Jasmine Garsd

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For a brief moment, on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, Teresa Garcia thought she'd seen a ghost.

She was in her office in midtown Manhattan, watching the news of the attacks on the World Trade Center, when he walked in.

"He was covered with dust. All white dust. And we couldn't even recognize him," Garcia says, recalling that day. "But he talked to my coworker and he said 'Esperanza.' And she said, 'Chino, is that you?' "

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Citlaly Olvera takes a deep breath as she absorbs the scene in front of her at a rented Jewish temple in Brooklyn: Under the neon blue lights, a sea of family and friends, in gala gowns, suits and tuxes, cowboy hats and boots, are laughing and dancing to ranchera music so loud you can feel your rib cage vibrate.

She, herself, looks like a fairytale princess in her cream-colored, hooped dress, her translucent sparkling nails and, of course, her tiara.

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The Red Fern Public Houses in Far Rockaway, Queens, generate all kinds of memories for Queen Arroyo and what it meant to grow up here, few of them good.

"The poverty. The pissy elevators. The pissy staircases. The violence," she says, her voice trailing off.

All she could ever think about was leaving. And she did for a time. But her mother still lived here. So did friends. The pull of family and community drew her back two years ago, she says, this time with a purpose to help change what drove her away.

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