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Sept. 11: One year after

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Globe and Boston.com coverage from September 11, 2001

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'We don't have any proof' say the families of victims still listed as missing

By Sara Kugler, Associated Press

NEW YORK Missing. The word has lost its hopeful luster since the days when families plastered the city with photographs of those who didn't come home on the night of Sept. 11.

"If you've seen her, call us," the fliers begged, offering optimistic details on the eye color, scars and freckles of the lost. "With any information please call."

This Sept. 11, fewer than 100 names will remain on the missing list. No one disputes they are gone, but the city will not list them among the confirmed dead until remains are identified or their grieving relatives bring themselves to apply for a death certificate.

"It's very hard to live with the fact that somebody can just disappear like that without a trace," said Dee Ragusa, whose son Michael Ragusa, 29, is among a number of firefighters still classified as missing. "He just went 'poof' in the air one day."

In their hearts, the Ragusas know that Michael is gone. But like many families whose loved ones vanished on Sept. 11, they admit they still look for his face in the crowds. Some widows said they even called homeless shelters in lower Manhattan, searching for their husbands.

"I think there isn't one person who isn't missing a loved one that still doesn't have that ounce of hope," Ragusa said. "You know he's gone, but we don't have any proof yet. Maybe he chickened out and ran away -- you go through all those scenarios."

Ragusa said her family is not in denial about Michael's death. But they've debated whether he could have amnesia or might be scared to come home.

"There's just that little bit of hope. Because he hasn't been found, you say 'maybe,"' she said.

The victims on the missing list do not have court-issued death certificates generally for two reasons -- either their families don't want to apply or haven't been able to, according to Police Inspector Jeremiah Quinlan, who heads the trade center missing persons investigation.

Victims' relatives who live in other countries may not have applied because the process can be hard from far away. Families of undocumented workers may have trouble proving their loved ones were in the trade center.

More than 60 of the missing are rescue workers. Many of their families have held memorial services for the dead, but have not been able to force themselves to apply for the death certificates, which state, "Body Missing."

"I'm not delusional or kidding myself. I know he was there and I know he's not coming home," said Donna Hickey, whose husband, Capt. Brian Hickey, is among the missing. "But it's not going to change anything; it's not going to be this light going on, 'Oh, OK, now I know.' It's a piece of paper that doesn't tell us anything."

Hickey's family mourned him at a memorial service in Bethpage, N.Y., on June 11, nine months after he disappeared, on what would have been his 48th birthday. His wife and four children laid to rest a coffin that holds his crushed, dirt-caked helmet -- the only sign of him found in the ruins.

Hickey said she eventually will apply for a death certificate, at her lawyer's urging. But she resents the idea that her husband is categorized as missing in the attack.

"To this day, I have not been told my husband's gone," Hickey said. "I haven't been told he's dead. The building came down and he wasn't found and that's just the way it is."

Today's news:
Ceremony at Ground Zero
Mass. remembers victims
Silence, tears mark day at Logan
Under alert, Mass. carries on
Bush faces day with resolve
World remembers attacks in US
Memorial in Shanksville, Pa.
Updated wire coverage

Photo galleries:
Families mourn, remember
Ceremony at Ground Zero
Ceremony at the Pentagon
Ceremony at Pa. crash scene
Remembrances worldwide
Remembrances in Boston

NECN RealVideo:
Moment of silence observed
Ceremony at State House
Gettysburg Address read
Procession at Ground Zero
A somber travel day at Logan
Images of Sept. 11, 2001

 THE SERIES

 DAY ONE   SEPT. 3

Preparing for the worst
Security has become the new norm in Greater Boston.

 DAY TWO   SEPT. 4

Fear and children
Children's responses may shed light on human anxiety, resiliency.

 DAY THREE   SEPT. 5

Muslim minds
The US effort to win over Muslim hearts and minds is failing.

 DAY FOUR   SEPT. 6

Science vs. terrorism
New chemical, biological threats spur nation's top minds.

 DAY FIVE   SEPT. 7

Detainees
For those deported after Sept. 11, the losses are wrenching.

 DAY SIX   SEPT. 8

A special Magazine issue
A Sept. 11 narrative by former Massport chief Virginia Buckingham, plus an essay by Christopher Hitchens.

A special Arts section
How culture has changed since Sept. 11, including a gallery of art inspired by the attacks.

A special Focus section
A look at how the lives of six Americans were altered.

Everywhere USA
Terrorism comes to God's country.

 DAY SEVEN   SEPT. 9

Where is Al Qaeda?
How have bin Laden and his terrorist group eluded US forces?

 DAY EIGHT   SEPT. 10

Two cities
New York and DC one year later.

 DAY NINE   SEPT. 11

America remembers
The US looks back at the terrorist attacks.

Victims and survivors
A year later, still hurting.

A time for bells and remembrance
A clash of views on terror
Limited damage to the economy
Families build support system
NYC's healing process
Finding comfort in the kitchen
Bailey: A day of atonement


From the Associated Press:
Tribute paid with tattoos
Charities changed by 9/11
White House calls home
9/11 stole innocence, love
Man escaped earthquake, 9/11
Update on 9/11's famous faces
Firemen still burying dead
A mother's note to a lost son
9/11 created heroes in death
Voice mails bring comfort
Little things hold memories
87th floor survivor copes
Sampling of 9/11 memorials
Pentagon survivors move on
Moments of silence on Sept. 11
Survivors try to move forward
Families cling to chances
Sept. 11 widow trying to forgive
Widow becomes an advocate
Workplace response varies
Graphic: Funds offer relief





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