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The Boston Globe OnlineBoston.com
Boston Globe Online / Nation | World
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Reliving the morning of death

By Mitchell Zuckoff, Globe Staff, 9/16/2001

A farmer who flew jets. A businesswoman. A rookie stockbroker. A secretary. An EMT. A hijacker.

Six strangers. At 8:44 a.m. Tuesday, three were in the air, aboard American Airlines Flight 11. Three were in New York.

One minute later, Flight 11 slammed into the north tower of the World Trade Center, and those six lives became forever intertwined. When the orange fireball had given way to cold gray ash, three were dead: two by murder, one by suicide. A fourth was missing, and two had faced death but had somehow survived.

The crash of Flight 11 was followed in quick succession by three other jets hijacked to oblivion. But it was the first blow that woke the world to an invasion of terror - and to stories of close calls, last words, and lost dreams.

Tracing the paths of those six people - up to, through, and beyond Tuesday's horror - reveals a nation's shared experience, as told through their memories and the memories of their loved ones. It also creates a memorial to all those who were killed, and provides a record for all who lived.


John Ogonowski roused himself shortly after 5 a.m. He was 50, tan, country-boy handsome. He had a smile that left crinkles around his eyes, and big, rough hands from working his family farm in Dracut, when he wasn't flying jets.

An Air Force veteran of Vietnam, Ogonowski had been with American Airlines for 22 years, and rose to captain on the prestigious Boston-Los Angeles route.

It was the fulfillment of a boyhood dream, and it had provided him with an enviable life. The work paid well, and he flew just one week a month, allowing him to devote himself to his 150-acre White Gate Farm. The job had even led to love: His wife, Peggy, was a flight attendant.

Peggy Ogonowski had the day off on Tuesday, so John Ogonowski moved quietly in the predawn darkness to keep from waking her or their daughters, Laura, 16, Caroline, 14, and Mary, 11. His routine on flying days began with a hot shower. Then he would slip on his navy blue uniform with the silver stripes on the sleeve, denoting his status as a senior pilot. He'd kiss his sleeping wife, then go out the back door; he'd get coffee at Logan International Airport, 35 miles to the southeast.

As the sun began to rise over his verdant, rolling fields, Ogonowski would drive his beat-up green GMC pickup the long way off his property.

On this day, his five acres of pumpkins and 10 acres of fodder corn were almost ready for harvest. He took pleasure in the vegetable gardens that he had allowed 16 Cambodian immigrant families to plant on unused acreage. Farmland and its preservation were his passions, and Ogonowski was proud to give city-dwelling Asian immigrants a chance to connect with their new soil, just as his ancestors had when they had arrived from Poland a century earlier.

Ogonowski steered his pickup down a long dirt driveway, down the road and past the home of his Uncle Al, his father's brother. He tooted his horn, in a ritual family greeting. It was just after 6 a.m.

Worries about a trip

Forty-five miles away in Worcester, 30-year-old Tara Creamer awoke that morning feeling queasy about her business trip: She hated to leave her family for three days, but she loved her job as a planning manager for TJX Cos., a retail giant.

Pretty, vivacious, with an enormous smile, Creamer was also the planning manager for her family. The night before the flight, she had typed a detailed memo to her husband, John, a math teacher at an alternative school, whom she had met when they were juniors at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

Titled ''Normal Daily Schedule,'' it was a mother's guide to caring for their son, Colin, 4, and their year-old daughter, Nora. It began: ''Wake Colin up around 7-7:15. Let him watch a little cartoons (Channel 52). Nora - if she is not up by 7:30 wake her up. Just change her and give her milk in a sippy cup!''

Creamer woke at 5 a.m., showered, and dressed in her business suit. She said goodbye to her groggy husband, kissed her sleeping children, and dashed off one more note. In loopy script on the back of an envelope, Creamer wrote: ''Goodbye Everyone, I love you and will miss you all very much! Love, Mommy. XOXO Kisses and Hugs.''

Then she drove to her company's Framingham headquarters, and joined six colleagues who also held tickets to Flight 11. At 6 a.m., 20 minutes before sunrise, they climbed into a limo that would take them to Logan.

