"Meaningless." In a city where Minh Ngo says she "found her people," it was the word she used to describe everything she was doing in life when 9/11 happened.
The job she enjoyed, the after-work parties, the shopping, the city life—all meaningless after the attack on the city she loves. A young 20-something at the time, Ngo was living the good life, she says.
"That's where my life was, my friends, my boyfriend," she says. And she left it all behind to return to California and pursue something, anything, that could make her feel like what she was doing mattered in the bigger scheme of things. It's what led her to a career in
Ngo is now the executive director of Cupertino Education Endowment Fund, which works in partnership with Cupertino Union School District, parents and the community to raise funds to support Cupertino schools. Among other nonprofit leadership roles, she also served as the executive director for Silicon Valley Children's Fund, an organization that supports foster youth in the community.
But it wasn't the role she envisioned for herself when she was living just blocks from the Twin Towers. Armed with a law degree and a love of fashion, Ngo was focused on work, buying shoes and having fun, but it all came to a screeching halt that fateful day.
Ngo was home in the Bay Area for a visit with family when the planes flew into the buildings she knew so well. Still sleeping when the planes struck, Ngo was jolted awake by her mother, who had to yank her hair to awaken her.
She spent the hours that followed calling friends and co-workers. Everything in the city was shut down, and nobody within the city could reach one another, but calls from outside the city were able to get in, Ngo says. So she was relaying calls to people she didn’t even know, just to get out the word about those who were OK.
“I spent the next four hours on the phone just calling people,” she says.
It would be a month before she returned to her Manhattan apartment just a couple blocks from Ground Zero, the apartment that held all those shoes—and the memories of the life she thought she’d never leave.
"I walked up to the building, looked up at it and just turned around and walked away," Ngo says.
There was nothing in there but things anyway, things covered with ugly black soot, the remnant and reminder that would never wash out.
The events of 9/11 don’t consume her, she says, but what she does keep inside of that time now is the memory of New York and the people who make it all that she loves about it. They are resilient, kind and loving people she says; they are her people.
Patch, through its parent company, AOL, is involved in a project called ActionAmerica. The project is a collaboration of several corporations, individuals and nonprofits organizations designed to honor those affected by the events of 9/11 and unify the country through positive action.