- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 15, 2001

NEW YORK William Villa knows that his girlfriend is alive.
"We are going to be married, so I am her fiance," Mr. Villa says with the purest of conviction.
But he hasn't seen her since Tuesday morning, when a hijacked Boeing 767 jet struck the north tower of the World Trade Center, where she worked for the New York City Port Authority on the 70th floor.
His hand-drawn flier asking for help locating Niurka Davila is one of hundreds circulating here. They represent the hopes of many who still believe their loved ones may have survived after being missing for three days since the disaster.
These posters are everywhere; on phone booths, lampposts, trash cans and any wall space that will allow it.
The burning optimism was not dampened yesterday. Hundreds of family members fanned out through the city with a determined urgency, hoping someone has seen their loved ones.
"What have you heard?" is the constantly uttered question now, as thousands of victims are found. The hopeful families show up at the New York Armory with toothbrushes, combs and anything else that might help to get a DNA sample.
Nearly 5,000 people are now listed as missing in the wake of the terrorist attacks.
"She is on the survival list can you help us find her?" begs Mr. Villa's flier.
"I know that people saw her downstairs when the plane hit," said Mr. Villa, who lives in Manhattan. "She was not at her desk. People go into shock, I think maybe she ran away."
"I am still waiting for her," he adds.
The hope that keeps most family members and friends emotionally afloat is tied to stories from co-workers.
"He survived the initial impact," said Christopher Hamilton, brother-in-law to William Kelly Jr. His sister's husband sent an e-mail from his portable computer to a colleague at Bloomberg from the 96th floor of Tower One about 20 minutes after it was struck.
"We can hear the firemen approaching," the short message said.
"They were waiting to be evacuated from the roof," Mr. Hamilton said. "They were basically standing by."
"In our minds, we are thinking that between then and the time the building collapsed, he did have time to get down," Mr. Hamilton says hopefully.
The "Mural of Hope" is what the poster board in Union Square is called, several five-foot-square pieces of paper that are filled with fliers of those missing under the rubble.
However, for some of those looking for survivors, gloom has begun to set in. They have begun referring to missing friends or relatives in the past tense.
Cathy Kross stood in the rain yesterday, looking at the long faces who, in turn, looked at fliers that included one that called her brother something other than his real name, Kevin Smith.
He was now known to her as "missing."
The cold drip fell from the overhang of the Union Square subway, onto her yellow and blue raincoat and yet she didn't care.
Mr. Smith, 47, was a New York firefighter assigned to help clear floors one through 12 of Tower One.
He disappeared.
Miss Kross is engulfed in grief and sadness. She knows her brother, father of eight grown kids and a former member of Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani's Office of Emergency Management, is a survivor.
"But I just don't know what to do," she said.
Mr. Smith's wife, Jeri, betrayed her losing of hope in sobs: "He was a good guy, he did his part, he was a Marine."
At the corner of Park Avenue and 39th Street, Mark Esposito walked in the rain, sticking pictures of his cousin to poles with duct tape.
Mario Nardone was last seen on the 84th floor in the second tower after 9 a.m., just before the second strike by another hijacked jet.
"We have turned in dental records, we have turned in a hairbrush, we have checked all the hospitals, and nobody knows anything," Mr. Esposito said. His cousin is 32 Mr. Esposito says "was" and checks himself.
And then, again, he asks the question: "What are you hearing?"

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