September 17, 2001


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The Rediff Special/ George Joseph

Six agonising days have passed, yet there is no news of 33-year-old Parakkatt Vinod. He used to work with Cantor-Fitzgerald, on the 103rd floor, Tower One, at the World Trade Centre. His wife Jaishree is two months pregnant.

On that fateful day, Vinod was to attend a day-long training programme. Instead, says a friend at the Mindingwood Drive apartment complex in Sayerville, New Jersey, he promised to come home early to take Jaishree to a gynaecologist. The last anyone heard of him was when a friend spoke to him, minutes before the first plane crashed into the WTC.

Vinod's DNA sample has been given to the authorities. His brother, who works with the Madras-based company Pentafour, is on his way to New York. Jaishree will travel home to Palakkad, Kerala, clinging to the hope that her husband is alive, lying unconscious in hospital.

Neil Shastri, 25, who also worked with Cantor-Fitzgerald, married college sweetheart Kruti just three months ago. He called her on September 11 at 9 am and told her there was a lot of smoke and he was having trouble breathing. Since then, there has been no information about him. His twin Jay and sister-in-law Priti Naik, told The New York Times that he befriended people quickly. 'If you met him right now, he'd be your best friend by the end of the evening.'

Other Cantor-Fitzgerald employees like Khalid Shahid, 26, of Union, NJ, and Saranya Srinuan, 23, of Manhattan, are also missing. As is Nezam Hafiz, 32, of South Ozone Park, Queens, NY, who worked as a financial assistant at Fiduciary Trust on Tower One's 94th floor.

Neither is there any information on Mukul Agarwala, 37. Tuesday, September 11, was only his second day at the Trust's investment research group. He had recently moved to New York after quitting his job in San Diego, and rented an apartment in Hills Borough Court in Rockaway, New Jersey, because he wanted to live close to his brothers, Sanjay and Aloke. His wife -- Agarwala was married just a year ago in Hong Kong -- was to join him in New York on September 15.

Two other people -- Swarna Chalsani, 31, a resident of Forest Hills, Queens, and another person identified only as Seema -- working at Fiduciary Trust are also missing. Agarwala, Chalsani and Seema tried to escape along with the others, said Chalsani's brother-in-law Praveen Koppalle, a professor at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. But they could not make it to the ground floor, those escaped told the family. There were 11 people in the research group, but only six made it to the ground.

Chalsani, who is single and has one brother and two sisters, worked with Merrill Lynch before she joined the Trust three years ago. Her family lives in Queens. The New York Times published a photograph of her brother Venkat Rao showing her picture to people in a bid to get information. The family hails from Visakapatanam in Andhra Pradesh.

Four Wipro engineers, contracted to Marsh Inc, an insurance firm housed on WTC Tower One's 97th floor, are still missing. Their friends and relations have set up an impromptu web page with their pictures, and physical details, in the hope of gathering information.

They are project manager Deepika Sattaluri, 29, a native of Hyderabad, database manager Hemant Kumar, 28, hailing from Puttur, Dakshina Kannada district in Karnataka, Shashikiran Kadamba and Shreyas Ranganath.

Kadamba's fiancée Pushpa Sreenath, 26, refuses to lose hope. They were to marry next summer. 'He's always been a survivor, he never gives up,' she told The New York Post. She believes Shashi, who hails from Bangalore and worked as a software consultant for Marsh & McLennan on the 97th floor of the north tower, is still alive. The two had spoken just a day before the tragedy to discuss details of their wedding.

On hearing news of the collapse, she and her brother drove non-stop for 30 hours from Dallas, Texas, where she lives and works, to New York.

Valsa Raju, 39, was working in Tower One, in the 92nd floor office of Carr Futures, an investment company she has been with for several years, when the first attack occurred. On September 11, Raju left home at 6.45 am, as she did every day, says her brother Sajil Joseph, so she must have reached the office at least an hour before the incident.

A native of Ranni, Kerala, she lived in Yonkers, Westchester, NY, with her husband, Raju Thankachan, a financial officer at the city's Harlem hospital, He had been contacting authorities to get some information, any information, about her without success. Their children -- Sonia, 9, and Sanjay, 5 -- stare at everyone's faces, unable to comprehend the situation.

Taimour Khan, 29, was captain of the Syosset, Long Island, NY, High School football team during his school days. On September 11, the 5 feet 9" athlete-turned-commodities futures trader was headed towards his office at Carr Futures on the 90th floor. That was the last anyone saw or heard of him.

Joseph Mathai, 45, Morgan Stanley's vice-president in Boston, was in a top floor office of the company when the attack took place. He came to the WTC for a meeting, published reports said. As soon as the plane hit Tower One, he called wife Teresa on his cell phone and told her rescue work had already begun. Since then, say reports, there has been no contact with him. Mathai, an engineering graduate from the Trivandrum Engineering College, came to the US in the early seventies. The Mathais have two children aged 11 and 10.

As information trickles in, the number of Indians missing or injured at the WTC seems to be on the rise. Cantor-Fitzgerald alone has no information about 580 employees though one does not know how many Indians form part of this missing list. Many of those who are missing worked on the top floors of the WTC. Rescue workers feel they could not have escaped since the planes hit the lower floors of the buildings.

The Indian consulate general in New York has published a list of more than 71 Indians -- these are the people who have been found and are in hospitals with injuries. No figures are available about the exact number of Indians working at the WTC, though the consulate believes at least 250 Indians are missing since the towers collapsed. This is only a rough calculation, cautions R K Singh, the consul handling the special cell set up to help the Indians affected by the tragedy, based on the estimation that five per cent of the 4,917 missing people who worked there might be Indians.

Also see:
Terrorism in America: The complete coverage

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