Posing as a pilot

Another person headed toward Flight 11 that morning was Mohamed Atta. He was 33, according to his driver's license. He was a multilingual citizen of United Arab Emirates, with thick black hair, a ready supply of cash, and, apparently, a hunger for martyrdom.

Atta came to the United States sometime last year from Germany, where he had spent eight years getting a degree in city planning at the Technical University in Hamburg, according to the German magazine Der Spiegel.

He was chairman of an Islamic student group, and a professor, Dittmar Machule, was quoted as saying that Atta was a ''good student and caring human being.''

Upon entering the United States on a visa, Atta settled on the west coast of Florida. The destination seemed to have been carefully chosen: In July 2000, Atta paid $18,000 to enroll in Huffman Aviation International in Venice, Fla., a flight school that caters to foreign students, training them on small Piper and Cessna propeller aircraft, a prerequisite for jet training.

Atta and Marwan Al-Shehhi, a flight student whom Atta reportedly called his cousin, rented a spare room from the school's bookkeeper, Charles Voss. The two were rude and sarcastic to their hosts, and within a week they were asked to leave. ''They were kind of sloppy, and we just didn't like their attitude. My wife and I felt that we were not getting the respect that we felt we deserved,'' Voss said.

Al-Shehhi was on the other hijacked jet from Boston, United Airlines Flight 175.

Atta left Huffman in November 2000, but continued his flight training on a Boeing 727 full-motion flight simulator. He was in Florida as recently as a few days before the attacks, and twice he became involved in bar disputes. Both times, witnesses said, he erupted in anger and claimed he was a pilot for American.

Atta's next stop was New England, and last Monday night, he drove a rented Nissan Altima into the parking lot of the Comfort Inn in South Portland, Maine.

After a night's rest, he drove in the dark to the Portland International Jetport to catch a 6 a.m. US Airways Express flight. It was due to arrive in Boston at 6:50 a.m., and any significant delay would foil his big plans for the day. Atta held a connecting ticket to Flight 11, scheduled to take off at 7:45 a.m.

A rescuer's Calvary

Moussa Diaz's alarm clock went off at the usual awful hour on Tuesday - 2:40 a.m. He showered and dressed in his New York EMT uniform, filling it out sharply with his trim, muscular build. Diaz, 36, close to 6 feet tall, with a shaved head and olive skin, a combined inheritance from his Palestinian/Haitian mother and his Cuban father. His first name - an Arabic word for ''Moses'' - was from his mother.

A health buff, Diaz made himself a protein shake and went to his 1993 Toyota Corolla, turned on the news radio station 1010 WINS, and settled into the hour-and-15-minute commute from his home atop a mountain in upstate Monroe, N.Y., to Astoria Station Battalion 49 in Queens, the neighborhood where he grew up.

He arrived on time for his 5 a.m. to 1 p.m. shift at the EMT station, which has the heaviest call volume in all of New York City, serving a district where housing projects and factories provide a steady diet of everything from stabbings to train wrecks.

It was his second day back after a three-week vacation, part of which he spent visiting Virginia with his wife, Erika, a waitress, and their sons, Greg, 11, and Harrison, 5.

Diaz went through the mandatory routine of making sure his ambulance had enough gas, plenty of bandages, and a working defibrillator. Then he logged onto the radio network so the dispatchers would know he was ready, willing and available.

Diaz's unit, 45 Adam, had its first call early: A pregnancy, possible miscarriage, in need of transport to Elmhurst Hospital. As a precaution, he called for a backup medic, who turned out to be Carlos Lillo, a high school buddy. It was about 8 a.m.

A queasy breakfast

Claribel Hernandez had a case of the jitters on Tuesday morning. There was the responsibility of acting as hostess for a company conference. There was the intimidating location of the gathering - the Windows on the World restaurant, on the 106th floor of the World Trade Center's north tower. And then there were the shoes.

