Raquel Vendome was only 10 years old when their whole lives changed. Nino’s, a restaurant started by her father, Antonio “Niño” Vendome, had to close down in the aftermath of the Twin Towers Attack.
Everybody wanted out of the city and Ground Zero was a virtual ghost town, except for the thousands of rescuers and volunteers still digging through the rubble to find survivors. Panic and chaos were the order of the day.
Even in her young mind, she knew that the country changed that day. But she also saw a side of her father that she never saw before: dogged determination.
“I knew he was stubborn. It’s a trait that I share with him since I’m my father’s daughter, after all,” she says. “However, that was the time when I saw an immovable resolve, the obstinate refusal to get beaten.”
“His attitude was like, ‘yeah, you punched us real good,’ but the fight is not over yet,” she adds.
Just 24 hours later, just before the dust from the collapsed buildings could settle, Canal Street opened its doors again.
The family is about to do something no restaurant business has ever done before: drain their resources to feed people for free.
And that’s what they did. Every tired rescuer can come in, have a cold beverage, and rest. The rescuers can even get free meals if they are hungry.
Antonio Vendome thought that they would serve 150 rescuers a day, and the family can certainly absorb the anticipated expenses. Then word spread around about this Italian restaurant over at Canal Street, between Hudson and Varick streets, offering free meals to anybody in uniform.
Pretty soon dozens became hundreds, and then thousands. At one point, they were serving 7,000 people per day.
Everybody had to pitch in. Even Raquel had to volunteer at the restaurant serving food and just trying to lift everybody’s spirits.
That’s where she saw how America can never be defeated because its people refused to be defeated. She witnessed rescuers on the verge of collapse trying to get back out after a few minutes rest in their restaurant, and no words could convince them otherwise.
There are also hundreds of volunteers coming from out of nowhere just offering their services if they couldn’t bring in food, water, and beverages. “It was amazing to see. Strangers coming in to offer their help. I could never forget their faces even today,” she says.
Donations also started pouring in, which allowed the family to keep the restaurant open for many months. But even without the donations from generous individuals, she doubts that her father would have given up on what he started even if they ended up bankrupt in the process. She mused, “That’s the kind of a guy he is. Stubborn to a fault if he puts his mind to something, but also very generous.”
Raquel Vendome said in a recent interview that the events surrounding 9/11 struck with her, and it served as a reminder to her from time to time when she feels like giving up.