Sekou Siby was supposed to be inside the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.
Siby, an immigrant from Ivory Coast, worked in the kitchen at Windows on the World, a restaurant at the top of the north tower. But on that day, he had switched shifts with another kitchen worker, Moises Rivas.
"I was a prep cook, so for eight hours peeling potatoes and cleaning onions. And when Moises Rivas was hired, I was assigned to train him. We had a strong relationship because I was directing his work," says Siby, in a remembrance recorded for StoryCorps and the National September 11 Memorial and Museum.
Three days before Sept. 11, Rivas asked Siby to swap shifts. "Do you mind working for me on Sunday, and I'll pick up your shift on Tuesday?" he asked.
On Tuesday, the planes hit the towers. "He did not make it," Siby says. "He has two kids."
More than 70 of Siby's other colleagues also died that day, many of them also immigrants.
"Losing one person in your life is traumatic, but I lost a lot of people. And what I compare it to is the experience of a soldier, without being a soldier," he says. "Because a soldier is trained to lose [a] massive amount of people. And we were just kitchen workers."
After Sept. 11, Siby, now 49, drove a cab for more than a year. He liked that the job was impersonal. "You know, take this person [from] point A and I drop you [at] point B. Let's not make friends. Because I felt like if I had to lose another close friend of mine, I don't think I would be able to recoup from it," he says.
"The feeling of why Moises, why not me, is something that will travel in me my entire life. He went to work and never made it home."
Audio produced for Morning Edition by Jud Esty-Kendall.
StoryCorps is a national nonprofit that gives people the chance to interview friends and loved ones about their lives. These conversations are archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, allowing participants to leave a legacy for future generations. Learn more, including how to interview someone in your life, at StoryCorps.org.