All that weekend, Hernandez had fretted. She was 31, pretty, with thick brown hair and warm eyes. She was a secretary for only a few months at the giant computer software company Sybase, and she was about to have her ''Working Girl'' moment - the chance for a smart, spunky high school graduate from Queens to prove herself ready for the big time.

Over the weekend, Hernandez had dragged her husband, Eslyn, a soft-spoken machinist, out shopping from the tiny, seventh-floor apartment they shared with their 11-year-old son, Joseph, and 5-year-old daughter, Stephanie. Five floors below were Hernandez's mother and stepfather, who still lived in the apartment where they raised her and her identical twin, Maribel Topaltzas.

On a budget, but trying to mirror the female executives she worked among, she bought a black jacket and skirt at JC Penney, and conservative, closed-toe, black shoes at Parade of Shoes. They weren't her style, but it was important to look the part, and anyway, her mother liked them.

Monday night, her stomach was still churning. Hernandez pored over the conference plan, studied company history, imagined the questions she might be asked and the answers she would give. And then she pulled from her closet a pair of sexy, open-toed shoes.

She rose before dawn and dressed in her new suit and the last-minute shoes. A company car was outside waiting. She checked the children, asleep in their makeshift bedroom, an area defined by a black curtain hung in the living room. She woke Eslyn: ''I'm leaving!'' He wished her luck, and he heard the door close.

But then, a minute later, she was back. She kicked off her shoes, leaving them by the door. She slipped on the new ones, the ones her mother thought made her look professional. Then she left again. It was 6:45 a.m.

A trainee's sad education

In the four months since he was hired as a stockbroker trainee at Valley Forge Securities, Frank Klein had developed a reputation for arriving late to work. He was 22, on the short side, with blue eyes, gelled black hair and a boyish face.

A fan of punk rock and the Mets, Klein hated waking up early to trudge from his parents' Brooklyn home to the firm's office on the 39th floor of the World Trade Center's north tower.

Klein had attended a yeshiva school through eighth grade, then switched to a public high school. A bright guy who didn't like to study, he had spent a year in community college before hitting the job market. His job at Valley Forge paid just $12,000 a year, but it was a steady paycheck in a white-collar world where he could make some real money. He wanted to keep it.

Intent on being on time Tuesday, Klein left the snooze button untouched, pulled on a white T-shirt laundered by his mother, a blue shirt, beige pants, and a red tie. Walkman in hand, he arrived at the Sheepshead Bay subway station around 7:30 a.m., then dozed on the 40-minute ride to lower Manhattan.

The farmer who flew jets, the businesswoman, the rookie stock broker, the secretary, the EMT, and the hijacker were all in motion, heading inexorably toward their meeting place and history.

John Ogonowski parked his pickup truck in the employee parking lot at Logan and made the familiar stroll through Terminal B, past the Anthony's Pier 4 Lobster booth, the newsstands and the souvenir shops. He walked toward Gate 26, where the plane that would be designated Flight 11 had been waiting for him since the night before. It was a Boeing 767, the widebodied workhorse of the American fleet, heavy with more than enough fuel for the 2,611-mile flight.

It was a typical late-summer morning in the terminal, filled with business travelers and families, cleaning crews and airline personnel. Two workers were missing from the security checkpoint; one had called in sick, and the other's absence was unexplained. This slowed movement through the metal detectors and X-ray machines. But that wasn't particularly unusual.

A slow day's boarding

Flight 11 began boarding around 7:20 a.m., and the process was relatively quick, only 81 passengers, less than half full. It was supposed to be a six-hour flight, arriving in Los Angeles about 11 a.m. Pacific time, with drinks, meals, and a video of ''Dr. Doolittle 2'' to pass the time.

Ogonowski took his seat in the cockpit and began his preflight preparations with first officer Thomas McGuiness.

Tara Creamer took her seat in coach, 33J, a window toward the rear of the plane. Next to her was her friend and coworker Neilie Casey of Wellesley, who had recently returned to TJX after the birth of her first child.

One of the last people to board was Atta, whose flight from Maine was indeed delayed. He narrowly made it, but two of his bags didn't. When they were opened later in the day, investigators found instructional videotapes for flying large aircraft, a fuel consumption calculator, a knife, some kind of flight plan or log, and a copy of the Koran.

