Panthers return minus prey
Ransack after ragging in polytechnic
More units to benefit from IT sops
Four Wipro men ‘missing’, Premji safe
BJP looks for Pervez link in attacks
MNCs put security under scanner
Business mask on anxious face
When we stood stunned, watching the ash
From doomed planes, cellphone calls gave clues to terror
From Godzilla to ground zero

 
 
PANTHERS RETURN MINUS PREY 
 
 
FROM PROBIR PRAMANIK
 
Siliguri, Sept. 12: 
The night was long and the Panthers well-disguised in their long, loose shirts and lungis. To anyone not in the know, they would have come across as villagers strolling to get a whiff of the night breeze and not as sleuths of the special investigation team who had concealed under their clothes some very sophisticated weapons.

But those the disguise was meant to fool, knew all. They were away, somewhere far, having the last laugh as the sleuths spent their night of vigil at a spot in Bihar’s Katihar.

Family members of abducted Siliguri businessman, Mukesh Agarwal, had tipped the police off that the final part of the ransom transaction would be carried out at a spot between Falka and Potia in the Katihar district of Bihar.

The dozen handpicked sleuths on their mission codenamed Panther, were headed by Jalpaiguri superintendent of police S.N. Gupta. They went to the spot accompanied by their Bihar counterparts headed by Katihar superintendent of police Vinay Kumar. Then began the long wait. Night turned to dawn, and they realised that they had been taken for a ride.

“It turned out to be a well-planed diversion to get the police off their trail and to ensure that the exchange of ransom passed off without a hitch. It was also a ploy to buy time,” said a member of the team that went to Katihar last night.

The official claimed that as the police were keeping a close watch on Mukesh who is still holed up in a safe house at Biratnagar in Nepal, the kidnap cartel wanted to buy time to ensure that the police lost its trail.

“We are back to square one again. We have lost track of the whereabouts of the abductors. The Agarwal family too seems to have played along with the abductors to put us off the scent, perhaps fearing for the safety of Mukesh who has yet to return home,” he added.

On Tuesday, inspector-general (north Bengal) Niraj Ranjan Das had claimed that Mukesh might have been released by his abductors after his family reportedly paid a hefty ransom.

“Mukesh might have been released by his abductors and is safe in Nepal. We are now close on the heels of the kidnap gang involved and expect to wrap up the case by the weekend,” Das had told reporters.

   

 
 
RANSACK AFTER RAGGING IN POLYTECHNIC 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Suri, Sept. 12: 
Guardians of alleged victims of ragging along with local people today ransacked a state-run polytechnic college here and beat up senior students.

They alleged that senior students at the Ramakrishna Shipa Vidyapith ragged five girl students yesterday and today. Two of the senior students were seriously injured and admitted to Suri Sadar hospital.

Some teachers who rushed to pacify the guardians and the mob were also assaulted. The college authorities later closed the polytechnic for an indefinite period. A private engineering college at Kolaghat was also closed last week after a student became a victim of ragging by seniors.

In Kolaghat an Ist year student had to leave college unable to bear ragging. An education department official said it was becoming impossible to prevent ragging in colleges despite being a law against it.

“We will send fresh circulars to all residential colleges, asking the authorities to submit report on what steps they have taken to prevent ragging after the government legislation. It appears from what happened in Suri that adequate steps were not taken,” the official said.

The government is worried about increasing instances of ragging after the University Grants’ Commission issued a strong-worded circular asking the state government to stop ragging.

In Suri, a large contingent of police led by the deputy superintendent of police rushed to the spot and brought the situation under control.

It is learnt that five girl student residing in Suri and neighbouring areas lodged complaints with the authorities saying they were seriously ragged and tortured by their seniors.

“About 20 senior boys and two girls, all students of the college, forcibly dragged us to a bush and physically tortured us like animals. We raised an alarm but none came to the rescue. We even fell at their feet and begged them to let us go, but they did not listen. They were enjoying it,” recalled Priyadarshini Mishra, a first year student of the college.

