- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 23, 2006

NEW YORK (AP) — Since September 11, 2001, Richard Pecorella has been searching the Internet and elsewhere for a single image, a photograph he thinks will show him what happened to his fiancee when the World Trade Center was destroyed.

“I need to know how she died: Did she burn? Did she jump? Did she suffer?” Mr. Pecorella said. “I would have hoped she jumped, rather than burn.”

Mr. Pecorella spent hours at his computer, scouring the Web for whatever photographs he could find of the aftermath of the terrorist attack.

About two years ago, he spotted an Associated Press photograph that he says made him think Karen Juday, a 52-year-old administrative assistant for the Cantor Fitzgerald brokerage, did jump from the 101st floor of the Trade Center’s burning North Tower.

The photo, by AP photographer Amy Sancetta, shows a group of people desperately peering from gaping holes high up in the tower, some trying to get out.

“I saw her,” Mr. Pecorella said. “She was wearing a blue bandanna, like she did at work to hold her hair back, and it was her shape. She had on a blue sweater and cream-colored pants that day.”

With smoke and flames behind her, the woman seemed poised to jump, holding on to the window frame and looking toward the ground.

The image is not clear enough for Mr. Pecorella to be absolutely sure it was Miss Juday, and whether she did jump is a question that will haunt him forever.

“I’m 90 percent sure. But I want to be 100 percent sure,” Mr. Pecorella said.

The 54-year-old investment banking executive appears in the documentary film “9/11: The Falling Man,” about the image captured by AP photographer Richard Drew of a man plunging headfirst from one of the towers.

On a recent day, Mr. Pecorella was at the AP’s New York headquarters poring over images of people stuck in the Twin Towers and of some falling after they jumped.

One showed a woman falling through the air who “looks like she could be Karen. The clothes look right,” Mr. Pecorella said. Still, “we didn’t find anything other than the pictures I already had.”

He said he’ll keep looking for amateur photos and videos in hopes of finding an image that will show how his fiancee’s life ended.

The search, he said, “helps me with my grief.”

On September 11, Mr. Pecorella was sitting at his office desk in Brooklyn when the first hijacked plane hit the North Tower. From his window, he watched in horror as the skyscraper disappeared in a mammoth cloud of smoke.

“I knew she was up there,” Mr. Pecorella said. Co-workers restrained him as he bolted from his desk, screaming and wanting to run to rescue her.

For a half-year after that, he drank himself into a stupor, “morning, noon and night,” but his employer held his job for him and he eventually returned to work.

One day in the winter of 2002, he scattered Miss Juday’s cremated remains — a single bone found in the Trade Center ruins — from the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, where they met when she first came to visit him in New York.

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