Antonio Montoya

Antonio Montoya
American Flight 11

As the initial shock subsides, Antonio Montoya's East Boston household is thinking of what lies ahead for their tightly knit Colombian family, one that has always been together for its most important holidays.

"There's never been a (Dec.) 31st that we've been separate. He always wanted the family to be together that day and Christmas," said Montoya's son, Jorge. "Wherever he was, he would always come home. It's something we bring from Colombia. All the family should be together to pray to God for the New Year. I know that's going to be hard for my mother and for us."

Montoya, 46, was among the passengers aboard American Airlines Flight 11 when hijackers slammed the plane into the World Trade Center. He came to the United States with his wife and son 20 years ago, and they had since had two daughters. He was looking forward to visiting his sister in California, his only sibling in the country. It had been years since he last saw her.

"He went by himself. He said next year, all of us will go," his son said.

A reservation mishap had him flying that Tuesday, instead of Monday, his son said.

Since then, family members have struggled to find a sense of closure without a burial. Mass was said for Montoya the Saturday after the Sept. 11 attack, and employees at the Boston Harbor Hotel, where Montoya worked as a houseman, tended for three weeks to hundreds of candles burning in the hotel's pavilion in tribute to Montoya and others killed in the terror attacks.

"He was just a wonderful individual, well liked, very popular. When you work in a place for 12 years, you know everyone," said Paul Jacques, the hotel's general manager. "A lot of people took it hard."

For nine days after he died, family members and friends gathered to pray in the Montoyas' home. His wife has prayed alone since then, their son said.

"My mother says if you have faith in God, God will help you to face these things and give you strength to move on," said Montoya's son. "For me, my father left and he just never came back. We know they won't find him."

Profile courtesy of THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE.

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