My Story: Rafael Munoz

As a young child, I remember sitting in the passenger seat as we drove along the Brooklyn side of the water and seeing the Twin Towers being built. Little did I know that I would be an eyewitness to the events of September 11, and see them fall.

On September 11, I was at the bank getting change for the business where I was the assistant manager. A TV was on and showing the news about the first tower. When I returned back to work I went to the roof to see for myself. I saw the second plane hit the tower – there was an orange blast. I saw the first tower go down, and then I got down from the roof.

By December, I was a resident of Ohio and hospitalized for three days with tracheal bronchitis. This was the first of many health problems that resulted from being present at 9/11. I was constantly getting sick, I had pneumonia twice that year.

I found then that I didn’t want to be around any crowds, stopped attending church, wore dark sunglasses everywhere I went and was afraid to go outside the house. I was living like this for three years and was finally diagnosed with PTSD, agoraphobia and depression.

But knowing the diagnosis did not make life any better. During those three years I went from being a law-abiding citizen to being a felon. I lost my family, my friends and was incarcerated for two years.

Upon my release, and return to Lorain County I found myself homeless. Businesses would not hire an ex-felon. Due to my diagnosis I was able to become a member of Gathering Hope House – a daytime facility for persons with mental health issues.

They blessed me with a $500 stipend that I managed to get a room with, but I knew I would need a job to keep the room. I was told that Goodwill Industries of Lorain County was a place to get help finding a job. I was afraid they would say no like everyone else had because of my background.

I went to the Goodwill Job Club and started working with a job developer there. He let me know when a job was available with Goodwill and suggested I apply for it. They told me the job was only two days a week, but I told them I would work hard at anything available.

I started October 14, 2010 and since then became full-time. While working here I’ve learned to help others instead of focusing on myself and my worries. I’m not burdened by the things that used to bother me and I have been able to move forward with my life.

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