Monday, September 11, 2006

Remembering Joshua Poptean

Over 8 million people were living in New York City on September 11, 2001. This is a story about one of those people, Joshua Iosua Poptean.

Joshua tended not to talk about his early years too much, but he was born in 1964 in Abrud, Romania. His name at birth was Iosua Poptean; he appended Joshua later, upon becoming a US citizen. Abrud is probably not a place many Americans have heard of, but most are probably familiar with the larger geographic area in which it is located, for Abrud is in the heart of Transylvania. For the record, Bram Stoker's Dracula was a work of fiction; people from Transylvania tend to pursue not vampire slaying, but rather the same leisure activities as folks anywhere might. Joshua's passion back then happened to be horseback riding. He was quite an accomplished equestrian in his youth and even earned several medals while still in Romania.

Joshua and his family - dad, mom, three younger brothers (one of whom later died in a 1988 gun accident) and two sisters - settled in Portland, Oregon in 1981, leaving behind their lives in Arad, Romania, the city where they lived right before departing for the US. It's easy to forget nowadays that back then Romania and other countries in Eastern Europe were behind the so-called Iron Curtain. Ruled by a totalitarian Communist government since shortly after World War II, economic conditions in Romania had deteriorated significantly by the 1980s, making day-to-day life somewhat difficult for the average Romanian.

Upon arriving in the US, Joshua, who was age 17 at the time, attended David Douglas High School in Portland, Oregon. He then lived for a short time in Los Angeles, where he worked at a gas station while also attending optician school. To Joshua, though, his time in LA was significant not for these things, but rather because it was where he first enlisted in the National Guard. Joshua absolutely loved the United States and was extremely patriotic, so his four-year stint as a National Guardsman had very special meaning to him.

Around 1985, Joshua's parents separated and he and his brother Vasile accompanied their father on a cross-country move to New York City, where they settled in the Sunnyside section of Queens. Although he would later move on to other Queens' neighborhoods - Astoria, Ridgewood, North Flushing - it was from the vibrant melting pot community of Sunnyside that Joshua started to explore New York City.

And explore he did, as he worked for several years as a New York City cabbie. Talk about a way to really get to know New York and its people! And Joshua was so perfect for the job, too, as he was an extremely hard worker and very intuitive. No doubt his tips were better than the average hacker's, because he knew how to read people and could probably tell which passengers would welcome some friendly conversation as a diversion from their daily hassles.

Somewhere in all his traipsing around the city, Joshua met his wife-to-be, an American journalist. Quite handsome, with blue eyes and blond hair, Joshua certainly turned his share of heads back in the day. But what really won women over was his intelligence, wittiness and old-world charm. Maybe it was the way he kissed women's hands when he met them, but he just had that special allure that not too many guys have. He married around 1987, but, alas, the marriage did not last and he divorced about a year later.

As always, Joshua's religion remained very important to him during his years in New York. He attended The Times Square Church, an interdenominational congregation begun in Manhattan in the late 1980s. He was a devout Christian, and strived to live his life according to his Evangelical Christian religious convictions. Another passion of Joshua's was learning. It was especially fitting, therefore, that he attended a Portland-area Bible college when he was living back in that area in the early '90s.

Around 1989 or so, Joshua gave up taxi driving to pursue a career he was much more interested in, construction. This choice was quite understandable actually, since his father also worked in this field. Joshua started from the bottom and worked his way up in the carpentry field the old fashioned way, though pure slog and determination.

One thing Joshua always dreamed of was having his own business. He briefly had a go at this, moving back to Portland in the 1990s and starting up his own construction company, which he named Constrox Corp. While that didn't work out for him, he definitely maintained the ambition of owning his own business some day. Moving back to New York City, though, he moved up the construction ranks, eventually becoming a Project Manager at a company called Bronx Builders.

His brother Vasile brought him on board at Bronx Builders. The company wasn't huge - Joshua was one of about 80 workers - but they got interesting projects that Joshua really enjoyed managing. Sure, the guys there found him a bit abrasive at times, but that was just because he expected from his team the same had work and diligence that he required of himself. And really, once workers got to know him, they realized that underneath that bossy exterior was a genuinely decent individual, with a great sense of humor to boot.

When not busy with work, Joshua certainly knew how to have fun. One thing that he enjoyed was debating people, especially about political affairs and other important questions of the day. Joshua himself was a staunch conservative. Those who took a liberal stance when they debated him truly needed to know their stuff or they would look really stupid, really fast. Indeed, Joshua was passionate about politics and extremely informed and up-to-date on all the issues.

