Lost Around $10 Million


Adem Arici first sees a flash, then a thick layer of smoke over the World Trade Center on the morning of September 11, while he is crossing the Brooklyn Bridge. He is the owner of one of the top supermarket chains, Amish. He immediately calls his shop, which is next to the World Trade Center.
“I could only reach them over the phone after trying a few times. When I heard the employees saying there was rubble and fragments of body parts around the shop, I told them to leave the building immediately. After I hung up, I saw the second plane crash into the other tower. At that time, the traffic got stuck on the bridge. People were escaping from the bridge. I left my car there and walked to Manhattan. They tried to stop me but I had to reach my shop.”

Arici has more than 15 shops with more than 350 Turkish employees. He is known as the boss who employed the highest number of Turks in USA. When Arici reached his shop next to the World Trade Center, he knew there were more than 80 Turkish employees there.

Adem Arici, the owner of Zeytuna supermarket.

 “When I came to the shop, all the doors were open. Everything was in flames. I shouted around quickly. Cihat, Bayram… There was no answer. I thought some of the employees might have fainted because of the smoke. I went inside as far as I could. When I got out, I wasn’t feeling well. There was an ambulance, they gave me oxygen.”

Arici witnesses the demolition of his labor of 12 years under the Twin Towers. He rushes to his other shop, called Zeytuna, which is 200 meters away from the World Trade Center.

 “When I reached there, I saw all the employees taking bottles of water to the people outside. There were around 700 people in the shop. They were sheltering in the shop. I asked if there were any injuries, but nobody knew.”

Arici takes a deep breath while telling this. He says, “I still feel the terror while talking about that day.”

He adds, “I was there around same time the day before. We were organizing brunch for three thousand people on the 98th floor of the first tower. If the explosions had occurred at a later hour, we would have lost many friends there.”

They were able to find out how many employees were missing only after one week. Out of 80 employees, only Gevher Kamartinova died on the 98th floor.

“She was new at the job. It had only been five days. She was replacing a Turkish friend who left the job after working with us for 3 years. This woman, her friend, cried the most when hearing of the loss.”

The city of New York appreciated Amish Shops and they added the chain market to the World Trade Center region development project. The municipality offered $500,000 and $5,000 to $6,000 of rent support to the company to induce it to open a shop in the region. Adem Arici, who signed a contract with the city to run the café on the 98th floor, invested $2 million.

“We lost around 10 million dollars after the Amish shop was destroyed. It is not a big deal since lives of the employees were saved. However, to date, we have received only $350,000 from the insurance company. The insurance company made it very difficult for us. If I was born an American, most of our financial loss would have been compensated,” says Arici.

“We feel that 9/11 made big changes in New York and in the USA. Nothing is the same. Before 9/11, people felt comfortable spending money, but now nobody wants to use the money he earns. Just like the other countries, Americans also feel obliged to save some money.”

Adem Arici tells a true story, recalling a Turkish proverb, “Offering someone a cup of coffee is never forgotten even after 40 years.”

“After the incident when nobody was opening their shops, we started working in Zeytuna for free. After a while, we started to get some anonymous checks from some people. They were trying to pay for our service during the day of September 11. But I was feeling uneasy after newspapers wrote about the origin of the employees and shop owners. I was saluting everyone who came to the shop and checking if there was any change in the sales. One day two customers came in. I listened to what they said. One said, ‘Let’s eat some kebabs,’ and the other said, ‘They are Muslims. Don’t eat.’ The first one answered, ‘But they are Turkish and they distributed water to people for free on September 11. They gave all the food and drinks in the shop for free.’ Then they ordered kebabs. I was honored. I went up to them and offered them coffee.”

Five years later, Turkish immigrants who work in the USA ask Americans: “Will you remember that one cup of coffee?”
Last modified onSaturday, 06 May 2017 10:07