Relatives hope against all odds
'I walked all over this city and I'll continue to do that until I find him,' one man says
By LISA PRIEST, The Globe and Mail
Saturday, September 15, 2001
NEW YORK -- Thousands of posters of the "missing" are plastered throughout this city's streets -- on bus shelters, phone booths and utility polls.
Any New Yorker would be hard pressed to miss them or the images of tearful family members that dominate television news, an exercise in mourning that has become not just public, but worldwide.
"I walked all over this city and I'll continue to do that until I find him," Alex Briley said of his 42-year-old brother, Jonathan, who was working on the 106th floor of the World Trade Center at the time of this week's terrorist attack. "I believe someone has seen him."
So far, no one has. Mr. Briley is known to New York University Medical Center officials simply as Case P0087. And he is one of thousands of faces on posters made by loved ones that compete for the interest of hundreds of television and print reporters from around the world.
"Every time there's a survivor, that family doesn't have to worry any more," said Mr. Briley, across the street from the Armory building, a massive makeshift missing persons centre. "But I still have to worry."
Armory officials have requested that family members bring in strands of hair, used toothbrushes or any other samples from those who are believed to be trapped in the mountain of jagged cement and twisted steel that was once the mighty World Trade Center.
But a sobbing Mr. Briley and his father, Reverend Alexander Briley, haven't been able to do that yet because they very much believe that the audio technician is alive.
"My faith tells me I'm going to find him alive," said Rev. Briley to a pack of reporters. "I'm always consoling other people with their grief. Now, it's my turn."
Russ D'Amato also chose not to provide any hair strands or toothbrushes, saying he is still very much looking for his sister-in-law, Donna Bernaerts.
"We're just hoping she's still alive," said Mr. D'Amato, holding up the photograph of the woman. "It gets difficult to be hopeful with every passing hour."
Signs of sorrow, the aftermath of this country's worst terrorist attack, are everywhere. In one china store, a sign hung in a window reads: "In Loving Memory."
A wall of prayers was constructed in front of Bellevue Hospital Center, where thousands of smiling faces were taped to several sheets of blue plywood creating a montage about 10 metres long.
Some of them were photographs of beaming mothers snuggling with their babies. One burly man was proudly holding his newborn twins nestled in baby blankets -- one in each arm. They are some of the 4,700 people who haven't been accounted for. By yesterday, 184 were reported dead.
Yesterday's heavy downpour meant that some of the photocopies of the missing were starting to run, their colours dripping down the page, their likenesses, like the potential ending of their lives, obscured.
"I still have hope, no matter how faint," said Julie Lanzer, who was posting a photograph of her 48-year-old brother, Frank Koestner.
Down at Union Square park, a makeshift memorial garnered candles, flowers and cards, including one from Vancouver, signed "The Castillo family."
Michele Buchanan was one of hundreds of people who braved gusting winds and driving rain to pay her respects.
The 39-year-old university professor was late reporting for jury duty in a court building not far from the site of Tuesday's attack. And she was unaware her Toronto friend, Laila McDaniels, was frantically trying to reach her.
"She was so frantic, she was calling me for hours but she couldn't get through," said Ms. Buchanan, of the overloaded telephone circuits.
But, by 1 a.m., Ms. McDaniels made contact and found out that the horrific images she was watching on television in her Toronto home did not involve one of her best friends.
"I was so relieved when I reached her," she said in a telephone interview from Toronto. "I knew she lived and worked close to the World Trade Center so I was very worried."