On Sept. 11, 2001, he took a cab to work for a morning shift at his new job at a clothing store in another nearby suburb. Then the planes flew into the World Trade Center.
“They called an emergency alert,” Jose said, signing rapidly. “I could hear that loud alarm. We had to stop what we were doing. They told me we had to leave now. I didn’t know what to do. How can I leave?”
Jose walked with a cane at the time, his vision better than it is today, but still not good. Co-workers told him cabs weren’t running, nor were buses. His boss helped him get to the Helen Keller center, where everyone had worried about him, alone in the chaos.
Jose graduated from Helen Keller in 2002 and moved into his own apartment. But the economy took a hit. He lost his job.
He moved back to California and started volunteering at the Braille Institute. Tania was by then teaching computer classes and studying sign language. She introduced herself and told him she was still learning — could he help her?
They had study dates at Starbucks, having signed conversations, getting to know each other. He encouraged her to become an interpreter. They dated for two years before, one night at dinner, Jose asked: “Would you like to marry me?”
Jose now works at a clothing store in Northridge, and Tania teaches in the same Braille Institute classroom where she’s worked for 15 years. She helps the visually impaired learn how to type — the kind of patient works that on a recent day involved explaining keyboard shortcuts to a man trying to cut and paste words without being able to use a mouse.