Washington (CNN) -- For years, Denise Scott and her three daughters thought they had certainty about their loved one's death on September 11, 2001.
They believed Randy Scott -- Denise's husband and father to Jessica, Rebecca and Alexandra -- died instantly when the second hijacked plane, United Airlines Flight 175, hit the South Tower of the World Trade Center.
Randy Scott worked for Euro Brokers Inc. on the 84th floor, very close to the plane's point of impact. The family took some comfort believing that he might not have suffered.
But a handwritten note with just five words and two numbers on it has changed everything for the Scott family.
The note reads, "84th floor west office 12 people trapped."
The note was written by Randy Scott.
"We all just wrote the same ending," Denise Scott told CNN Connecticut affiliate WTIC-TV, "and it wasn't correct."
The note reveals that Randy Scott was not only alive after impact but actively trying to get help.
He somehow sent the note out an opening in the South Tower and down to the street below.
Randy Scott's best friend, Steve Ernst, believes he knows what happened.
"He actually literally broke a window, probably with a desk," Ernst said. "That's how they found that it was his note; his bloody thumbprint was on the corner of the letter."
According to Ernst and accounts the family gave to WTIC and the Stamford, Connecticut, Advocate newspaper, the note was recovered on the street almost immediately.
Then, according to those accounts, it was handed to a guard at the nearby Federal Reserve Bank. The South Tower collapsed shortly after that.
The Federal Reserve kept the note stored for years and then turned it over to the National September 11th Memorial & Museum, according to those accounts. The museum worked with the New York Office of the Chief Medical Examiner to process the note.
It was that smudge of blood on the note -- Randy Scott's blood -- that enabled the medical examiner to use DNA technology to trace the note.
By the time the note had gone through all those processes, a decade had passed.
In August 2011, the medical examiner's office called Denise Scott, said it had something written and asked her to identify it.
She brought Ernst with her. "When we saw the letter, you can't mistake his handwriting," Ernst said. "So we knew right away that ... he went down fighting as hard as he could."
"It was hard to hold back your tears," said Ernst, who like the Scott family lives in Stamford. "It's another part of him that just comes back."
Ernst and Denise Scott decided it was best not to tell Denise's daughters right away.
"I think we both realized that it's a really tough awakening, to realize that your father didn't die instantly, and might have really suffered or might have had a harder time than we thought," Ernst said.
Only "fragments" of Randy Scott's body were recovered, according to Ernst.
Denise Scott waited until this year, when the youngest daughter, Alexandra, was out of college, to talk about the note.
"My youngest, when I told them about the note, said, 'Oh, Daddy must have been so scared," Denise Scott said. "And I said 'No, your father was hopeful.' "
Ernst said he believes the physical characteristics of the writing tell Randy Scott's story in those final moments.
"He wasn't trembling. He wasn't nervous. It just looked like, 'This is what I gotta do. I gotta get some help to these 12 people.' "