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America's New War: Families of Those Missing Hope Against Hope

Aired September 14, 2001 - 17:40   ET


JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: Want to move back to the human side of the story, because there has been so much emotion on the streets of New York City. You saw it beginning really yesterday. We saw the great flush of emotion, as all of those people who were looking for all those missing, all of those missing loved ones from the World Trade Center area, still wandering the streets of New York, trying to find some way, some evidence of where the missing loved one has gone.

CNN's Elizabeth Cohen has been following the scene out there at the New York Armory and she rejoins us now -- Elizabeth.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello. That's right, I am here at the New York Armory. We don't know if President Bush is coming, but if he wanted to talk to the families of people who are -- who are missing their loved ones, this is where he would come. This is where the families come to register information about their loved ones. Governor Pataki was here yesterday, was hugging people. He had tears in their eyes. He talked to them at length. His wife was here this morning, inside the Armory and spoke to people and told them, if you need financial help, you can -- you can apply for it here to help meet your mortgage this month or help to do whatever it is that you need to do.

When people come into the Armory, there is help for them. There are counselors. They register the information about their loved one. They are then shown two lists, they are shown the list of people who have been found in the hospital and then they are shown a list of people who the authorities know are deceased.

This woman right here, this is Audrey, has just been at the Armory. She's looking for her nephew, Damian Mawatt (ph). Can you tell me about your nephew. The last person who saw him was his girlfriend, right?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The last person who saw him was his girlfriend, Samantha. She -- they came down on the subway together, and he left for work, he said he got to be at work by 7:00 that morning. And she went to school.

COHEN: And tell me, you are distributing these posters, what are you hoping will happen with these posters?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am hoping somebody will see him somewhere where he can't -- he can't identify himself, and call any of these numbers here. So -- because I know he's out there somewhere.

COHEN: It's been almost three days now, and I know people were full of hope the first day, full of hope the second. Are you full of as much?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am still -- I am just as much as full of hope as the day number one. He's out there.

COHEN: What keeps you going? Is it your faith?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My faith, hoping and my family and friends.

COHEN: And his -- his parents must just be distraught.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They are, very. They're here today with me, but they don't want to come on camera.

COHEN: I can understand that, of course. Tell me about Damian (ph). We can see that he is a very good-looking guy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Damian (ph) is a very good boy. He's a very good person. He's not the kind of person that's into company. You know, he's more into work. He's a home person.

COHEN: When you went inside the Armory, were they able to tell you anything?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They weren't able to tell me anything. But we gave them all of the information that we had, that they wanted us to give to them. So we did that, and they sent us downstairs to check a list. He wasn't on there. He wasn't on that list. So they gave us a Web site number for us to keep checking, and they said they'll call us as soon as they get any information.

COHEN: Was it well-organized? Were they supportive?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They were very supportive. They even had counselors that came over, trying to talk to us, you know, but what we needed really was for some information out to get help for the kids that we have at home, that are taking this very, very hard.

COHEN: There are children in your family?


COHEN: And how are they responding to this?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not well. Especially his younger brothers. He got two younger brothers, 18 and 10. They are not doing too well, so we need some kind of counseling for them.

COHEN: I can imagine. Tell me what you'll be doing once you leave here? Where else will you go?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, we were on our way down to -- to St. Vincent's, and then we're going to go to that support group at the Pierre Hotel, because he worked for Cantor Fitzgerald, and they have like a support group up there so we're going up there.

COHEN: So that's a support group for people who worked for Cantor Fitzgerald, the financial group.

I have seen so many of these posters say "Cantor Fitzgerald" one them, one after another. It must be devastating, so many people from one company.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, so many people from one company, and most of them are up there at the Pierre Hotel. It's like a support group, and you know, we feel better when we are among people who are going through the same thing that we are going through.

COHEN: And has the company been helpful?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They have been helpful with the information that they've been giving us. You know, because so far they have -- you know, they gave us numbers and stuff and places where to go and you know, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) talk to us, you know, and stuff like that. So they're really doing much, you know, to help us. They are doing their best.

COHEN: And tell me, is Damian (ph) a fighter?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's not really a fighter, he's a kind of laid-back person, he -- but I'm -- I know he's down there trying to get to us.

COHEN: New Yorkers -- sometimes people who are from out of town think New Yorkers are heartless and don't work together?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, no! Not Damian (ph), you know.