   

 
 
MORE UNITS TO BENEFIT FROM IT SOPS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Sept. 12: 
In keeping with its policy of making Bengal a hub of knowledge-based industries, the government has decided to offer IT-enabled services the same incentives that the hardware and software sectors are eligible for.

Information technology minister Manab Mukherjee told a session organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry that the government has chosen 14 services that will be eligible for the incentives. These include back-office support, call centres, content development and animation, geographical information services, data processing, insurance and legal services, medical transcription and payroll services.

IT industries in Calcutta get a 15 per cent subsidy on fixed capital investment over Rs 1.5 crore. The state has also exempted these units from paying electricity duty for five years as well as stamp and registration fees.

The government is also promoting its e-governance project and has received a confirmation from Microsoft to introduce the MS Office suite in Bengali in seven months. The government will instal a computer at Totopara in Jalpaiguri district as part of a project called Computer Village.

   

 
 
FOUR WIPRO MEN ‘MISSING’, PREMJI SAFE 
 
 
FROM OUR BUREAU
 
New Delhi & Calcutta, Sept. 12: 
Azim Premji was in New York when the planes rammed into the twin towers. So were 50 of his employees. There’s still no news about four of them.

Premji is safe – he was not near the towers yesterday morning. But his four engineers were working for one of Wipro’s clients on the 97th floor of the World Trade Center.

Their colleagues in Bangalore pressed the panic button yesterday, trying frantically to get through to New York, sending e-mails. But so far, there’s been only silence. Wipro, though, isn’t revealing the names of the four missing engineers.

It was the same story of anxious wait for relatives and friends of software professionals who were in New York yesterday, many of them inside the ill-fated towers.

Wipro, which has over 1,000 software engineers working in the US, has set up a helpdesk for the relatives of its staff. Another software major, Sun Microsystems, was in the process of confirming the whereabouts of its 300 employees who worked in the center, the software consultancy firm’s country head, marketing, K.P. Unnikrishnan, said.

There was panic in Infosys as well. Two hundred of its engineers work in New York. A relieved managing director, Nandan Nilekani, later said all them were safe.

But the industry itself is in panic. The software sector, clobbered by the dotcom bust and the US slowdown, is now staring at a sharp fall in business.

“Such major developments (terrorist strikes) necessarily have some immediate impact on the economy,” said Nasscom chairman Phiroz Vandrevala.

“We expect a fall of over 40 per cent in our business,” said a senior official of Hyderabad-based software company, Wilco.

But the Nasscom chief held out a ray of hope. “Europe is the second largest market after the US with a 29 per cent market share and is growing at a pace above the world average. There is a huge untapped potential in the area,” said Vandrevala.

“We are not worried about losing business so much as about the future of our people,” said J.A. Chowdhary, president of the Hyderabad Software Exporters’ Association.

The terrorist attacks, coming on top of the US slowdown, could see nearly 30 per cent of the Indian techies in the US losing their jobs.

For the moment, though, the focus is on the human tragedy. “We occupied two floors of the World Trade Center,” said M.D.S. Bosco, chief of the Intelli group’s Indian operations. “There were 150 employees from India, 20 of them from Andhra Pradesh. They were working at the time of the attack….”

Bhavani Kumar’s brother was not in the center, but worked at the nearby New York Stock Exchange.

But this girl from Hyderabad hasn’t heard from her brother. The telephone lines to New York are jammed and he hasn’t answered the e-mails.

“I don’t know what’s happened to him…. Why isn’t he replying?” she asks, panic written all over her face.

   

 
 
BJP LOOKS FOR PERVEZ LINK IN ATTACKS 
 
 
FROM ANAND SOONDAS
 
Jodhpur, Sept. 12: 
In a hard-hitting resolution that does not bode well for the painfully progressing Indo-Pakistan ties, the BJP has asked the US and the world community to probe Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf’s role in the terrorist attacks on America.

A meeting addressed by party chief Jana Krishnamurthi and attended by the BJP’s top office bearers has taken the view that America should go “deeper” into the incident and investigate those who have been “funding, supporting and encouraging terrorism”.

