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Families of missing sit in limbo

©Associated Press

September 10, 2002


NEW YORK -- Missing. The word has lost its hopeful luster since the days when families plastered the city with photographs of those who didn't come home the night of Sept. 11.

NEW YORK -- Missing. The word has lost its hopeful luster since the days when families plastered the city with photographs of those who didn't come home the night of Sept. 11.

"If you've seen her, call us," the fliers begged, offering optimistic details on the eye color, scars and freckles of the lost. "With any information please call."

This Sept. 11, fewer than 100 names remain on the missing list. No one disputes they are gone, but the city will not list them among the confirmed dead until remains are identified or their grieving relatives bring themselves to apply for a death certificate.

"It's very hard to live with the fact that somebody can just disappear like that without a trace," said Dee Ragusa, whose son Michael Ragusa, 29, is among a number of firefighters still classified as missing. "He just went "poof' in the air one day."

In their hearts, the Ragusas know that Michael is gone. But like many families whose loved ones vanished on Sept. 11, they admit they still look for his face in the crowds. Some widows said they even called homeless shelters in lower Manhattan, searching for their husbands.

"I think there isn't one person who isn't missing a loved one that still doesn't have that ounce of hope," Ragusa said. "You know he's gone, but we don't have any proof yet. Maybe he chickened out and ran away -- you go through all those scenarios."

Last month, the New York City medical examiner's office announced that two men who were counted among the missing at ground zero had turned up alive.

One, a homeless man, was being treated in an upstate New York psychiatric hospital. The other, who was "selling things" around the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, according to his mother, was discovered in another hospital. His mother said he has been diagnosed with amnesia and schizophrenia.

More than 60 of the missing are rescue workers.

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