AUBURN, Ala. (WRBL) – After the terror attacks, a 9/11 survivor, who relocated his family to Auburn, is giving away free meals to all public safety and their families. Sunel Merchant, who owns the Philly Connection, and his family use gratitude to cope on the difficult anniversary.
For 15 years now, on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Sunel Merchant and his family have welcomed public safety, armed forces, and their families to their Auburn Philly Connection Restaurant to share a meal on them.
“On this day, I am honored to have my superheroes in my place and to be with them. For me, it’s like meeting my own Superman, Spiderman, or Captain America. I get to shake their hands and talk to them. It brings me great solace on this difficult day, ” explained Merchant.
Merchant was on the 49th-floor of the North World Trade Center Tower when the first plane hit. Merchant says he felt helpless until he saw the first firefighter encouraging evacuees and handing out water in the 25th-floor stairwell.
“This day, 19-years ago, God gave me a second life. There we are a lot of Superheroes that day that helped us and kept us safe. While I was running down the stairs, they were running up. While I was running away from the building, they were running to the building. When I was home, feeling afraid, they were taking the fight to the enemy.” said Merchant.
For first responders, Auburn’s Philly Connection is always a place they not only feel welcome but deeply appreciated each day of the year. Many police and fire know the Merchant family and consider them friends.
Merchant wishes he could do more for the public safety heroes and their families who’ve welcomed his family with open arms. This year, the restaurant is also handing out free masks to help people keep themselves and others safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We will be handing out about one hundred masks here and at the food truck, and whoever wears those masks when they come in will be given some sort of discount through the end of the year,” said Merchant.
The Philly Connection is located along South College Street in Auburn, near Exit 51.