The meeting, slated to discuss elections in Uttar Pradesh and other states, took a different turn with BJP leaders taking the opportunity to vent their ire on Musharraf. Other issues got a fleeting mention as the leaders launched into an offensive against terrorism and Pakistan’s role in it.

BJP general secretary Narendra Modi, who briefed the press along with Kushabhau Thakre, Sunil Shastri, Kailashpati Mishra and Pyarelal Khandelwal among others, said: “President Bush should try to find out why Musharraf spoke for Palestine so vociferously at the Agra summit and why he openly supported terrorism. There is much that remains to be explained.”

Modi added that America should investigate everyone who has been lending moral, financial and logistical support to terrorism. “Everyone knows who these people are.” World opinion should now be focused on why terrorism has got such a sudden spurt and who are behind it. “All those people supporting terrorism should be punished, their roles thoroughly investigated,” Modi stressed.

The party, which has decided to observe September 21 as “anti-terrorism day”, said it would try not to make the programmes “BJP-centric”. “We will seek participation of all parties and NGOs on that day,” Modi said, adding that when terrorism is backed by religious motives, as in the American case, it becomes lethal.

   

 
 
MNCS PUT SECURITY UNDER SCANNER 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Sept 12: 
Spooked by the horrific terrorist attacks in the US yesterday, American multinationals are beefing up security at their establishments and installations in India.

Group 4 Securitas, the company that provides security services to a number of large Indian and multinational companies, has reported a sharp spike in the demand for security personnel at several American companies — an increase of almost 60 per cent in some cases.

The move came even as cola giant Coca-Cola shut down its corporate headquarters in Gurgaon for a day to review its security arrangements.

“We have kept the offices closed to beef up security in the wake of the American tragedy yesterday,” said Irfan Khan, Coca-Cola’s vice-president, corporate affairs. “The office will be open tomorrow.”

But cola rival Pepsi kept its corporate headquarters open. “The security arrangement at our corporate headquarters (also in Gurgaon) is good enough and no additional arrangement for security has been made. There is no specific threat perception as all our staff are Indian,” said the company’s spokesperson.

There were no reports of any other US multinationals taking as precipitate a step as Coke though most threw a veil of secrecy over their internal deliberations and forbade their personnel from speaking to the press.

Although no one is willing to talk, it was evident that the security at the US establishments in India were being beefed up before any reprisal attack by the US government that could spark another wave of terrorist counter-attacks.

Top-level sources at Group 4 said the demand for enhanced security came from three centres — Bangalore, Mumbai and Delhi — where most of the American companies have their corporate headquarters.

Group 4 provides security to the American Center, United States Information Service, American School and a part of the American Embassy. US companies that use Group 4’s services include United Airlines, Motorola, Pepsi, Coca-Cola, Citibank, Citicorp and Bank of America.

“Several companies came up with requests for additional security this morning. We have despatched our personnel to these companies,” the source said.

According to him, the enhanced security cover will continue for at least a week. The situation will be reviewed at the end of that period.

   

 
 
BUSINESS MASK ON ANXIOUS FACE 
 
 
FROM OUR BUREAU AND AGENCIES
 
Sept. 12: 
The mood in 141, Maker Chambers III at Nariman Point, and inside the granite building at Forbes House in the heart of India’s business capital, was sombre.

As America began counting the pieces of Tuesday’s wreckage, employees in the two offices of JM Morgan Stanley were hunting for information about colleagues and friends. JM Morgan Stanley is the local arm of Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, the US financial powerhouse which saw its hub in New York’s World Trade Center reduced to rubble.

Morgan Stanley was the complex’s largest tenant with 3,500 employees on 25 floors. The investment bank declined to give details on the status of its staff who worked at the twin towers, but a spokeswoman said damage from Tuesday’s attacks to the firm’s business was “fairly insignificant”.

“We are saddened and outraged by the attack on America, and extend our deepest sympathies and prayers to all the people affected,” Morgan Stanley chief executive Philip Purcell said in a statement on Tuesday.

