On September 11, 2001, Kushal Choksi began his day as many of us do: arriving late for work. He was in a hurry to meet at the World Trade Center when, in a matter of seconds, everything changed. Kushal decided to change his story from being just a 9/11 survival statistic to sharing his journey to dealing with trauma in the hopes that it could help anyone going through a similar situation. Jersey City resident and co-founder of the chocolate craft company, Elements Truffles, walks us through the events of that day. Read on for more information on Kushal’s story and his soon-to-be-published book.
HG: What was your job / profession during 9/11?
KC: He used to work as a quantitative analyst with Goldman Sachs in lower Manhattan.
HG: Can you take us for a walk on the morning of 9/11?
KC: I climbed the escalators and began my predictable journey. My body was navigating the mezzanine of the World Trade Center, but my mind was in its own virtual reality; flooded with thoughts about my endless work, my demanding boss, an argument with my girlfriend. BANG! A deafening sound woke me from sleep.
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It was a massively high decibel explosion, followed by a startling whistle. It was as if a high pressure steam pipe had just opened. All I remember about that creepy moment is that it was scary. Not knowing how to react, the people around me screamed in fear, and I had begun a frantic walk through the exit doors. A moment ago, the world was spinning as usual, but in the blink of an eye it had completely changed. And at that moment, I was suddenly and forcefully expelled from my own virtual reality. On one level, apart from the terrifying sound, there were no signs of anything out of place. Still, the swarm of travelers was caught in the fear of the unknown.
“A bomb has exploded. Here is chaos. I heard a gentleman shouting on the phone as he ran to the door. A strange fear of an imminent end had captured the atmosphere. At that moment, my whole life shone before me. .
HG: Remember the exact moment you realized something bad had happened? What went through your mind and what were your next steps?
KC: At that moment, nothing made sense. How does a plane crash into a building like that? What should I do next? Do I have to inform my colleagues that I would be late for the meeting? How can I reach my family? Ironically, the day before he had left his cell phone at work. My brain was in excess but somehow I managed to get away from Ground Zero.
Just as I reached Water Street, on the other side of Manhattan, a horrible murmur was heard in the distance. The rumble became a piercing roar in the ears, which intensified every second. A huge cloud of debris and fog moved quickly towards me, engulfing everything and everyone along the way. The north tower of the World Trade Center was collapsing.
HG: How did you get home?
KC: In the distance, a commuter ferry was leaving Pier 11. I ran towards it with all my might. The catwalk had already been dragged. The captain saw me running towards the boat. He paused. My impulse allowed me to jump on board.
The ferry was withdrawn. The cloud of dust and debris drew so close to me and, almost as disappointed as I was missing it, swirled and enveloped the entire horizon with its prey of rage. As I gazed at the frothy water the boat left behind, I thought I was the last person on the last boat to leave Manhattan that day.
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HG: Do you remember any act of kindness that day?
KC: The heroes of the first intervention showed great kindness and endurance that day as they voluntarily entered the burning towers. Although there was a lot of chaos on the surface, a spirit of deep kinship and community was galvanizing beneath. Everyone cared for each other in small ways. Some people handed out water, those who drove took walks to strangers.
HG: Tell us about your book “In a wing and a prayer”
KC: The book is set in New York, where the protagonist, an Indian immigrant who has built a thriving career on Wall Street, appears completely consumed chasing the proverbial American dream until one day he finds himself in the burned World Trade Center. Against all odds, he miraculously survives 9/11. It becomes a statistic. Life as he knows it changes. He lives in a void he had never known. And then something unexpected happens. He meets the master of consciousness and reluctantly learns a powerful breathing technique called SKY Breath.
What follows is a lifelong journey: struggling with stereotypes, trying to make sense of some mind-boggling metaphysical experiences from the perspective of a left brain, fun encounters, and intellectual concepts that transform into a tangible experience. .
In World War II, American pilot Hugh G Ashcraft Jr took his severely damaged B-17 aircraft, a so-called ‘Southern Comfort’ signal, to land “in one wing and one prayer”; an expression that describes how anguish can turn your face toward higher power. For the author, he survived 9/11 which blew up his world and drove him on a compelling journey inside.
“What’s the point of all this?” – if this question or a related thought has crossed your mind remotely at some point in your life, this book is for you.
Editor’s Note: The book will be available for purchase on October 15, 2021.
HG: What inspired you to want to share your story?
KC: I stumbled upon this transformative respiratory work called SKY Breath that changed the course of my life. And I’m grateful. I appreciate it not being bitter and I am grateful to have found the strength to share my journey and I hope it helps others who may go through a similar struggle.
In addition to writing, Kushal and his wife Alak run Elements Truffles, a gourmet chocolate shop based on Ayurvedic practices. The store has an e-shop and chocolates can be found in stores across the country. Check out Elements on Facebook and Instagram.