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Marine Reflects on Personal Impact of 9/11

Sgt. Lazaro Arocha, a New Yorker who joined the Marines one day following the Sept. 11 attacks, served in Iraq, and is now a recruiter, shares his story as the first in a series on Americans changed by 9/11.

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  • SGT. LAZARO AROCHA, U.S. Marine Corps:

    My name is Sgt. Lazaro Arocha. I'm 25. I was born and raised in New York City, New York. And I joined the United States Marine Corps the day after 9/11.

    The towers used to just stand right there. The last time I was up here was actually on 9/11. When the second plane hit, that's — I just got up here just in time to see that. It was a shock. It was definitely a shock.

    These terrorists are, you know, attacking our country, you know, especially my city, you know? I was, like, holy smokes, you know, right, right in — you know, right in the Big Apple. I was like, no way, man, that this isn't the way it's going to be.

    I started hating an enemy I didn't know, you know, existed, right? I didn't know who these people were. I didn't know they had a face. I didn't know anything. I wanted to, you know, look them in the eye.

    I want to find out what it is exactly about us, about Americans, that they hate so much. I had to stay in my girlfriend's parents' house. I stayed with them that night. Her brother, we were both sitting up, because he just had got home.

    And he was like: You know, I wish I could do something about it.

    I was thinking about this the whole day. I said: Well, we can join the Marines, man.

    He looked at me, and he started laughing. He's like: There's no way, man.

    I said, no. He — you know, you should join the Marines.

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