Atta settled into seat 8D, in Business Class, alongside a fellow plotter, Abdulrahman Alomari, and across the aisle from a Hollywood producer, David Angell and his wife, Lynn.

Flight 11 got off the ground uneventfully at 7:59 a.m.

But the calm wouldn't last. The first sign of trouble came before the nine flight attendants had a chance to serve coffee.

The plane was 15 to 20 minutes from Logan, over Western Massachusetts, when air traffic controllers in Nashua, N.H., gave Ogonowski permission to climb from 29,000 to 31,000 feet. The plane didn't climb, so the offer was made again. Still no response. Concerned, flight controllers tried to contact Ogonowski on the routine frequency. Nothing. They switched to an emergency frequency. Again nothing.

Around that time, controllers noticed that the plane's transponder - which transmits a steady radar pulse - had malfunctioned or been shut off. The best-case scenario was that it was an electrical problem, the worst was almost unthinkable.

Meanwhile, in New York, Frank Klein was showing his color-coded pass to the guards at the World Trade Center's security checkpoints. He boarded an elevator with three men he thought might be Arabs. For a split-second, he mused: ''Imagine if these guys are up to something.'' He dismissed the idea, telling himself they were probably just businessmen.

Klein strolled into his office at 8:20 a.m., an improvement, but still five minutes late. He shot the breeze with his boss about the New York Giants' season-opening loss the night before, then went to the 43rd floor to buy a bacon-cheddar bagel with a Diet Coke. Back in the office, he began calling prospective clients, the Howard Stern radio show playing in the background.

At the same moment, Moussa Diaz was still at Elmhurst Hospital, helping the pregnant woman in distress.

Claribel Hernandez had arrived at the north tower around 7:15, and by 7:30 she was on the 106th floor with her best friend, Gabriela ''Gabby'' Waisman, a Sybase supervisor. The conference breakfast was being held at Windows on the World, New York's highest restaurant, a quarter-mile in the sky, with soaring views of the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, and the south twin tower, which seemed close enough to touch. The room was pulsing with restaurant workers who had arrived hours before. One was Hernandez's brother-in-law, Norberto Hernandez, a pastry chef at Windows on the World.

Unknown to Klein, Diaz and Hernandez, something horrible was indeed happening at those very moments aboard Flight 11.

Five men, later identified by FBI director Robert Mueller, had set their murderous plan in motion. Bearing knives smuggled aboard the plane, they leaped from their seats - two of them in the first row of First Class, directly behind the cabin; Atta, his seatmate, Alomari, and a third man in Business Class.

They began stabbing flight attendants and passengers, investigators say, and one or more of the attackers burst into the cabin. A flight attendant made her way to a telephone and called a supervisor in Boston, describing the situation and saying the dreaded words, ''We are being hijacked.''

Ogonowski found a way to communicate what was happening as well. He intermittently pressed a ''push-to-talk'' button on the plane's yoke, or steering wheel, that allows pilots to keep their hands in place while communicating with the ground. Flight controllers heard snippets of conversation, phrases like, ''Don't do anything foolish,'' and, ''We have more planes.''

At some point, one of the hijackers took control of the jet. Mueller, the FBI director, said the new pilot was most likely to have been Atta. It is possible that the change from Ogonowski to Atta took place at 8:28 a.m., when Flight 11 was over Albany. The plane veered to the south, plotting a direct course for New York City.

A chilling slowdown

As it neared Lower Manhattan, the comandeered Boeing 767, still brimming with fuel, slowed from about 500 knots to 313 knots. Aviation authorities called the move chillingly consistent with a pilot seeking a target.

As the World Trade Center came into view, Tara Creamer must have known something terrible was happening. Her thoughts undoubtedly were with her husband and two small children.

It is incomprehensible to people who knew Ogonowski that he was at the controls at that point. His friends say he would have fought to the death, taking on all comers until he could fight no more, to defy any such order.

The clock ticked. It was 8:45 a.m.