Despite the tragedy, the company’s staff here showed tremendous resilience, saying it was “a normal day’s work” for them. Nimesh Kampani, chairman of the JM Morgan Stanley, confessed it was depressing but, turning stoic, said the show had to go on.

It was business as usual for Morgan Stanley in Asia-Pacific, Europe and Australia. But financial wizards tried to talk away clients’ anxieties. “We want them to know today that in spite of this tragedy, our businesses are functioning and will continue to do so. Their assets are safe. Our financial advisors will soon get in touch with investors to answer questions and address their concerns,” a company release stated.

The veneer of calmness wasn’t hard to pierce though. The corridors that were normally rife with whispers of mega deals were full of eerie accounts of the mayhem in New York. The grim images on TV had stoked anxieties like nothing else.

During the day, Morgan Stanley officials made desperate attempts to contact the US office. But, with communication lines still down, few managed to get through. Those left behind in the Morgan Stanley headquarters in Broadway were trying to get in touch with relatives of their colleagues who are feared dead in the terror strikes.

However, there was a glimmer of optimism at the premier investment banking house when news trickled in that the number of people buried in the rubble could be fewer than feared.

Senior sources in J M Morgan Stanley under the cover of confidentiality said that reports trickling in say that atleast 1500 employees out of the 3500 employees from its WTC offices are reported to be safe.

Further, there is no damage reported to their back offices and asset management company. The firm had sent e-mails to all their employees to touch base. While yesterday was chaotic, reports suggest that more and more employees are reporting back to the office.

“It is very heartening to note that as the new day breaks out many of them considered to be lost in yesterday’s mayhem have got in touch,” the official said.

The WTC offices were home to Morgan Stanley’s retail banking headquarters. The premises and the offices came to them by virtue of the mega-merger of the two investment banking majors Dean Witter and Morgan Stanley, a few years ago.

The officials explain that the death toll could be less than feared as their retail banking business, the employees make calls to their clients offices instead of the other way round.

In a press statement, the investment bank said: “We have limited information about the Trade Center disaster beyond what has been reported in the news. Our key focus and concern are for the well-being and safety of Morgan Stanley employees. Some 3,500 people working for Morgan Stanley’s individual investor businesses were based in the World Trade Center complex. We are working diligently with local authorities, and we will keep you apprised of developments.”

Many firms said they could not confirm whether their employees at the Center had been safely evacuated before the towers collapsed.

“Currently, we are unable to determine how many employees were in the building at the time of the attack or confirm if they were safely evacuated,” Cantor Fitzgerald and eSpeed, its electronic trading unit, said in a joint statement.

The companies have set up telephone hot lines for staff and their families and friends.

   

 
 
WHEN WE STOOD STUNNED, WATCHING THE ASH 
 
 
FROM ISHAAN AND KANISHK THAROOR
 
New York, Sept. 12: 
The Twin Towers of the World Trade Center were the pillars of our New York skyline. When, at the age of six, we moved to Manhattan, those gleaming Big Apple monuments were the first to greet us, and over the years they towered over our discoveries of the city.

For us they were not only massive financial and commercial centres, but also symbols of the greatness and permanence of the New York City we love.

Now, the towers are gone. On that beautiful, crisp Tuesday morning of 11 September, we saw the North tower first tumbling down in an avalanche of twisted steel, shattered glass, billowing smoke and lost lives. Then the remaining tower, its needle waving good-bye in the air, imploded and collapsed.

We originally saw the gaping holes, ringed with flame, bored into New York’s king skyscrapers from the roof of our school, situated fifty blocks to the north and on the other coast of Manhattan. Students, teachers, and administrative officials, all in a state of utter disbelief, stumbled to the roof’s steel-grated sides. There, as we assume in thousands of other places around the city, dozens stood in stunned silence, watching the plumes of smoke and clouds of ash engulf the two towering stalwarts of New York.

Yet none of us thought World Trade Center would completely disappear even as the two twins continued to cough acrylic phlegm into the sky and across the East River into Brooklyn.

