Ontario representatives ready to aid Canadians at ground zero
By LISA PRIEST, The Globe and Mail
Thursday, September 20, 2001
NEW YORK -- Marcel Pelletier travelled all the way from Vancouver to deal with the agonizing process of finding his son Michael, who was in the World Trade Center when two hijacked airliners plowed into the twin towers on Sept. 11.
Although Canadian officials have said that families do not need to make the trip here to help collect material for DNA testing, Mr. Pelletier and other relatives did anyway.
"It's a very painful time," he said yesterday. "We're grieving."
Mr. Pelletier said his son, a trader with Cantor Fitzgerald, was on the 104th floor when the airplane crashed into the tower. He was in Tower One, the first one hit.
"He went up to the 109th floor to assist people instead of coming down," Mr. Pelletier said.
Grieving family members are being sought out by three representatives from Ontario's Office for Victims of Crime who arrived in New York on Tuesday night, to provide assistance.
Yesterday, they put up posters with a photograph of the Canadian flag at the old armoury and other places where families gather to provide information about missing loved ones.
The trio -- a police detective, a victim-support worker, and Sharon Rosenfeldt, chairwoman of the Office for Victims of Crime -- is hoping to assist Canadians whose family members are believed to be among the 5,422 missing. So far, 218 have been confirmed dead in the New York attacks.
"We're here to offer financial assistance," said Detective Sergeant John Muise of Toronto Police, who was looking for Canadians at the family centre at Pier 94 on the Hudson River in Manhattan yesterday.
"People can just call us. We want to hear from them," he said. The number is 1-866-406-HELP.
The Ontario government has set up a $3-million fund to help families from all over Canada who may have lost loved ones in the terrorist attacks. People can spend the money to travel to New York to identify their family members or use it for funeral arrangements.
The number of Canadians who are so far "unaccounted for" was lowered yesterday to between 35 and 60, said André LeBlanc, spokesman for the Canadian Consulate in New York. That number represents the Canadians believed to have been in or near the World Trade Center when it collapsed.
Since last week's attack, 1,025 cases have been opened on missing Canadians, defined as those people whom relatives or friends could not reach after the attacks, Mr. LeBlanc said.
The number was whittled down after some were found by family members, friends or officials of the Canadian Consulate, he said.
"We've been able to be in touch with people in the past few days, including those in emergency shelters or who have stayed with friends," Mr. LeBlanc said.
Consulate officials and Ontario's chief coroner, James Young, are helping families fill out forms, and they assist in the collection of items such as unwashed clothing, toothbrushes and hairbrushes to be used in DNA testing.