Companies taking stock of workers as hopes dim
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NEW YORK -- With hopes fading that rescuers will find survivors in the rubble, businesses that once supplied the lifeblood of the World Trade Center continued an anguished search for missing workers, even as colleagues cleaved to one another for comfort and slowly began efforts to rebuild.
Of the nearly 300 companies with offices in the twin towers, two firms alone have nearly 1,300 workers who are unaccounted for following Tuesday's terrorist attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center. The entire seven-building complex housed about 1,200 businesses.
Normally 50,000 people work in the twin towers, but the first attack came when many workers were not yet in their offices. Officials estimated that 10,000 to 20,000 people were in the buildings when the first plane crashed.
But the rosters of the missing, however grim, have slowly been whittled as the passing hours allowed people to track down friends and colleagues displaced in the mayhem.
Morgan Stanley, likely the largest single employer at the Trade Center with 3,700 workers in the complex, said the number of employees who "may have lost their lives" has been narrowed to between 30 and 40 people. None of those people has been confirmed dead, company spokeswoman Judy Hitchen said.
But at Marsh & McLennan Companies, related insurance firms that employed 1,700 people in the twin towers, about 600 workers remain unaccounted for, reduced from 700 late Wednesday. Employees have compiled reports showing that about 1,100 are safe. But the process remains frustratingly inexact.
"This is an environment in which its quite difficult to be certain of things and that's why we're expressing it in that way," MMC spokesman William Pitt said.
The twin towers were home to such symbols of Western economic might as Bank of America, Kemper Insurance, Lehman Brothers, Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, Credit Suisse First Boston and Sun Microsystems.
Brokerage firm Keefe, Bruyette & Woods said that as of mid-morning Thursday, 67 of the 171 employees who worked in its World Trade Center headquarters were still missing, including co-CEO Joseph J. Berry and chief financial officer Jeffrey Fox.
The number of missing was reduced from 69, after two workers, who it turns out were not in the building at the time of the attack, were located overnight, said Neil Shapiro, a spokesman for the firm.
Keefe's surviving board members and senior executives were meeting in New York Thursday afternoon to talk over the recovery and make plans for putting the business back together.
"It's everything from logistics to where to temporarily operate from to how to operate," Shapiro said.
At investment banking firm SandlerO'Neill & Partners, workers have been unable to locate 67 colleagues and two outside consultants from the company's World Trade Center staff of 90, the company said. Sandler employs 170 people in total.
"We will continue to reach out to area hospitals, rescue organizations and authorities around the clock," said Jimmy Dunne, Sandler's managing principal.
"In order to honor our missing colleagues, we are determined to emerge stronger than ever," he said.
Chicago-based insurer Aon Corp. said "the vast majority" of the 1,100 workers who had offices in the south tower had been reported safe. But it also feared the worst about others, including those who apparently re-entered the building to help colleagues or stayed in the offices to assure that everyone made it out safely, said Patrick G. Ryan, the company's chairman and CEO.
"We pray we will find them well," Ryan said, in a conference call to employees Thursday morning.
Bank of America said all but eight of the more than 400 employees it had in the towers have been contacted and are known to be safe.
"I ask that all of us keep these teammates in our hearts and prayers as the rescue work continues," said Ken Lewis, the company's chairman and CEO.
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