Then as people began to realise that something had seriously gone wrong, that we were not witnessing a mere fire, but the catastrophe of terror, all havoc broke loose amongst the students.

Dozens had parents who worked not only in New York’s Wall Street financial area, but also inside the Center. We ourselves feared for our mother’s safety, as the New York University classes she teaches were close to the financial district.

Students frantically tried using their cell-phones, but one of New York’s major cellular satellite dishes was located at the top of the twin Towers — numbers scrambled and services went out of order.

A police car rolled up to the gates; school was evacuated.

The short walk along the East River to our Midtown apartment building was filled with streams of incensed, confused and crying New Yorkers. We turned our heads south and gazed in awe at the impenetrable black mass now hovering over downtown Manhattan.

At home, we found our mother safely rooted in front of the television watching the already ubiquitous footage of the Towers’ demise.

Manhattan had been blockaded on all sides by now, all bridges and tunnels out of the island were sealed.

Helicopter gunships and fighter jets streaked across the sky, patrolling the devastation. A few friends of ours, who lived in Queens, came to our home with nowhere else to go. One of them had a number of relatives who worked inside the World Trade Center. He had no idea where they were and no way of reaching them.

We also have many friends in one of New York’s largest high schools, Stuyvesant High, a huge complex a few blocks west of the World Trade Center.

One friend, Cyriak, told us that they had witnessed from close the two airliners slicing into the towers, dozens of flaming bodies catapulting themselves out of the 110-story buildings, and the final collapse only few hundred yards away.

Another close friend, Max, goes to school at Stuyvesant and lives even closer to the World Trade Center. His entire neighbourhood and the area south of Broome Street on the west side of Manhattan have been reportedly evacuated to temporary shelter camps in New Jersey.

At the time of writing, we still hadn’t been able to reach him or his family. We can’t even begin to imagine the scale of destruction and loss – almost every New Yorker knows or cherishes somebody who isn’t accounted for.

We stood on the roof of our home, staring for hours downtown at the dark blankets of debris, dust, and smoke that already seem as permanent as the Twin Towers were. Not only do we feel grief, frustration, and fear, but New Yorkers also feel violated.

Within the rubble and smog of this tragedy, a part of every New Yorker’s identity lies blasted and ruined. But though it will take time for the wounds to heal and the smoke to clear, New Yorkers will rise from the ashes.

Ishaan and Kanishk are sons of author Shashi Tharoor, a Calcuttan now based in New York

   

 
 
FROM DOOMED PLANES, CELLPHONE CALLS GAVE CLUES TO TERROR 
 
 
FROM LOS ANGELES TIMES-WASHINGTON POST NEWS SERVICE
 
New York, Sept. 12: 
They had time to glimpse their fate, and precious seconds to tell of it. Unlike the victims inside the World Trade Center, these casualties of yesterday’s terror had an idea what was coming.

“Our plane is being hijacked,’’ TV commentator Barbara Olson told her husband before the phone went dead about 9 am. A few minutes later came a second call from her Los Angeles-bound American Airlines jet. “They’ve huddled all the passengers and crew into the back of the plane,’’ Ted Olson remembered his wife saying. She said they were armed with “knives and cardboard-box cutters.’’ Once again, the connection was lost.

Moments later, her husband —the US solicitor general — saw with the rest of the world what had become of her plane. With 65 aboard, the Boeing 757 had plunged into the side of the Pentagon, not far from Olson’s Justice Department office, where he took the two calls.

There were others who would call from the skies too, including a flight attendant, a mother of four who called her husband from San Francisco-bound United Airlines Flight 93. On the same plane, an unidentified man got through to an emergency operator before the jet crashed into a wooded area 80 miles southeast of Pittsburgh.

“The word ‘hijacked’ was repeated several times,’’ said Daniel Stevens, a Westmoreland County public safety official, of the minute-long call. Those few voices offer a glimpse into the last moments of 266 passengers and crew members aboard four California-bound jetliners in the worst terrorist attack on the United States. Although the FBI has yet to authorise the release of the flight manifests, a few names and their stories began surfacing from the smoke and ashes yesterday.

