The Wailing Wall
NEW YORK CITY, September 12They come looking for their loved ones, some with flyers already made, others clutching only grainy snapshots. One by one, they take the roll of medical tape provided by emergency personnel and fix their homemade posterswith pictures and detailed descriptions of the missingto the red brick wall of the V.A. Hospital on First Avenue.
Each time, Thomas Teixeira, an EMS worker, walks over to the wall and tries to match the new name with the list of patients who have been treated there. He asks the searchers, "Have you been to St. Vincent's? Have you been to the morgue?" He has been asking these questions for two days now, almost from the moment the World Trade Center towers went down. "The later it gets, they know something's definitely wrong," Teixeira says. "But anything's possible. They're still pulling people out of there alive."
The wall at the V.A. is only one stop for these anxious families and friends, who wander from hospital to hospital checking patient lists and questioning medical personnel. Up the street from the V.A., in front of Bellevue and NYU Medical Center, the sidewalks are clogged with people clinging to lists of emergency numbers, and to each other.
Some are crying, but most are detached and businesslike. All hold up pictures of their spouses and children for the cameras.
They describe their kin the way parents describe children lost in a shopping mall. But these people were lost on the upper floors of the WTC. There's Jacqueline Sayegh, age 34, who worked on the 106th floor and wore a diamond engagement ring. Dolores Farelli, with reddish-blond hair and a scar on her top lip. And Daniel Lopez, age 39, a husband and father, who made contact with his family from the 78th floor shortly before Tower One collapsed. "I'm okay, but will remain here to evacuate people. See you soon," were his last words, according to his brother.
Families have seized upon the distribution of these flyers, hastily pieced together at the local Kinko's, as a chance to do something, to do anything besides stare at a cell phone that will not ring, or scan another official roster. On discovering the wall, one woman shouts into her phone for the family to get a flyer together. Switching from Spanish to English and back again, she tells them there are many, many pictures here, and she asks them to hurry. "We need a photo," she says. "It would be better if we had, like, three different angles."
People searching for friends and relatives can also call a New York City hotline, at 212-560-2730. Or they can turn to someone like Teixeira. As dusk falls, he gets up from his chair again and walks to the wall. "Who's got a name?" he calls to the crowd over the whine of an incoming siren. "Who's got a name?"
All photos by Sarah Goodyear
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