Flight 11 had reached its gruesome destination. It hit just above the 96th floor and disintegrated, spewing fuel, fusing with the metal, stone, plastic and glass that had stood so tall in the New York skyline.

Claribel Hernandez was on the 106th floor, Frank Klein was on the 39th, and thousands of others were anywhere from the base to the 110th floor. John Ogonowski, the farm boy who flew jets; Tara Creamer, the businesswoman; and Mohamed Atta, the hijacker, were dead.

Moussa Diaz and a partner were leaving Elmhurst Hospital, along with Diaz's friend and fellow EMT Carlos Lillo, when they heard screaming on their radios: ''A plane hit the twin towers!'' Diaz radioed back that he was on the way. They ran to their ambulances and raced through the Queens Midtown Tunnel, lights blazing, sirens blaring, police officers waving them through. When he saw the wreckage, Diaz thought the north tower looked like a lit cigarette standing on its filter end.

On the way, Diaz got a call on his cellphone. It was Erika, his wife. She had heard about the crash, and she knew her husband. ''Be careful if you're going down there,'' she said. He quickly promised he would, then hung up.

Diaz reported to a makeshift command post at the corner of Vesey Street and Broadway, across the street from the tower. Walking wounded streamed toward him - the bleeding, the badly burned, those suffering heart attacks, those with broken bones. The first woman who reached Diaz had third-degree burns, and the red, ruined skin on her face was peeling away.

''What happened?'' Diaz asked.

''I felt a hot flash,'' she said as he tended to her. In shock, the pain not yet as cruel as it would soon be, the woman was worried about her burned and matted hair.

''Don't worry,'' Diaz told her as he whisked her into the ambulance and rushed her to nearby St. Vincent's Hospital. He left her in the emergency room and sped back to the site.

By the time Diaz returned, it was 9:03 a.m. A second jet, United 175 - a Boeing 767, the twin of American Flight 11, with Atta's ''cousin'' Al-Shehhi aboard - had taken aim on the south tower. The carnage had turned to catastrophe.

Carnage from on high

Now the streets were filled with even more wounded, and the sky was blackened with smoke and falling debris. Falling bodies would soon follow. Doctors at the command center directed Diaz to an elderly woman whose heart was clenching after she climbed down 87 flights of stairs.

As he laid her on a stretcher, Diaz heard a voice on the radio. It was Lillo, his fellow EMT: ''I'm going in! I'm going to get my wife!'' Lillo's wife was pregnant, and she worked at the World Trade Center, on the 23d floor of the south tower. Diaz listened as other medics urged Lillo to stay, saying his wife would walk out like the others. But there was no stopping him.

Diaz tried to stay focused, calming the woman and taking her blood pressure. As he worked, the third suicide hijacking was taking place, slamming into the Pentagon at 9:40 a.m.

Even if he had known, Diaz couldn't have stopped to think about it. Minutes later, at 9:50, he heard an explosion. Then a rumbling noise. Then he saw a black mushroom cloud pouring from the south tower. It was cascading downward, floor after collapsing floor, its steel spines broken. Eyes bulging, his heart racing, Diaz screamed to the woman: ''Run!''

But there was nowhere to go, no way to outrun the cloud. It engulfed him, choked him, coated him. Diaz tried to keep moving, but he slammed headfirst into a pole and went down. People were rushing past, grabbing him, moaning, falling. He helped when he could, even as he kept moving.

Then everything grew quiet. The first tower had come to rest, and all Diaz could hear were pained cries. ''Help me,'' they all seemed to say. But the smoke and ash still enveloped him, and Diaz felt his lungs running out of air. Feeling with his hands, still moving, he began looking for a place to die.

But then he thought about his last phone call with Erika, his wife, and he silently scolded himself: ''I told her I was going to be all right, and I'm doubting myself now. I shouldn't have told her.'' The thought of breaking his word kept him moving.

When Flight 11 hit the tower, Frank Klein was sitting in his office on the 39th floor, listening to Howard Stern's sidekick, Stuttering John. The building undulated. An earthquake, he thought.

