Victims' images paper the city
Up to 75 Canadians still unaccounted for
By LISA PRIEST, The Globe and Mail
With a report from Canadian Press
Monday, September 17, 2001
NEW YORK -- Despite six days with no word, frantic families made their heartfelt pleas for the "missing" yesterday -- unable or unwilling to accept that the thousands trapped under the rubble of the World Trade Center are most likely dead.
"Everybody has that little bit of hope that they are there and they'll get them out," said Philomena Mistrulli, who hasn't seen her husband, Joseph, since Tuesday's terrorist attacks.
This week, Mrs. Mistrulli was supposed to be in the Bahamas on vacation with her husband of 23 years, not tearfully walking the city, passing out posters with his photo.
She is one of thousands who has plastered flyers of missing loved ones on office buildings, phone booths, utility polls.
The signs of mourning are everywhere. Prayer circles form around traffic lights, burning candles have been placed on window ledges and two dozen yellow ribbons have been tied to a fence near the Chelsea piers.
But the people of this city are not wearing black as they openly grieve over a catastrophe that has so far left more than 5,000 dead and missing. Instead, they have donned the red, white and blue of the U.S. flag.
The tragedy has also devastated Canadians who are racked with worry that relatives and friends may have been in the vicinity.
During the weekend, Canadian consular officials -- who had been trying to phone those who were unaccounted for -- knocked on the doors of about 15 homes.
"The number of people who might have been in the vicinity and are still unaccounted for is now between 40 and 75," said Peter Lloyd, a spokesman for the Canadian consulate. "Going to their homes is just another way of trying to contact them."
Officials were also contacting Canadians who have begun trickling into New York to start the agonizing process of searching for relatives. Though only a few families arrived yesterday, others are expected soon. "We're at a stage now where there's a tremendous amount of painful waiting," Mr. Lloyd said.
The consulate and government offices in Ottawa have received more than 10,000 calls from frenzied relatives and friends seeking information on Canadians who live here and who may have been in the vicinity during the attacks.
Toronto-based James Young, chief coroner for Ontario, plans to meet with many of the families to help them provide information to authorities and guide them through the process of looking for relatives.
"If we can make sure Canadians have provided the right information, it maximizes the chances of identification," said Dr. Young, who labelled the undertaking hugely complex.
At a press conference yesterday, New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said that while rescuers would continue to look for survivors, "the reality is that in the past several days, we haven't found any one.
"We're going to continue to look for people and search for people, at the same time realizing that the losses here are staggering."
At the same news conference, New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik sounded slightly more hopeful, saying it's possible that people trapped under the rubble could still be alive.
"If you looked at other disasters or tragedies around the world, people have been pulled out from these things six, seven days later and are still alive," he said. "We're going to keep up hope, keep our prayers going and just hope for the best."
Some families have provided samples that could be used to identify remains through DNA. They have looked through laundry baskets for clothes that their loved ones had worn. Others have brought in toothbrushes, razors and strands of hair.
But some families are finding that they have been duped by someone who posted a so-called World Trade Center survivors list on the Internet last week.
Many families clung to the hope that their relatives -- who were listed as "fine" and "OK" -- were alive. But the list was later revealed to be bogus.