Nearly 3,000 people died in New York City on September 11, 2001, but only one is classified as a homicide in the city. Henryk Siwiak, a Polish immigrant, was shot and killed in the late hours of 9/11 while on his way to work the night shift at a supermarket. Due to the day's events, the investigation into who killed Siwiak was not given the attention it would have had on a normal day.
While police believe his death was the result of a robbery gone wrong, Siwiak's family has another theory. They think Siwiak was mistaken for a terrorist and killed by someone who believed he was connected to the attacks on the World Trade Center. Despite the efforts of police to determine the who and why behind Siwiak's death, the case remains open and unsolved decades later.
In October 2000, Henryk Siwiak Moved From Poland To New York City For Work
At the age of 46, Henryk Siwiak was fired from his job as an inspector for the Polish State Railways sometime in 2000. That year, Poland’s economy experienced a downturn and unemployment rates had an upturn, making it difficult for Siwiak to find another job and make a living.
His wife, Ewa Siwiak, had a position in academics, however, it did not pay very well, and Siwiak would need a way to generate income. This led Siwiak to make the decision to move in search of work to New York where his sister, Lucyna Siwiak, had been living for six years.
Siwiak Found Odd Jobs To Send Money Back To His Family In Poland
After leaving his family behind for a foreign country, Siwiak held various odd jobs during his time in New York, sometimes working morning and evening shifts at different places.
Siwiak took these jobs in an attempt to generate enough income to support both himself as well as his wife and two children back in Poland. These jobs also helped him contribute to his 17-year-old daughter’s college fund.
Siwiak Was Working Construction In Lower Manhattan On The Morning Of The Attacks
On the morning of 9/11, Siwiak had taken a construction job where he saw the first plane hit the World Trade Center. The construction site closed early due to the attacks.
However, Siwiak could not afford to go a whole day without any income regardless of the circumstances. Siwiak left the construction site in search of available work for the evening and went to a Polish employment agency in the city. There he was able to pick up a late shift, which started at midnight, as a cleaner at a Pathmark supermarket.
Siwiak's Wife Urged Him To Not Work That Night
Before heading to work the evening shift at Pathmark, Siwiak spoke to his wife on the phone to tell her he was safe and had found a new job. His wife, Ewa, later said she didn’t think he understood the severity of the situation and the terrorist attacks that day as he did not have a television.
This meant Ewa had to fill him in on what had happened from what she had heard back in Poland. Ewa urged him to stay home for the night because New York City could be dangerous even without the added alarm from the terrorist attack, but he went anyway.
Siwiak's Landlady Gave Him The Wrong Directions That Ultimately Led To His Death
That night, Siwiak's landlady gave him directions to Pathmark, which was located on 1525 Albany Avenue. However, as they both looked over the map together, she accidentally gave him directions to 1 Albany Avenue in Bedford-Stuyvesant, which was 3 miles away from the supermarket where he was supposed to be working.
Siwiak got onto the A train towards the Utica Avenue stop. Police believe he unknowingly got off at the wrong stop, steps away from danger.
Siwiak Made A Wrong Turn And Walked Into A Dangerous Area Of The City
Not only had Siwiak gotten off at Fulton Street instead of Utica Avenue, but he was also miles in the wrong direction of the supermarket, mistakenly making a left turn instead of a right turn after leaving the train station.
According to police, the intersection of Albany and Decatur, where Siwiak ended up, was notorious for gang activity, drug use, and violence at the time. It was not an area locals would venture into after the morning hours. Even those living in the area were unlikely to get involved with anything that happened outside their doors.