real life

People called this man an "animal" for shaving on the train. They didn't know his story.

“Animal”. “Disgusting.” “Disturbing.” “Gross.”

These are just a few of the (publishable) insults tweeted about American man Anthony Torres after he was filmed shaving on a New Jersey-bound train. The footage, which has been viewed more than 2.8 million times on the social media network, showed the 56-year-old sitting alone, pulling a razor across his cream-lathered face.

“Welcome to NJ transit,” the poster wrote.

But there was a story behind this man’s apparent misdeed. There always is.

Though he doesn’t tend to tell people, Anthony is homeless and has been, on and off, for the past 30 years. Chasing work around the country – from casino security guard to construction work – he’s taken refuge at bus stations and lived in motels.

The man who took the video captured Anthony in one of his more vulnerable moments.

As reported by Associated Press, after staying at a New York homeless shelter, he was facing a night on the streets. He’d planned where: beneath a bridge in nearby Philadelphia. That evening, he travelled to his brother’s home in Trenton, New Jersey, in the hope he could borrow a sleeping bag.

With no bathroom available on the train, Anthony shaved; he wanted to look “presentable” for his family.

“My life is all screwed up,” he told Associated Press. “That’s the reason I was shaving on the train.”

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The brother, Thomas Torres, took him in that night.

“He didn’t even want to stay at my house, because he feels a burden to all of us,” he told CBS. “How could I lay my head on my pillow knowing that he’s sleeping under a bridge?”

He explained to AP that Anthony has had recent medical issues, including multiple strokes, and doesn’t always understand the consequences of his behaviour.

“When he did what he did, that to him was normal,” Thomas Torres said. “He’s not that kind of person that does it because of spite or because he wants the attention.”

Anthony wasn’t aware he was being filmed, and has been hurt by the reaction to the clip.

“I never thought it would go viral, people making fun of me,” he said.

But from the hurt, hope. Since his backstory has been told, a stranger has created a GoFundMe account to raise money to help Anthony “get back on his feet”. More than 900 people have raised more than $20,000, and the counter climbs minute-by-minute as more learn about the truth behind the mocking viral video (which the poster has licensed).

“Good luck to you, Anthony. You are good, you are loved, and you have nothing to be sorry for,” one donor wrote. “I hope things get easier for you in the future, and the kindness of strangers lifts you up. You are a beautiful soul who deserves beautiful things.”

And from another, “Everyone needs help at some point. This is Anthony’s time.”

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