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America's New War: Readying Themselves for The Bad News

Aired September 17, 2001 - 03:41   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Uncertainty is fueling the pain of many family members waiting to learn the fate of their loved ones.

Elizabeth Cohen reports now on their search for closure, and how science may bear the final answers for them.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When should hope end? When should searching turn into grieving? For the first few days after the World Trade Center explosion, Nelson Ortez (ph) was sure his brother, Pablo (ph), was alive. Now, he's just beginning to think that might not be true.

NELSON ORTEZ: I'm going to miss him. If he's gone, I'm going to miss him.

COHEN: Nelson does keep searching, because he has some hope.

GOV. GEORGE PATAKI, NEW YORK: You know, there have been, in many earthquakes and other situations, people recovered alive eight, nine, 10 days afterwards. And in this site, there are tunnels, and perhaps air pockets. It might take a miracle. But miracles have happened.

COHEN: Ortez is hoping for that miracle, but preparing for the worst. Like hundreds of others, he's given DNA samples, DNA to be matched up with human remains from the explosion site.

Those samples arrive at the state crime labs in Albany. Some of the DNA came from hairbrushes, razors or toothbrushes used by the missing people. Others came from inner cheek swabs of close blood relatives.

It's not clear how long the DNA matching process will take. When the lab reports do come out, in many cases, they'll have to take the place of having an actual body.

PAM SINGER, NEW YORK UNIV. MED. CTR.: I think at this point, anything is better than this horrible uncertainty and nothingness that people are going through right now.

COHEN: Since matching hundreds if not thousands of DNA samples will take time, families are left in an emotional limbo. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We try to say, you know, what if -- what would be your plan, if, for example, you found out today that there was a confirmation that your loved one was deceased? What kind of supports do you have around you? What would you need to help you through this?

COHEN: That's the fine line Nelson Ortez is walking: hoping for life, and preparing for death.

Before he did his interview with us, he'd been at hospitals to see if perhaps his brother had been brought in alive. After the interview, he went to the city morgue.

Elizabeth Cohen, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOLMES: Well, if you're looking for someone missing after the terrorist attacks, do send a photo and a description to us here at CNN. You're invited to go to CNN.com. There you will find complete instructions on what to do.

The information you submit, we have to tell you, may be published on CNN.com as part of a list of missing persons, and we might show some of the photos on the air.

The e-mail address for you: missing@CNN.com. Very simple: missing@cnn.com. Once again, we urge you to read the full instructions before you send the photos and any information.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

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