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Setting apart her Sundays spared her from World Trade Center disaster



Gloria Burgos thought she heard thunder, but didn’t think too much about it.

She kept walking to one of her two jobs when she saw smoke and then was able to see the World Trade Center’s north tower ablaze.

“I just started crying. I had friends who worked there. And then I saw the second jet hit,” she recounted.

Oddly enough, Burgos experienced gratitude mixed with sorrow because she realized that if she had accepted a job there she could have died on that tragic day, leaving behind twin daughters.

When looking for a second job, Burgos had applied at the World Trade Center. Upon discovering she’d have to work on Sundays, Burgos declined the offer in order to attend Graffiti Church, located in Manhattan’s Lower East Side community.

Jim Veneman/BP

Gloria Burgos found new life at Graffiti Church in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Once an angry addict who served jail time, Burgos now works as a receptionist at the church.

Though Burgos successfully changed her own life with a bootstrap effort after incarceration related to drug abuse, the WTC tragedy caused her to take a deeper, inward look, fostering spiritual change.

Burgos had hardly ever read the Bible and never had studied it. The only religious training she had was when she was a young girl. The young Burgos tried to escape an abusive stepfather and her parents’ slavery to heroin by running away from home and staying with nearby nuns.

As a young teen, Burgos became a drug addict just like her parents. The heroin they injected represented groceries for the younger Burgos. Just a few years later, Burgos used marijuana and cocaine.

A subsequent stay in jail made Burgos realize she needed to change her life.

Soon after gaining her freedom and continuing to maintain a sober lifestyle, Burgos gave birth to Jasmine and Jessica, her twins.

Burgos began working toward earning her GED, sometimes taking her twins in a stroller to school with her. She got work where and when she could. Upon receiving her diploma, she also earned certification as a home health provider. But the income was meager, so she had to take a second job as a concession worker. Her days began at 5:30 a.m. and concluded at 2 a.m.

Before Burgos attended Graffiti, she and her twin girls were the benefactors of a Graffiti Church ministry that aided working parents. Burgos quickly developed an appreciation for the ministry that provided transportation for school-aged children as well as tutoring.

As her daughters grew older, she wanted them to attend a Roman Catholic church. But they resisted, saying they were happy and comfortable where they were.

“I got to see what my daughters were experiencing at the church,” said Burgos, who soon began volunteering for jobs at Graffiti.

Burgos now is not only a volunteer, she is employed as an office worker. However, she still maintains two jobs. In a homeless shelter two blocks from Times Square, she teaches art and cooking classes. She also walks a serpentine route through Midtown Manhattan, looking street-to-street for homeless people who might want a shower, a meal, and a clean bed for the night.

But Burgos has Saturdays and Sundays off to spend with her girls and attend church.