took off to find that pub, and many hours later, friends started to show up, all of them rushing
to him to hug him, to make certain he was all right. Not all 25 had come. Some hadn't been as
lucky as he; some would remain part of the rubble of the World Trade Center.