Meet Your Neighbor: Magdalena Navarrete

On September 11, 2001 I turned on the TV and saw a plane had just struck the World Trade Center. My husband was in the basement of the North Tower at the time. I called him and we spoke briefly. He made it out at 9:30, just before the building collapsed. Many of his friends didn’t make it.

I moved to New York just five months before the attack. I’m originally from Mexico and didn’t speak any English. I relied on my husband for so much at that time.  We had just started our new life together when that tragic day changed our lives.

We now have three beautiful children and live in Corona. When our children were young, I dedicated my life to caring for them. As an immigrant, I found the language barrier very challenging. My middle daughter has special needs and I would take her to three or four appointments per week. I couldn’t communicate with her doctors, so I would wait for a translator or my husband to go with me. It was very frustrating when the doctor would tell me something and I couldn’t understand. So, I decided to learn English.

I started taking English classes at Queens Community House last September. The teachers are very good, and I have great classmates.  My English has improved and I can now speak to my children’s teachers and doctors.  I can also do more on my own since my children are in school. I feel like I’m finally able to express myself.

In May, I was chosen to share my story at DYCD’s Literacy Program Celebration of Student Achievement – in English, of course.  I was so nervous. Right before I went on stage, I thought back to that first year living in New York. I couldn’t believe I was standing there looking out into an audience of hundreds after everything we've been through.  I found strength in the support from my teachers, my classmates, my children, and of course, my husband.

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