9/11 memories haunt those who crossed paths with hijackers

The Miami HeraldMay 6, 2011 

On Sept. 7, 2001, Mohamed Atta and Marwan al-Shehhi pounded down drinks at Shuckums Oyster Bar on Young Circle in Hollywood.

They played video games, then argued with a waitress and a manager over a $48 tab.

Four days later, Atta and al-Shehhi flew passenger jets into the World Trade Center, killing 2,752 people, and forever changing life for some in South Florida who unknowingly entered their orbit.

Like Tony Amos, the night manager who backed up waitress Patricia Idrissi at Shuckums, 1814 Harrison St. (replaced in 2003 by Harpoon Harry’s Raw Bar and Grill, it’s now the Sauer Apple Saloon martini lounge).

Amos owns El Sloppy Taco in Brunswick, Md., and says that his brush with 9-11 infamy played into his decision, in 2007, “just to get away.’’ He left the job just a few weeks after 9-11.

By then, he’d been interviewed by the FBI several times “on the phone or at a little deli about three shops down.’’

The evening of the disaster, agents came to the restaurant with photos of Atta and al-Shehhi. A third man drinking with them has never been identified.

“The area was really a dive then, so I figured they had written bad checks or something,’’ said Amos. “When they told me they were on the flight manifests, it was like someone punched me in the stomach.’’

When he heard of Osama bin Laden’s death on Sunday night, “it was more like a sense of relief for the country’’ than for himself, said Amos, 41, now the father of a 6-year-old son. “Finally there can be some emotional closure for a lot of people who were affected by it.’’

But probably not for him.

“I wish I’d never had the encounter to begin with,’’ Amos said. “I’ve felt like survivor’s guilt, like I should have said something when the (billing) altercation happened.’’

Nearby, the shabby, two-story apartment building at 1818 Jackson St. where al-Shehhi stayed — Unit A3, on the second floor — met the wrecking ball 15 months ago.

Where a 13-unit building once stood is now a construction site bounded by orange plastic fencing, with a 10-foot dirt pile in the middle.

But the place Atta rented in Coral Springs remains as it was – much to the dismay of some who still live there.

To read the complete article, visit www.miamiherald.com.

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