Memorial Day

Elsy Carolina Osorio-Oliva

Carolina called her mother from the burning tower saying, “Mami, I am so scared.” She told her mother that she wanted to leave but that they were told to stay where they were, that they would be safer remaining in their offices. That was the last Chaney heard from her daughter. When I last spoke with Chaney it was shortly after 9/11/2001. She called me in desperation hoping that I might have relatives or friends who could help her locate her daughter who, I was shocked to learn, had worked in the World Trade Center.

Feliciana Oliva-Umanzor, “Chaney”, came to work for me as a housekeeper on the recommendation of a friend. She was sweet, pretty and as gentle a human being as I have ever met. She spoke of her children with palpable pride. She spoke of her fears and the struggles of living in war torn El Salvador. She bravely left family, home, an office job and college to travel to the U.S. where she hoped to find safety for herself and her children. Without contacts or fluency in English, she cleaned houses to provide for her children.

I had known that Carolina had a wonderful new job and that her mother was very proud of her. I believe that Chaney felt that her own hard work was paying off for her children. She could see the value of her struggles to start a new life in the U.S. She could see that she could relax a little bit, that her hard work and determination were all worth the effort. But the pain in her voice on the phone that day in September conveyed more anguish than Chaney had known in El Salvador. This was deep, unfathomable and inconsolable pain. I had no solace for her. My offers of the warmth of friendship and my promise that I would ask friends and family for help in finding her daughter were words and promises and gestures that, we both knew but did not say, would not result in finding Carolina alive.

Jean McGavin
Bethlehem, CT, 2011

The New York Times produced one of the most elegant and moving pieces of journalism relating to 9/11/2001, “A NATION CHALLENGED: PORTRAITS OF GRIEF: THE VICTIMS”. Every day, until all the victims were memorialized, two or three each day, each victim’s brief story was told, from janitors, to CEO’s. Elsy Carolina Orsorio-Oliva’s “Portrait of Grief” is below.

A NATION CHALLENGED: PORTRAITS OF GRIEF: THE VICTIMS

ELSY C. OSORIO-OLIVA

Family Comes First

Elsy C. Osorio-Oliva was the oldest sibling in her Flushing, Queens, household, but she acted like a mother hen. She dotd on her younger brother and sister — Kate and Anthony Umanzor, 10 and 8 — with whom she lived, along with her mother and stepfather. And she doted on her mother, Feliciana Oliva-Umanzor, who left college and a war-ravaged El Salvador in 1983 for a new living in the United States cleaning apartments.

A junior translation engineer with General Telecom on the 83rd floor of 1 World Trade Center, Ms. Osorio-Oliva, 27, spoiled her sister and brother with toys, outings and weekend breakfasts of pancakes and French toast. She paid for her mother to take courses in computer and tax preparation so she could get an enjoyable job. The daughter, who was known by her middle name, Carolina, even lent her mother some clothes for the office, and planned to buyher a car so she could be more independent.

But there was so much independence that Ms. Osorio-Oliva wanted for herself. Engaged for the last two years, her mother said, she wanted to get married and have a house big enough to move in her whole family.

''She said, 'Mami, I can't live without you or the children,' '' her mother said.

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