As Santiago told MLB.com on the 12th anniversary of the atrocities that took place in New York, he was a 13-year-old, eighth-grader at Luis Munoz Marin Middle School in Newark, N.J., sitting in Ms. Foster's class on Sept. 11, 2001 when life changed.
"Our school was right on the back street and you could see right across the way. We saw it all," Santiago said. "Definitely, we will never forget. We saw it when [The World Trade Center Towers] just started turning black and smoke came trembling down."
Santiago saw the Towers go up in smoke from his school, and they were coming down by the time he made it home.
"I know everybody has seen it on the news and stuff like that, but it's not like when you see it fall right there," Santiago said. "It's right in front of you and it's happening."
Santiago joined assistant hitting coach Harold Baines and members of the White Sox Volunteer Corps in partnering with the USO of Illinois to serve lunch to approximately 120 guests of the USO on Wednesday afternoon at the Donnelly Armory on the South Side of Chicago.
Santiago signed autographs and posed for photographs with individuals representing pretty much every military discipline.
A moment of silence was observed prior to Wednesday night's game with the Tigers in honor of the National Day of Service & Remembrance on Sept. 11.
First responders (fire and police personnel) and members of the U.S. Armed Forces took the field with the White Sox prior to the game, and the ceremonial first pitch was thrown out by Chicago police sergeant Martin Loughney. Wednesday's Hero of the Game, Army specialist Allen J. Lynch, is a recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor from the Vietnam War.
All of these honors strike a deep chord for Santiago, who has personal stories of heroes stepping up during this tragic time.
"One of my best friend's uncles, who works in the fire department down in [New] Jersey, they were there every day to help," said Santiago of post-Sept. 11 work. "It was like all the fire and police from Jersey, they were going right across the bridge to help out on days off.
"One person I know said his whole station went on their days off. It had a big impact on everybody. And it was everybody. People were going back. Talking to kids. People came from everywhere. Go out and help out."