One of television comedy’s more creative minds, David Angell, an executive producer and creator of the NBC sitcom Frasier, gone. Daniel C. Lewin, 31, a technology executive, the father of two and an officer in the Israel defence forces, gone. Thomas McGuinness, a former Navy fighter pilot, father of two teenagers, and the pilot of American Airlines Flight 11, gone.

As word trickled out in Hollywood about Angell, the images of carnage were drawn into a sharp and tragic focus for his friends and colleagues in television. Angell, 54, was travelling with his wife, Lynne, from Boston — they had a vacation home in Chatham, Massachusetts, to catch the Emmy Awards this weekend.

Television writer Dave Hackel, a friend for 12 years, recalled how Angell, a Rhode Island native, came close to quitting the business in the early 1980s and heading back East. “The story David used to tell is, he was pretty much packed up and ready to go home when he got his first writing assignment. If you go back through Cheers you’ll find that some of your favourite episodes were written by David Angell. He was just a kind, classy man,’’ Hackel said.

Angell and his wife were heavily involved in philanthropic ventures. Lynn volunteered as a librarian at Hillsides, a home for abused children that the couple helped renovate. Lynn, in fact sent each of its 66 residents a postcard from Cape Cod this summer. Portsmouth, New Hampshire, is an easy drive to Boston’s Logan Airport, and has become home to many airline pilots. The town lost one of them, Thomas McGuinness, a former Navy fighter pilot.

McGuinness was identified as one of the pilots of American Airlines Flight 11, hijacked yesterday and crashed into New York City’s World Trade Center. He was married with two teenage children, said Rick DeKoven, administrator at Bethany Church in nearby Greenland, New Hampshire.

DeKoven said McGuinness’ wife, Cheryl, and their children were in seclusion with Bethany pastor Fred Cheney and friends, and were not available for comment. DeKoven described the McGuinnesses as “a fine Christian family’’ active in the church, including its youth programme. A special prayer service was scheduled “for the tragedy in the nation as well as to pray for the McGuinness family.’’

Both children were in school when the plane crashed, and their mother and a pastor met them on campus to tell them their father’s plane was involved, DeKoven said.

McGuinness flew F-14 Tomcat fighters for the Navy in the 1980s, said Bob Clement of Memphis, Tennessee, a fellow former Navy pilot. Both men were assigned to VF-21 Squadron and flew out of Miramar Naval Air Station in San Diego.

   

 
 
FROM GODZILLA TO GROUND ZERO 
 
 
FROM JANNY SCOTT (NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE)
 
New York, Sept. 12: 
For what seemed like an eternity yesterday, they were missing in action — the thousands of husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, friends who might have been, could have been, with any luck had not been lost.

But who knew? For hours, they had disappeared into the mist of busy signals, overloaded circuits and terrifying silence. Some eventually surfaced. Others still have not.

Nural Miah, 33, and his wife, Shakila, had just celebrated their one-year anniversary last month. Two weeks ago, he had bought an Infinity SUV to go hunting and he was looking to buy a house in Jackson Heights or the Bronx. Both worked in the World Trade Center for the insurance firm Marsh & McLennan. . He was an audiovisual technician; she worked with computers.

Last night, his cousin Russel Sadat, 15, and uncle were biking around the city on borrowed bicycles looking for the couple’s names on hospital lists. “We were supposed to go hunting on Thanksgiving,’’ Russel said. “He’s more than a brother, he’s more than a mother; I have never had anyone this close to me.’’

Lisa Aston started calling her husband, Lang, at his office at 3 World Financial Center, in the shadows of the World Trade Center, as soon as news of the terrorist attack interrupted the Today show, which she had been watching. For two hours, she was unable to reach him on his cell phone or his office phone. As she watched the videotaped images of collapsing buildings, she became increasingly desperate.

