Phone calls carry relief, grief
By DAN DeWITTand JENNIFER FARRELL
© St. Petersburg Times,
SPRING HILL -- John Scharf's last gift to his family was a telephone call.
He was on the 103rd floor of the World Trade Center; he said he had just heard a huge explosion.
"He just called his dad to tell his mother and father that he loved them both. That is her only solace as a parent, the gift of that phone call," said Kathy Doyle, 57, of Spring Hill, sister-in-law of Scharf's mother.
"That phone call, that's John. He always thinks of famly. Just an absolutely gorgeous smile, just an absolutely delightful boy."
Odds are that Scharf, who was working for an electrical contractor, died shortly after making the call, said Doyle and her husband, Marty Doyle, 57, a retired New York City police officer. But they continued to hope that Scharf, a physically fit ex-Marine, somehow survived.
So Wednesday was another day of waiting for the Doyles and the many families like them in Spring Hill. Because so many people who live in Spring Hill are originally from New York, many in the community had friends or relatives who worked in or near the World Trade Center.
"There's a lot of people just sitting by phones today, praying," Doyle said.
Some heard good news and even remarkable stories of escape. Others faced the agony of hearing nothing.
"We're waiting to hear about my nephew, Louis," Judy Delgorio said about herself and her husband, Vito.
Louis Fersini, 38, is the co-owner of a brokerage firm on the 106th floor of one of the twin towers, she said. He lives in New Jersey with his wife and four children.
"His wife spoke to him at about 8:15 (Tuesday morning), so we know he was at work. We're still waiting to hear from him, but there are a lot of possibilities. He could be in a hospital or he could be unconscious," she said, adding that she took hope in stories that people continued to be rescued from the rubble Wednesday.
"We're hoping for the best and we're praying for the best for him."
Rose Nardello, 48, said her brother-in-law, Nick Chiosalo, a firefighter stationed in Brooklyn, arrived at the World Trade Center shortly after it was struck by an airplane.
"He's under the rubble," she said. "He's been there since 10 o'clock (Tuesday) morning."
Chiosalo is the father of a 13-year-old son. He had a successful second career, supervising fireworks displays, and was scheduled to travel to China in the upcoming weeks for a presentation.
But he also was committed to his primary job as a firefighter, and had volunteered for a department in Long Island before he was hired by the city.
"He just loves the fire department. That is his life," Nardello said.
She had been on the telephone with relatives in New York all Wednesday and planned to travel to New York this morning.
"We're leaving tomorrow morning in hopes they find something," she said Wednesday.
Anthony Viola, an 86-year-old retired motel operator who lives in Brookridge, has three nephews who worked in the World Trade Center. He found out Wednesday morning that all three were unharmed.
One nephew, Vincent J. Viola, is the chairman of the board of directors for the New York Mercantile Exchange, which employed 83 people on the 40th floor of the North Tower.
Viola was not at work Tuesday morning, but told his uncle Wednesday that all of his employees, including another nephew, were able to scramble down stairs and exit the building without significant injury.
"It's a miracle," said Anthony Viola, who had a third nephew, D.J., driving in to work from New Jersey, who saw the smoke billowing from the towers and turned his car around.
"He told me, "Uncle Tony, you can't believe all the chaos here,' " said Viola, who moved to Spring Hill from Peekskill, N.Y., 15 years ago.
Kevin Cameron, who lives north of Weeki Wachee, is reeling from reports of the death toll.
A retired New York City firefighter, he has gotten word from friends and family still living in New York of massive casualties from the attack.
"I lost many friends," he said Wednesday. "Many people that I worked with are dead."
Cameron, 58, a 25-year veteran who retired from Rescue Unit 5 in 1992, said the attack occurred just as the day and night shifts were changing at 9 a.m. Tuesday.
"A lot of tours responded with a double crew," he said. "Rescue 5 was one that did that, and they lost everybody."
Cameron, who spends summers in New York with his daughter, said he and several retired and active members of the department got together to play golf there just before Father's Day.
"I saw a lot of them over the summer and then this happened," he said. "I can't believe this."
His son-in-law is a firefighter in Brooklyn and has been on the scene of the World Trade Center attack.
Cameron, who is president of a local group made up of 250 retired New York City firefighters, said he hopes to organize a donation drive.
"It's mind-boggling what's going on here," he said.
Beth-Ann Simon, of Spring Hill, believes nature's call saved her brother's life.
A New York City police detective, he was headed to work at 1 Police Plaza, two blocks from the World Trade Center, when he saw smoke billowing into the sky about 9 a.m. Tuesday.
He called the station house and was told to go straight to the scene. Glenn Yost, 37, a 17-year police veteran and father of three, immediately began helping to direct traffic on the street.
Before long, though, he needed to relieve himself, and headed inside a nearby grocery, Simon said.
When he emerged, the spot where Yost had been standing was covered with debris after one of the buildings collapsed. Looking skyward, he saw people falling.
"It was strange that he had to go to the bathroom and had stepped away from that spot," Simon said. "It's just horrifying."
Dr. Geetha Priyanka is grateful for late trains. Her brother in New York missed arriving at the World Trade Center on Tuesday at 8:45 a.m. because his subway train was 20 minutes late.
Officials on the late train, receiving word of the first plane crash, directed it to another station.
Meanwhile, Priyanka, knowing her brother worked close to the disaster zone, strained to keep her focus on her work. "It was really hard to concentrate, but I told myself, even if it's something bad, I could not do anything about it. I was thinking of canceling my appointments, then I said to myself, I would go crazy."
Her brother finally reached her sister's cell phone at 11:30 a.m. The word spread quickly among family members that he was safe. "All he was saying was, "I was lucky' and "God is great'; that's what he kept on saying," she said. Sometimes it's good that you're not so perfect, that you're not punctual," Priyanka said.
-- Times staff writers Greg Auman and Saundra Amrhein contributed to this report.
Tuesday's attacks took place hundreds of miles from the Tampa Bay area, but how have these attacks affected Hernando County? Do you know someone involved? Call us toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6101.
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