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Mon Gjonbalaj worked in Tower Two for 30 years. Mon was an Albanian immigrant and was 65 years old. About two weeks before September 11, he and his wife discussed retirement. He said, "I can't do it. I can't turn my back" said his son, Sal Gjonbalaj. The trade center was more than a workplace for Gjonbalaj. "It was like a second home," his son said.
Mon and his wife Hanifa left Montenegro in 1971 and came to the United States. Mr. Gjonbalaj stuck close to his family in New York and in Europe. The Throgs Neck family is not unfamiliar with international conflict. Gjonbalaj, one of 13 children, regularly called his family in the Balkans during the 1999 war in Kosovo. He had one brother and two sisters in Kosovo and two brothers in Montenegro, all of whom survived the war. And his daughter, Shkurta Nikaj, 36, serves as a translator with the NATO forces in Kosovo.
His workmates often called him Jambalaya because his Albanian last name was so hard to pronounce. Mon Gjonbalaj (pronounced JAHN-buh- lie) liked the Cajun nickname even though he was always proud of his Albanian roots.
He would go to work an hour early to see his friends at Tower Two, his son said. "When he came home, he would get on the phone and call them. 'Hey, Tony, what are we going to do tomorrow? Where are we going to meet?"
Father and son rode the bus into Manhattan every morning. His son said he had a premonition something terrible would happen that day.
"I definitely felt it, something was going on," he said.
Later that morning, a co- worker told Sal Gjonbalaj about an accident at the World Trade Center.
They watched on television as the second plane hit Tower Two. Gjonbalaj had called home after the first tower was struck and called again at 9:08 a.m., five minutes after his building was hit.
He spoke to his daughter-in-law, saying he was trapped. "He said, 'I don't think I'm getting out. Take care of the family,' " his son said. The family held a memorial service Oct. 20 at Gino's Cafe in the Bronx
Gjonbalaj, a janitor for American Building Maintenance who cleaned the offices of the state Department of Taxation and Finance, was on the 86th floor of his second home when terrorists attacked. His body has not been found. (This is from Jan. 2002, I have been unable so far to find out if his body was ever recovered, I'm still searching).
Mon Gjonbalaj is survived by his wife Hanifa, daughter Shkurta Nikaj, and three sons Sal, Sam and Bekim, seven grandchildren and ten brothers and sisters.
I did not know Mon Gjonbalaj, but I am honored to pay tribute to his life. Some memorial thoughts on Mon by those who knew him:
Grandpa, now it is 2005 its been over 4 years that i last saw you, i love, i really miss you and i wish that i saw you, i really miss you and so does everyone at home and plus i play baseball, GOOD BYE GRANDPA
PS:you will always be in my heart forever
*** Posted by Samid on 2005-05-14 ***
Man gjonbalaj he was wonderful person hard worker with full respect. We still love and miss him with all our hearts and he will be in our hearts forever.
*** Posted by Blerim Bicaj on 2004-07-10 ***
Hi dad. Even after two year's passing there isn't a day that passes without us thinking about you, The beautiful person you were, The great memories we have of you, I miss you so much.
We love you dad.
*** Posted by Sal Gjonbalaj on 2003-09-19 ***
Mon Gjonbalaj left wonderful memories and much love to his family and friends. That is his legacy and that is what I'm remembering today about 9/11. Mon Gjonbalaj, Rest in Peace. Your life had meaning and your friends and family will always remember you. And so will I.
The 2996 people who died on September 11, 2001, had unique and beautiful life stories. Please follow this link and read about some of them. It will be time well spent. ***Update *** via Michelle, The 2,996 Project has exceeded its bandwidth and been shut down. Geez. You'd think the one day a hosting company could give a client commemorating 9/11 a break would be this one...another update: here's a mirror site...*** 2,996 is a tribute to the victims of 9/11.
On September 11, 2006, 2,996 volunteer bloggers
will join together for a tribute to the victims of 9/11.
Each person will pay tribute to a single victim.
We will honor them by remembering their lives,
and not by remembering their murderers.
Links for this tribute: