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In New York, Faces of the Missing Are Everywhere - 2001-09-19


Everywhere in Manhattan you can see the faces of the missing and the dead: their images taped on walls, vehicles, telephone kiosks - wedding pictures, family snapshots, photographs from school and work.

Signs say:

"Have you seen this man?"

"Help us find this woman."

Each flyer put in place by someone who loved that man or woman, and who wants only to see him or her again. "Mandy Chang, I love you," says one. "Have you seen my lovely wife?" asks another. People file by and stop to wonder in awe at all these sudden shrines.

Days after the attack, the missing fill the city with their presence, and the force of the desire to see them suspends those left behind between grief and disbelief - as if the missing might be just around the corner.

Anthoula Katsimatides is looking for her brother, John, last seen on the 104th floor of Tower 1. No one has heard from John, but a firefighter found his wallet in the rubble.

"The firefighter says he believes he may have gotten down to the ground floor, based on the ruins around the wallet. It's giving us hope. Of course, he didn't say it to give us hope," says Mr. Katsimatides.

"I do, I do," she replies when asked if she still has hope. "As long as I believe there's a God, there has to be hope and he's a tough cookie, so I'm sure he may have managed his way out, possibly helping others along the way. We don't know, so we have to have hope."

But exhaustion is setting in and the odds are so very bad. John Katsamitides may not be the one in a thousand, or 5,000, lying in a hospital bed unidentified. He may be with the thousands of others - vanished in a horrible instant.

At Union Square in the Greenwich Village area of New York, people gather every night for a vigil and memorial begun by students at New York University. Sculptors have made a statue for the victims. People come from around the city to write words of grief and love - to make drawings on brown butcher paper - and leave these offerings, together with flowers and candles and flags.

"We wrote we must never forget September 11, 2001," says a woman at the vigil "Our love goes out to all those who perished and all those who remain."

"It may be down, but it's still standing," says a young girl, also at the vigil. "It just feels like that. It feels a little different that it's not here, and all the people who died aren't here, but it's still here in our minds and memories and hearts."

Whenever a fire truck goes by, the crowd cheers and applauds. New Yorkers today love no one so much as the firemen and women who risked and lost so many of their own lives trying to save others. A couple strew rose petals outside one fire station in Greenwich Village.

At Union Square, a young man silently drops to his knees and begins to write in chalk. He is a former worker from the restaurant that sat at the very top of the World Trade Center, a glamorous place from which you could see all of New York spread out magically below. No one there is known to have made it out. He's writing, "Windows on the World, I won't forget you." He underlines it many times. Then he gets up and walks away without speaking.

"Towers are small, love is infinite," says another placard left by a passerby. "No day but today." Behind the great arch of Washington Square, smoke and ash from the buildings drifts across the sky.

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