Relatives wait for news as rescuers dig
NEW YORK (CNN) -- After the drama of the explosions, the fireballs, the unbelievable sight of collapsing skyscrapers and mushrooming clouds of smoke and ash, many of the relatives of those still unaccounted for were left to wait and wonder Wednesday.
New Yorkers searching for missing loved ones had to go from hospital to hospital to check the names of those being treated from the disaster. New York health authorities have issued a list of 21 different area hospitals where the wounded were taken.
Daphne Bowers of Brooklyn arrived at Bellevue carrying a picture of her daughter Veronique, 28, who had gone to work at the World Trade Center on Tuesday.
"She called me when the building was on fire," Bowers told The Associated Press. "She called me and said, 'Mommy, the building is on fire, there's smoke coming through the walls. I can't breathe.' The last thing she said was, 'I love you, Mommy, good-bye.' And that was at 9:05."
With thousands missing and a relatively small number of people admitted to hospitals, it was clear that most of the people in search of survivors Wednesday would be disappointed, hospital officials told the AP.
"I wish I could go and dig myself," one woman whose missing husband worked in one of the upper floors of a World Trade Center tower told National Public Radio.
"He could be dying, and I'm not there to hold his hand," she said, choking on tears. "He could be in pain, and I can't help him."
A bond broker trapped near the top of one of the burning World Trade Center towers was "trying to be calm" as he called home to warn that he might not survive, his wife said Wednesday.
Kenneth van Auken's office was located on the 102nd floor of the north tower, the first of the twin towers hit by hijacked jetliners early Tuesday morning.
"I love you," van Auken said in a message left on his home answering machine shortly after the attack. "I'm in the World Trade Center. The building was hit by something. I don't know if I'm going to get out, but I love you very much. I hope I'll see you later."
His wife, Lorie, told CNN's "Larry King Live" that neither she, their 14-year-old son nor their 12-year-old daughter has heard from him since.
"It was just horrible," Lorie van Auken said. "He was trying to be calm for us, but you could hear the chaos in the background and the terror in his voice."
The rescuers digging through the rubble of the collapsed trade center towers also were grieving and wondering as they worked.
Hundreds of New York firefighters and dozens of police officers are missing. Many of them had entered the towers to help evacuate people before the buildings collapsed.
"I can't find anybody from five rescues and seven squads," said New York Fire Commissioner Thomas Von Essen, his voice cracking. "It's a devastating thing. The fire department will recover, but I don't know how."
Three top fire department officials were among those lost, including Ray Downey, the chief of special operations command, who led one of the rescue teams after the 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.
A few survivors were rescued from the collapsed buildings, and at least one cell phone call made from the rubble offered hope of finding more.
Mayor Rudy Giuliani said rescue workers were in voice contact with at least one person trapped in the debris. "They are trying to rescue him and get him out," he said.
Frantic phone calls from the air
Others know all too well that their loved ones are gone. They shared their final horrifying moments through frantic phone calls made from the hijacked airliners.
Alice Hoglan of San Francisco, California, said her 31-year-old son, Mark Bingham, called her by air-phone on United Airlines Flight 93, 15 minutes before the Boeing 757 crashed in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
Hoglan said her son told her that the plane had been taken over by three men who claimed to have a bomb.
"He said, 'I love you very, very much,' " Hoglan said.
Hoglan said her conversation with her son took place soon after two jetliners plowed into the World Trade Center and a third one into the Pentagon.
"He was forward in the aircraft, could probably be in full view of everything that was going on, probably saw what happened in the cockpit," she said.
Another call from Flight 93 was made by Thomas Burnett of San Ramon, California.
During the call to his wife, Deena, Burnett said that one of the passengers had been stabbed, the family's priest, the Rev. Frank Colacicco, told the San Francisco Chronicle.
"He said, 'I know we're all going to die -- there's three of us who are going to do something about it,' " Colacicco said. "He then said, 'I love you, honey,' and that was the end of the conversation."
Burnett, 38, was a father of three and the chief operating officer for a company that deals in medical devices.
Barbara Olson, the wife of U.S. Solicitor General Theodore Olson, called her husband from American Airlines Flight 77 to describe how the passengers and crew had been forced into the back of the plane by hijackers. The plane crashed into the Pentagon shortly after she made the call.
Theodore Olson told CNN that his wife had booked a different flight but changed it at the last minute so that she could be with him on his birthday.
Cheryl O'Brien dropped off her 71-year-old mother, Thelma Cuccinello, at the bus stop Tuesday so that she could go to the airport and catch American Airlines Flight 11 from Boston to Los Angeles to visit her sister.
But Cuccinello's trip ended in a dramatic crash into the World Trade Center's north tower.
"I was the last one to see her," O'Brien said. "I got to kiss her, say, 'I love you,' and 'Have a nice trip.' "
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