Thousands flood armory, hospitals, streets, looking for the missing
NEW YORK (AP) – They stood with heads bowed, holding hands, praying and waiting. They waited in line for a chance to speak into a television camera, clutching fliers and crying.
At an armory, in hospitals and on the streets of Manhattan, thousands of distraught families searched for the missing on Thursday.
Almost every sentence began the same: ”Have you seen …”
And nearly every plea ended the same: ”If you know anything, please call …”
Zara Kahn stood outside the armory at East 26th Street and Lexington Avenue. ”If anybody has heard anything, anything, we’ve been searching days,” she said into the lens of a news camera.
She held photographs of her brother, 29-year-old Taimour Kahn. Next to her, her mother pressed fliers into the hands of strangers. Neat, black letters said, ”Please call: 516-662-3408.”
Driven by desperation, more than 2,500 people stood in line at the armory, waiting to get inside to fill out missing-persons reports that sought seemingly every identifying detail: shoe size, belt size, blood type, tattoos, mother’s maiden name.
At St. Vincent’s Hospital, where many of the victims from Tuesday’s World Trade Center attacks were taken, relatives waited to find out if their loved ones had been admitted.
Others stood on the street, trying to persuade reporters to print or broadcast the names and photographs of relatives they could not find.
But the largest crowd by far swarmed the armory, where the line snaked around the building – an entire block.
Rob Fazio, 27, was looking for his father, 57-year-old Ronald Fazio. ”We have Reese’s peanut butter cups for you,” read the son’s flier, which also carried a photo.
The father had not contacted his family since he called with his cell phone from the twin towers. That call – in which Ronald Fazio told his family he was fine – came during the 18-minute interval between the plane crashes at the skyscrapers.
Alice Carpeneto got a phone message and nothing else from her daughter Joyce, who worked on the 83rd floor. ”She was on the machine, saying, ‘Mom, we’ve been hit by a plane and I’m leaving,”’ the woman’s mother said.
Her daughter’s best friend and co-worker got out. That comforted Alice Carpeneto and gave her hope, but she has called every hospital without luck.
”As every hour goes on, it just gets worse,” said family friend Deborah Burton. ”But we’re not giving up, because we know that means the end.”
Former President Clinton and his daughter, Chelsea, visited the crowds at the armory to offer them comfort. Families who spent an anguished day there drifted nearer to hear him speak, and many showed him pictures of missing loved ones.
”We need not to show fear, and not to give in,” said Clinton, who arrived at the armory with his daughter, Chelsea. ”We need to prove them wrong by how we respond to this.”
Caroline Burbank, 29, tried to keep her mind from wandering disturbing paths. On Tuesday, her fiance, Geoff Campbell, had left early for a conference both planned to attend at the Trade Center. Campbell has not come home.
”You picture what the scenarios could have been. And that’s the worst. If he was scared or if he was alone when the building went down,” she said, breaking into sobs.
They had not set a wedding date. ”We were just going to go to the Caribbean and do it ourselves,” she said.
”When he gets out, that’s the first thing we’ll do.”
Associated Press writers Elizabeth LeSure and Sara Kugler contributed to this story.
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