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Missing In Attack

NEW YORK - Cindy Guan. Age: 25. Height: 5-2. Weight: 110 pounds. 86th floor of WTC 2.

Saranya Srinuan. 23. 5-6. 115 pounds. 104th floor of Tower One.

Rajesh A. Mirpuri. 5-9. 185 pounds. Wearing a black thread and gold chain around his neck.

Missing persons signs splayed the faces of the victims across Union Square Park in New York City, wallpapering the fences with pictures of those still unaccounted for after last Tuesday's terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. The flyers, posted by family and friends in one last plea, detailed everything from their loved ones' last outfits and eye colors to their last known whereabouts. Others simply listed a phone number in crude black permanent marker.

The flyer for Cindy Guan stated that the family had received a cell phone call from her while she was trapped in an elevator on the 40th floor. Yes, they wanted to know if she was alive, but they also wanted to hear the stories of anyone else who was in that elevator with her and had gotten out. How did she spend her last minutes?

"You hold out hope until the last possible moment that your heart tells you," said Bob Simon, a man born and raised in New York City and who had come to Union Square to honor those lost in the collapse. "Deep in these people's hearts they probably know their loved ones are gone, but this is certainly a memorial."

Thousands of people have gathered each night at Union Square for the last week to join in prayer and song, sharing poems and peace-inspiring quotes.

"I'm here to share with everyone out

here," said Maggie Hernandez, who sat next to a subway exit, drawing iridescent hearts on black scraps of paper. "I feel we've all lost someone."

Hernandez poked a tiny, golden safety pin through one of her black hearts and offered it to a passerby.

"If we are looking so desperately for peace, we must look inside ourselves first," she said. "Any country is only a reflection of the people in it."

On the steps in front of her, two men began singing, "Won't you help to sing these songs of freedom, cause all I ever had, redemption songs," accompanying themselves on guitars to the Bob Marley classic. For Hernandez, it symbolizes some good she said she must find amid all the tragedy.

"My hope is that we keep the spirit of unity," she said. "I don't want to lose that."

Kevin M. Williams. Age: 24. Blonde hair, blue eyes. Employer: Sandler O'Neil. 104th floor.

A group surrounds a street lamp, holding hands and singing, "He's got the whole world in his hands." Votive candles illuminate their clenched faces.

Cassin Morgan, a New Yorker for four years now, had not heard about the nightly gathering at Union Square before he walked by this weekend but decided to stop to participate in the vigil.

"When you see a crowd of people, I think you're just drawn to the emotion of the area, like you need to be a part of it," Morgan said.

Originally only standing on the periphery of the spontaneous vigil, Morgan watched as people added their own pieces of material to a growing quilt and etched messages of hope with markers.

"You know, typically New Yorkers are such loners, such survivalists," he said. "They are a hard people and they can have a crusty exterior at times. But these are not those times. Being here tonight is an opportunity to see people let down their walls."

A hum of "Amazing Grace" drifted over the hushed masses. Two young women with flower halos served as guardians of the field of candles in the center of the square, dancing around to extinguished flames and relighting them. The chalk on the statue next to them shouted patriotism rather than graffiti.

"Hey, miss, did you read my poem?" shouted David Rodriguez to a passerby from behind a wall of umbrellas saturated with inked messages, his offering of art to the victims.

"I feel the loss, not only for me but for all the families and the children," Rodriguez said, explaining in a deep, coarse voice why he migrated over to Union Square this night. Born and raised in New York, Rodriguez spent several years on the streets here and has just now been able to afford a roof over his head.

"When we say, 'Give us your tired, your poor, your hungry,' we mean that," Rodriguez said. "Tonight proves that we're Americans and we're gonna come from all over to support each other, no matter what color or what creed."

Although thousands of people drifted in and out of the gathering, the night never threatened to erupt into conflicts. Instead, hope permeated the crowds - hope with an overwhelming feeling of support of strangers.

"I'm here to share my feelings of sympathy and to honor those helping in the wreckage," said Rob Heffernan, holding a sign above his head that warned of rash military action on the part of America. "We must acknowledge, on the one hand, that we do have this enemy who we need to protect ourselves from, but we must do so without discovering hatred in our hearts."

Guitarist Jim Morrison's wrenching version of the national anthem tore through the somber air.

"This is a good start," Heffernan said. "People are coming together, building camaraderie, mourning and speaking together and trying to understand the complexity of the situation."

At 42 years old, Heffernan said he wishes the rest of the country could see that New York needs to recover, not only retaliate. And he said he is thankful that Union Square can serve as a sanctuary for people trying to cope.

Manny Delvalle. FDNY Engine Company #5. Missing.

A hefty woman wearing a flag bandana propped up a display of black and white photos from Ground Zero.

"People have told me I should sell the negatives to Newsweek or Time or something," said Za Burkhart, the photographer. "I've thought about creating a Web site to share them with more people."

Burkhart serves as a social worker and for two days manned a respite spot for families of the missing. Not once, after meeting with hundreds of people, could she tell a family their loved one was listed on the recovered list. She called in sick the next day and instead used her credentials to maneuver her way down to Ground Zero on a food truck to capture the scene on film.

"I went there to bear witness and I came here to serve as a witness," Burkhart said.

Solemn without being depressing. Respectful. Contemplative. The vigil at Union Square reassured New Yorkers that the ground was still beneath them, for now.

Leah Oliver. 96th floor. Tower One. Last seen wearing a grey skirt, black and white striped top with a black sweater.


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