September 11 Digital Archive






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SEIU Story: Story

Like so many immigrants to the United States, Nafija Lekic works hard as a maintenance worker who cleans offices. <P>Until the day of the attack on the World Trade Center, she worked at the 225 Liberty building -- just a stone's throw from the towers. <P>'I was very proud to work [near] the famous World Trade Center. My building where I work is another home for me. I've worked there for 15 years -- since 1987. I love that building and the people I work with,' Nafija said. <P>Nafija came to New York from Montenegro, Yugoslavia, with a two-year-old son in tow, in search of the American dream. <P>'Always, it was my dream to become American,' Nafija said. 'I came here for free religion, for better education for children, and for a better life.' <P>As an ethnic Albanian and Islamic woman, Nafija's life in Yugoslavia was very difficult. She was unable to practice her religion openly for fear of persecution. Now she fears that the brutal assault on the World Trade Center will irrevocably change the city and country she loves and calls home. <P>'People come here from all aver the world to leave trouble. Where will people go, where will we go, if things get bad here?' Nafija asked. <P>In the wake of this unprecedented disaster, nearly 2000 members of Local 32BJ face the temporary or permanent loss of their jobs. Nafija has to support three sons, ranging from 10 to 21 years of age. 'My oldest son studies psychology. I cannot read or write English, but my son is in college,' Nafija said, brimming with a mother's pride. <P>Unemployment benefits will not be enough to meet her financial responsibilities. <P>'I have children to feed, bills to pay. They say we could be out of work for six months, maybe a year. I don't know what I will do. But I am happy to be alive. I cannot complain, not when people suffer so,' Nafija said. <P>Her face darkened and her eyes filled with tears as the conversation turned to those who are missing or dead. Nafija nervously twisted her 'ha jab' --the lavender cloth covering her head in observance of her religious beliefs. <P>'This is not human! Believe me; this is someone evil,' Nafija said, referring to the terrorists responsible for the World Trade Center disaster. 'What I know from Islam, Koran, you would not kill even a fly. No one who believes in Islam would do this . . . this evil, evil thing.' <P>'No matter Christian, or Buddhist, or Moslem, or what you are, this hurts us all. This hurts everybody. The whole world has changed because of this.' <P>In the face of the increased anti-Islamic prejudice sweeping the country, Nafija remains steadfast in her commitment to practice Islam openly. 'I will not change. I came here to America to be free. I will wear my ha jab. I will pray five times every day. My religion is me,' Nafija said. <P>'We have to love each other. I hear a lot of hate and anger now. But now we need peace. We all need each other if we can go on.'

SEIU Story: Local Union


“seiu47.xml,” September 11 Digital Archive, accessed July 19, 2024,