A photo of Henryk Siwiak, the all but forgotten last man to be killed on 9/11 in New York City. – Todd Heisler/The New York Times

Ten years ago tomorrow, the United States suffered a devastating blow in the terrorist attacks. We all know this, and friends, families, cities, and the country as a whole, really the whole world, are remembering those who lost their lives on that fateful day. We know the numbers, we know the story, we hear the tiring usage of rhetoric in the media, but there is one story that was forgotten about from that day.

Three deadly weapons struck down their victims in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001. Two were hijacked jets. The third was a .40-caliber pistol on a dark corner of Brooklyn, with just 18 minutes remaining in that day. – M. Wilson, NYT

Well, almost forgotten. The NY Daily News first reported this in October, 2001, with the NY Times revisiting the story this week, an honorable alternative to some of the overly-dramatic, ratings-based 24-hour media stories. It seems that September 11, 2001 would have been a rather uneventful day had it not been for the attacks. In New York City, there was only one homicide(reported), quite a peaceful day in this city’s standards.

A Polish immigrant was given wrong directions as he was on his way to his first day at a new job. Henryk Siwiak had immigrated to New York City from Poland about eleven months earlier, after his railroad gig there evaporated. Relocating to the Rockaways in Queens, he was scheduled to begin his first night as a cleaner mopping floors for a Pathmark in Brooklyn. He received directions from his landlady, and made his way to 1 Albany Ave. The directions she gave him were dreadfully wrong, as the Pathmark pharmacy was over three miles away, at 1525 Albany Ave. The difference, for anyone familiar with the City of New York, is night and day. He was supposed to be working in the Farragut area of Brooklyn, but instead ended up in Bed-Stuy, one of the most dangerous and notorious neighborhoods back then(just ask Biggie, ODB, Lil’ Kim, Fab, GZA, Mos Def, Jay-Z, or Aaliyah, to name a few, they’ve told you already). As he got off the A train at Utica, he turned the wrong way onto Albany Ave, into an area that has a thriving economy based on the drug trade.

He was shot immediately as he entered that zone, and stumbled up the stoop of a nearby brownstone, and rang the doorbell for help. New Yorkers don’t answer the bell many times, especially right after shots go off outside the window. As he walked down the stairs, he fell face first and died at 11:42 pm that night, the last man to die on what was such an awful day.

With the strength of being the world’s largest municipal police force, the NYPD, virtually in its entirety, was working 12- to 14-hour shifts attending to the chaos in lower Manhattan. As the NYPD Crime Scene Unit couldn’t arrive to the scene, an evidence collection team was sent to assist, though their expertise is mostly related to robberies and such. Needless, though difficult, to say, 10 years later case remains unsolved.

Every year on the anniversary, Mr. Siwiak’s sister, now 62, makes her way to St. Patrick’s Cathedral, another mourner in the crowd, but separate. Sometimes it is too crowded, or she is told she needs a ticket, and so she puts it off for a couple of days. Nudged aside, by a city’s larger loss. – M. Wilson, NYT

I love my hometown city of New York to death. Though I will never forget the lives lost on that night from the attack on this city and the dreams, ideas, cultures, and aspirations of peoples that make up this greatest of cities and our great nation, I could not help but feel some sorrow at this mostly forgotten story.

119 Decatur St. in Bedford-Stuyvesant, where Henryk fell after ringing the bell, becoming the last man to die in NYC on 9/11/01.

A Polish immigrant, an American dream, New York City; a classic story that my great-grandfather undertook almost a century earlier.

I also connect with this story at this time for the simple fact that I booked my next travel to Europe in February, when I will go and experience Warsaw, Poland. When the NY Times resurrected this story several days ago, I felt like I found the connection to my choice for traveling to Poland, as when I booked the trip a week ago, I had really just spun the globe and pointed.

Finally, I post this story with the wish that we as human beings can respect all life and all cultures. In this day and age, it takes a tragic catastrophe such as 9/11 to humble ourselves and reflect on the preciousness of life. What is the connection with this depressing story and Dauntless Jaunter? Through traveling the right way, we can increase our understanding and tolerance towards other peoples, nationalities, cultures, traditions, and religions, among other things. We can spread this knowledge to the circle of people close to us back home, and plant the seeds for change, hopefully reaching and touching the hearts of the ignorant worldwide, eventually. Travelers have an obligation to be the ambassadors of their home, to show the world they venture in that they are not the stereotypes, not the fat, trigger-happy American or an extremist, “towel-headed” Pakistani, but rather cultured, educated, open-minded sponges, soaking up all the good the world has to offer, so that it can be squeezed out to others back home.

– Dedicated to the memory of Henryk Siwiak, “Niech spoczywa w pokoju.” (May he rest in peace.)

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