The horrific events of the 9/11 attacks in New York and Washington, D.C. will be forever etched into the memories of those who lived through that turbulent time. As America rightly honors the heroic efforts of the first-responders who saved countless lives, history should be equally kind to the efforts of Godwin Ajala.
Ajala, a Nigerian lawyer who came to America to make a better life for his wife and family, worked as a security guard at the World Trade Center. According to the accounts of his roommate, Ajala worked eight hours a day at WTC, and studied for the grueling New York State bar exam at night.
Ajala was determined to pass the bar, after failing the exam three times. He was not trained in U.S. law, but his knowledge of Commonwealth Law was said to be his strong suit. On the morning of the 9/11 attacks, Ajala helped evacuated frightened patrons of Two World Trade Center just as an airplane struck it.
Instead of saving his own life, Ajala risked everything to hold open doors so that others could safely pass and he kept entering the building despite the danger around him. Based on testimony from those who knew him, that was just part of his selfless nature.
Exhausted from his efforts, Ajala reportedly collapsed and slipped into a coma. Days later, Ajala died. He was 33.
Ajala, who was working to secure a future for his wife, Victoria, and their children, Onyinyechi, Uchechukwu, and Ugochi, had life insurance policies filed which eventually led to a court-ordered compensation of $2 million to the family in 2011.
The money was hard fought, however, as Ajala’s mother tried to gain guardianship of the children and resisted Mrs. Ajala’s attempts to collect the monies due to her. Ajala was one of 11 security guards killed that day, and the only Nigerian national listed among those who perished.