COHEN: I know, but the people when you've been going on the streets putting up your posters, people have been supportive?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just very, very supportive. You know, it's wonderful to see all the New Yorkers. They get together, especially in crisis, you know, we all stick together.

COHEN: Well, thank you, ma'am, and the best of luck finding Damian (ph). We have another woman who wanted to come talk with us.

Ma'am, tell me your name and who you are looking for.

ELLIE NAIGLER, FRIEND MISSING IN WTC: My name is Ellie Naigler (ph), and I'm here because my friend Alex Bailey (ph), he is a Red Cross worker, he is working like 24 hours a day, this is his best friend Ian Thompson (ph), and Alex is working so hard he can't do this right now. So, I had the day off and I decided that I would come and just put posters up and come and talk to people and see, you know, whether anybody might have seen him, so we are all very worried about him.

He was a great guy. He was the kind of guy who would have been helping other people down, and he was on the 84th floor and nobody has heard from him. He's got a wife and a baby. So, you know, we're all just all concerned. And it's a great place to be, really, because everybody is really very supportive.

COHEN: And tell me, what kinds of things are you as a group doing to look for him?

NAIGLER: Well, I know they're going to register, you know, him. They haven't done it yet, because his wife has to take care of the baby and she's really the one that knows him well, and Alex is working really hard. So they're doing that, and they are just trying to contact a lot of the people that he worked with and seeing whether anybody might remember where he was. And so far, we don't really have a lot to go on.

COHEN: Has anyone been able to tell you anything?

NAIGLER: They don't have any information at this point. It's a dead end.

COHEN: I was talking to the woman before you, that sometimes out-of-towners think New Yorkers are heartless, don't help each other out. How have people hugged together today?

NAIGLER: People are great. I mean, I was really a little frightened coming down here. I didn't know what to expect and I was a little scared, and you know, everybody is so supportive. And we put up a bunch of posters, and you know, I love reading about other people's families. It's very sad, but it makes you feel good that you live in New York. You know, I've been here my whole life, this is an amazing experience, very sad. Very, very sad.

COHEN: And tell me, did you -- what did he do at Euro Brokers?

NAIGLER: He's a broker. I really don't know him. You know? And this is just a plea from my friend, can you help me. We want to get the information out about this guy. I know you're not working, but I'm working, so can you spend the day putting posters up, and so I did it.

COHEN: This was a building that obviously was in trouble in 1993. The people who you know who worked there, were they nervous about it? Did they think about it?

NAIGLER: I have a few friends who actually worked in the building, a roommate and she used to -- she worked on the 84th floor, it's the same floor that this guy worked on, and she used to be very scared of working there. Eventually, she got another job, so you know, I'm pretty sure she's really happy about that. People -- you know, you get used to stuff, but it -- it's just too high a building, I mean, it was just too high, you know? And I don't know, it's scary.

COHEN: There's something that's sort of hit me after talking to all the families is that I haven't heard anybody be angry at the people who did this. Everyone is just sad, and at the same time hopeful that their friend is alive. Have you heard anyone be angry? NAIGLER: I think the anger is really going to come. I find myself -- consider myself a really liberal person, and I'm getting really angry, so you know, there's a lot of anger out there. It's just that right now we're trying to deal with finding anybody that's possible to find, hoping against hope that there might be some people still that were trapped, you know, who might come out alive. And after that, then, hey, deal with the people that did this very severely.

COHEN: It's Friday now, the explosion was Tuesday morning. It's now Friday evening. Has hope diminished yet?

NAIGLER: You know, I don't want to say that. You know, I think that -- you know, I haven't been down there. I mean, you can spend your days crying about the people that are trapped in there, or you can just keep on looking. I know these guys are working really hard to find anybody. And you know, hopefully they'll find some people. I mean, you can't give up. You can't give up at this point, it's too early.

COHEN: And tell me, where are people putting the posters, and how many of you are working on finding him?

NAIGLER: Well, I came with my aunt, my aunt did all the copying for me of the posters, and we started 57th Street, and we just keep on putting them up. You know, all the way down here, and you know, we put up about 30 posters already.

COHEN: Thank you.

NAIGLER: You are welcome.

COHEN: Thank you so much. Good luck. Wolf, back to you.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you very much, Elizabeth.



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