“You have that sense that you want to go there, but you can’t,’’ Aston said from her apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. “I don’t know if it’s better or worse that you can see it on television. Every time the phone rang, I just kept thinking, ‘Please, let it be his voice.’’’

Aston, an investment banker at Lehman Brothers, was trying to reach his wife, too. Evacuated from his office, he was standing on the sidewalk near Battery Park City when the second tower was hit. He was marooned in a sea of people fruitlessly punching cell phones. Every pay phone seemed to have a line 20 people deep.

“It’s your worst nightmare, to know that your wife is aware of where you are and aware of the situation without any way of getting hold of you,’’ Aston said. As he headed north, he saw the first tower collapse. “At that point, I knew if Lisa was watching or knew what was going on, she would know it could have been catastrophic for me.’’

People all over the region and the country described rising waves of panic as they tried vainly to reach friends and relatives in and around New York.

At Castle Point in Hoboken, where a crowd of people, many of them clutching radios, had gathered to gape across the Hudson River, people fell to their knees in tears as the second tower collapsed. A young mother, weeping, with a child in a stroller, tried frantically to call relatives on a cell phone. She said her husband had left for work that morning, heading for an office 10 blocks from the World Trade Center.

At Stuyvesant High School, police officers and firefighters waited in line to use pay phones to try to reassure their own families. New Yorkers haunted hospital lobbies in search of relatives. Television and radio reporters interrupted live shots to transmit reassuring private messages about individuals’ whereabouts and to let the occasional passer-by call out, “Mom, I’m OK’’

“I thought he was dead,’’ Kathy Ruther, a human resources specialist at GE Capital, a financial services company in Stamford, Connecticut, said of her brother, Bill Crowley, who works as a trader at the New York Stock Exchange.

Ruther said that she called her mother in Milford, Connecticut, for any news, but that her mother had heard nothing. She called a sister in Charlotte, North Carolina, and her father in East Hampton, New York, but could not get through. When the first tower collapsed, she left the conference room in her office where everyone was watching the aftermath of the attack on television, returned to her office and wept at her desk.

“That’s when I lost it,’’ she said. She later heard from her mother that her brother was fine.

Karen Burnham and Pat Prapas went searching last night for a firefighter, Peter Frund of Middletown, New York, who is a lieutenant in the firehouse in SoHo. He responded to the disaster and had not been heard from since the towers collapsed.

The two, one a cousin, one an aunt, went to St. Vincent’s Manhattan Hospital. They went there at the urging of Frund’s wife, who was at home with their children. At the hospital and at a family center where questions were answered about victims, Frund was not on the list.

They considered trying to walk to New York University Downtown Hospital near City Hall, where many of the other victims had been taken, but Prapas was not sure that she could make the walk.

“It’s pretty horrible, pretty horrible,’’ Prapas said. “When you are here, the human part of it hits you. On TV it’s like a Godzilla movie.’’

Gail Ferris, a part-time lawyer in Longmeadow, Massachusetts, started calling her sister, Karen Robards, in Manhattan at 9:30 am She would call her cell phone and home telephone for five minutes straight.

Then she would stop for 15 minutes and try to distract herself. When she reached Robards at 2:30 pm, Ferris figured she had called 75 times.

Marilyn Allen, a literary agent in Stamford, Connecticut, heard from her husband, Bill Liberis, a vice-president at Chase Manhattan Bank, minutes after the first attack on the towers. He had watched it happen from his office several blocks away. He said he was going to check on some employees in another building nearby. Then he, too, seemed to disappear.

Liberis’ relatives were calling from Alabama and Massachusetts. Friends from California were calling for news. When the phone would not stop ringing, Allen asked them to contact her by e-mail.

“I didn’t hear from him for a while,’’ she said. “I became petrified that he was stuck in the street.’’ Liberis resurfaced shortly, then called every 20 minutes.

Aston finally got word to his wife via his sisters in Nashville and Dallas. He then telephoned from the headmistress’ office at the Astons’ daughters’ school. “I’m OK,’’ he said. “And I’m coming home.’’’

   
 

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