The Sadness of 36
Sandy Ayala stayed close to his mother and three siblings. So close, in fact, that after he married, he insisted that he and his wife live with the family in the apartment where he was raised on East 113th Street, in East Harlem.
After he and his wife, Leyda Ayala, separated, he often took his daughter Samantha to the gym where he worked part-time as a personal trainer, and during the summer he would take her and her new half siblings to Coney Island and Orchard Beach.
On Sept. 11, he was working overtime as a banquet arranger at Windows on the World ‹ after his usual all-night shift ‹ to save money for a gift for Samantha's 12th birthday.
But that dedication was mixed with anxiety. "He was always afraid he would die young and never live to see his daughter grow up," Mrs. Ayala said. "He used to say he wouldn't live past 36." There was no real reason for it, since he had been weight- training all his life and was in superb physical condition, she added.
He died a month after his 36th birthday.
Profile published in THE NEW YORK TIMES on November 12, 2001.