I remember my brothers holding my hand when I was getting on and off the plane and John crying. When we were leaving the Azores, everyone was crying because all of their family and friends were leaving for the United States, I was really nervous and scared. I also remember that when I got to New York, I saw my father and my brother Jimmy with their arms wide open and my dad started crying because he was so happy to see my mom and all of us.
I have seven siblings. Peter, Maria, John, Jose, my mom, and myself were all coming to the United States to meet up with my dad, brother Jimmy and sister Fernanda, and then Mike was born in the US.
Why was your father already in the US but the rest of your family not?
My father came to the United States on a work visa to earn money so he could pay back the debt someone loaned him. The loan was for all of us to come to United States. I remember my mom telling me that my father had to work two full-time jobs for 12 years to pay for rent and to pay back the loan for my family to come here.
What do you think would’ve happened if your father didn’t do what he chose to do? How would your life be different than it is now?
I am very thankful that my father did that because I had a heart problem that at the time I did not know about. If I stayed over in the Azores I probably would not have survived. Thank God I came to United States because in 1975 I had open-heart surgery to correct a bicuspid heart aortic issue.
I remember my mother once told me a story about how she was telling her friend that she was thinking about coming to the United States but was not sure because of money. Her friend told her that she should go. She should go for her family and for her children so we could all go somewhere with opportunities and could be successful. My mother’s father was very sick in the Azores but he wanted her to come to the United States so badly to better herself and her family. My mother never saw her father alive again, that was the last time.
A lot of sacrifices were made, yes?
The sacrifice that my parents made, I could never thank them for. They did what they did, for us -their children. I think today I have such a strong work ethic and work so hard at whatever I do because of my experiences as a child and what I saw my parents do to provide for their family. Now, I will do the same for mine.