He was also quite fond of vacationing. He and his family would get together at least once a year, sometimes in New York City or Phoenix, Arizona, but most of the time in Portland, Oregon, their adopted hometown USA. In the late '90s Joshua traveled to Vegas, where he met up with his nephew Adrian to visit the then-new attraction Star Trek: The Experience at the Las Vegas Hilton. Joshua was a huge Trekkie, and had a terrific time. Another vacation that he especially cherished was a cruise to the Mexican Riviera with his extended family in July 2001. It was a family reunion of sorts, and also a celebration of the family's twentieth anniversary of arriving in the US. Even though the family was spread out at that time - with some living in New York and Arizona, and others still in the Portland area - they remained a very close-knit family.

Joshua was always kind of a leader within his family, being the eldest son and all. He never had any children of his own, but took his uncle responsibilities quite seriously. He had four nieces and three nephews, all of whom he adored. In 1999 he even invited his nephew Adrian and niece Loredana, who were in their early 20s and late teens respectively, to spend 10 days vacationing with him in Cancun, Mexico. A great time was had by all.

Things were really going along quite well for Joshua in the fall of 2001. He was a relatively new home owner. He'd just visited with his entire extended family that past summer. For the last two or three years, he'd had a job he really liked as a project manager at Bronx Builders. He was even a key player in an exciting project Bronx Builders was working on, remodeling the bar at Windows on the World, a famous 'restaurant in the sky' located on the 106th and 107th floors of One World Trade Center, also known as the North Tower.

Along with co-workers Manuel Da Mota and Obdulio Ruiz-Diaz, Joshua started his work day on September 11, 2001 with an on-site meeting at Windows on the World to discuss the bar remodeling project. It was really just a quick meeting, nothing too consequential. After all, the meeting was scheduled to run from just 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m., and how much can happen in the space of an hour?

Too much, far too much, as it turned out.

In memory
Joshua Poptean

(from top to bottom)

1. Joshua, 1999
2. Joshua (center) with his brother and sister and their spouses, Quebec City, 1997
3. Joshua and family, Portland, 1992
4. Joshua, nephew Julian (child in front), brother Vasile and niece Loredana in front of a home Josh’s company renovated, mid 1990s
5. Joshua and family at the Old Country Kitchen, a restaurant where the family always got together when in Portland (Josh’s grandmother, who passed away in 1995, is seated on the left side of the table)
6. Joshua playing Santa, with nephew Julian (now age 21)

The sources listed below were used in compiling this post. However, this post would not have been possible without the assistance of those who knew Joshua and were kind enough to help out. In particular, heartfelt thanks to Joshua’s brother, Vasile Poptean, without whose assistance this post would have been merely a reiteration of previously-published information.

-- Another Romanian Dead in WTC Tragedy, Revista Presei (Romania), 10/1/2001
-- Joshua Poptean: Inspiring Hard Work;
NY Times Portrait of Grief Series, 11/9/2001
-- Victims with Local Connections,
The Oregonian, 9/15/2001.
-- Windows On The World - The UnWritten Story, by
Janice Stern, 6/14/2003
(Note: These links were valid when originally accessed on Aug. 27, 2006. The first link was not working when rechecked on Sept. 11, 2006.)

This blog post is part of the 2,996 tribute to the victims of 9/11. Click here for the complete list of participating blogs.


Odat said...

Thank you!

John H said...

well done

Phelan said...

A wonderful memorial.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

If anything could bring Joshua back to life, it would be your lovingly detailed post. Such a sad waste, all of it... all those people we lost should be five years older now.

Thank you for visiting my blog. I'll be back, now that I know you're here.

kateandjona said...

Thank you for painting such a vivid picture of Joshua's life.

Jonathon's Closet remembers Robert Levine.

Beth said...

This is one of the best, most thorough tributes I've read so far -- full of life and hope, just like Joshua lived his life. My heart goes out to his family.

Thanks for stopping by my blog.

Dinah Webster: A Tribute

wallray said...

It is amazing to think of all the other stories like this one that could be told of the meny who lost there lives on that tragic day.


Thank you all for your kind comments. I swear I was practically crying when I wrote this post, but I wanted it to be about life more than loss! I hope I was able to capture a little bit of who Joshua was because he definitely deserves to be remembered.

Anonymous said...

In peace.

Too much of this happeniing in my country- bombed out stock exchange/airline office/ commuter train. Getting numb, which is bad.


Mistress Regina said...

Your celebration of Joshua's life is wonderful. His spirit lives on and his life will not be forgotten. That is what is most important about 2,996.

Ladies, Goddesses And Bitches remembers Elizabeth.

BeeJiggity said...

Wonderful job.

Surely Joshua would be happy to be remembered by you.

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