Klein went out to the reception area, where he heard another explosion. As others began to evacuate, Klein ran back to his desk for his fake-leather bag containing a few dollars, a new disc player, and some CDs.

Belongings in hand, he made his way to a concrete stairwell. Workers from above were moving steadily, and with remarkable calm, down the stairs. Only one woman was panicking - yelling about how after the 1993 Trade Center bombing sprinklers were supposed to have been installed. Where was the water?

Rescuers amid the escape

Floor by floor they descended, the smoke and crowds thickening in the stairwell as the minutes passed, pulling out cellphones, passing along rumors, moving downward.

By the time they reached the floors in the high 20s, teams of rescue workers were rushing past them, going upstairs, risking their lives to fight the fire, to help the wounded. Klein saw what could be described only as a look of complete confidence in the eyes of the firefighters and rescue workers going up. He exchanged nods with a few. Many would never come out.

On his way down, Klein got a sense of how bad this was going to get: A woman was rushed past him down the stairway, her clothes seared away, hot red burns all over her body. She was crying. The image would stay with Klein long afterward.

Windows on the World was more than a dozen stories above where Flight 11 struck, so Claribel Hernandez had to get through the deadliest part of the building to escape. Somehow, she and her friend Gabby Waisman found a stairway; a Sybase colleague saw them there around 9 a.m., 15 minutes after the crash.

As they struggled their way downward, Hernandez used her cellphone to call a colleague at Sybase's offices on Broadway. There was no answer, so she left a message: ''There's a fire in the building. Tell my husband what happened.''

They kept walking, reaching the 100th floor, just above the point of impact. Still in the stairwell, Waisman called her sister. ''Get out!'' her sister yelled.

Then the phone went dead.

His lungs burning, the world still dark with smoke, Diaz kept fighting the urge to lie down and die. Then he saw a light. And then he saw the light start bobbing up and down. It was the strobe on a television camera, and Diaz began to cry.

''I'm going to die,'' Diaz said.

''No, you're not,'' the cameraman said.

''Damn, you saved my life.''

They hugged, and the cameraman began to cry, too. ''I've had enough of this job,'' the cameraman said.

Together, they started walking. They felt their way down the street and came upon a city bus. They pushed the door open and went inside, bringing with them a man who didn't speak English and a group of construction workers. They huddled in the bus for a few minutes, until the smoke began to clear, and then they made a run for it.

It was 10:30 a.m., and just then, the north tower buckled, following its twin to the ground. As smoke and debris chased him once again, Diaz made it to a fountain several blocks away in Lafayette Square. There, he got back to work trying to help people, even as his damaged lungs fought for air.

Sometime after 9 a.m. - he lost track of time - Frank Klein made it down to the lobby, where he got a fuller sense of the destruction. Elevators were smashed, chunks of cement were falling from the ceiling, authorities were directing people away from the tower. Finally, the sprinklers were dousing people from above. One man complained about his clothes getting wet, and Klein told him: ''You should be glad to be alive.''

Outside, Klein looked up and saw both towers on fire. It was worse than he had imagined. Dazed, Klein walked to the Wall Street subway station. Thirty seconds after boarding a downtown train, everything stopped - the train was stuck between Fulton Street and the Brooklyn Bridge. The passengers suffered a tense 20 minutes with no word on why. The second tower had just collapsed, and smoke began seeping into the car.

Battle near the third rail

He held his tie to his mouth to breathe. He tore off his blue dress shirt. One man tried to force his way out, but another passenger blocked the way: ''If I let you out, you're going to let smoke in here, and it's going to take an extra hour to get your carcass out because you're going to get electrocuted on the third rail.'' That ended that.

A conductor tried to ease the tension, but instead it was unleashed on him. ''Shut the [expletive] up,'' Klein yelled. ''Screaming at him isn't going to make things better. He's in this situation like everybody else.''

Five minutes later, the train lurched to a station and let them off. Klein wandered for hours around Lower Manhattan. During that time, a fourth hijacked jet plowed into a field in Pennsylvania, apparently not its hijackers' intended target. Also in those hours, a nation started coming to grips with what its president would call a new kind of war, one that hit home.

In the days that followed, investigators swarmed over every piece of evidence involving Mohamed Atta, the hijacker. No matter what they prove, no explanation will ever seem adequate.

The farmer who flew jets has been mourned all week, but there is little doubt about how John Ogonowski will be remembered: a hero. On Tuesday night, about 400 people attended a memorial Mass for him and the other victims at St. Francis Roman Catholic Church.

The Ogonowski farmhouse is draped with an oversized American flag. The foundation, built from stones from Ogonowski's farm and the fields of other family members, remains strong. His brother, Jim Ogonowski, stood outside the other day and pondered the loss.

''I keep looking at the corn field behind me, hoping that my brother will come out,'' Jim Ogonowski said. ''Take a look at that, the beauty of the land. That's John's legacy.''

In the apartment where Claribel Hernandez grew up, relatives waited for a phone call about the secretary. Stephanie didn't fully understand, but Joseph did. He broke down when his father said his mother was missing. ''No, no, no!'' he yelled. ''Are you sure?''

''I am,'' Eslyn Hernandez told his son. He appears to have suffered two losses. His brother, Norberto, the pastry chef at Windows on the World, also remains among the missing.

Still, the family won't give up hope. Eslyn and other family members have been searching every day, pasting up ''Missing'' posters, praying. They have worn themselves out following false leads, but they have not given up.

Her twin felt no special intuition. ''I wish I did,'' said Maribel Topaltzas. ''All I feel is pain.''

When Klein finally made it home, he was greeted by his younger sister, Aviva, who cried and hugged him with equal intensity. He told her about his ordeal, then went upstairs for a hot shower. When he came down, he found his father weeping.

Klein's bosses asked workers if they wanted to work out of the company's Philadelphia offices, offering employees room and board there. But Klein isn't sure. The rookie stockbroker is thinking about a different future, considering computer school. Meanwhile, he yearns for the return of ''The Simpsons'' on television, anything that would take away those achingly familiar scenes still showing on every channel.

The yellow, Cape-style house that Tara Creamer bought with her husband seems empty without her, though she left the refrigerator filled with a batch of meatballs and sausage. The ''Normal Daily Schedule'' she had left behind ended with the kids' bedtime routine. ''Nora put to bed with a sippy cup of milk. She should just go off. Colin ... make sure he brushes his teeth and gets 1 vitamin. Leave his moonlight on.''

Her daughter Nora is just starting to say ''Mama.'' Her husband John took their son, Colin, upstairs one day this week and spoke the hardest words anyone can tell a 4-year-old child: ''Your mommy died in an accident.'' Then he had to explain what that meant.

`Is Mommy an angel now?'

Colin, in tears, asked: ''Why did my mommy die? Is Mommy an angel now?'' Father and son took paper and markers, and together they drew pictures of the businesswoman mommy as an angel.

Like John Ogonowski, Moussa Diaz is a hero now; neighbors have showered him with food and thanks and celebrations. But he hurts inside. Carlos Lillo, his friend and fellow EMT, is still missing. Lillo's wife did, indeed, escape the south tower on her own.

Days after the attacks, Diaz was still coughing from the smoke he inhaled, and at his wife's urging he went to the doctor. That led his bosses to place him on limited duty, keeping him at the Astoria station, answering phones. That's fine with his wife.

But even after all he went through, all the suffering he witnessed, that doesn't sit right with a Palestinian-Haitian-Cuban-American EMT from Queens whose name means Moses.

''I like helping people. I treat everybody like they're my family. You never know.''


Information for this reconstruction of the suicide crash of American Airlines Flight 11 and its aftermath came from interviews with survivors, relatives, friends, witnesses, and authorities, as well from documents and other official sources. Tina Cassidy reported on Moussa Diaz and Frank Klein; Tatsha Robertson on Claribel Hernandez; Bella English on Tara Creamer; Caroline Louise Cole on John Ogonowski; and Mitchell Zuckoff on Mohamed Atta. It was written by Zuckoff.

This story ran on page A25 of the Boston Globe on 9/16/2001.
© Copyright 2001 Globe Newspaper Company.

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