Faces of trade center tragedy posted on Internet

Unemployed writer helps relatives scan in photos of the missing

Terrorism Strikes America

Day Of Remembrance

September 15, 2001|By Kimberly A.C. Wilson | Kimberly A.C. Wilson,SUN STAFF

A handsome blond firefighter. An office manager with a high-watt smile. A stockbroker rarely seen without a Brooklyn Dodgers tie pin. A worker described as a looking "a lot like Steve Martin."

For three days, television cameras have flitted past these and other faces of the World Trade Center tragedy, faces that smile out from photocopies plastered on walls, mailboxes, phone booths, telephone poles and even traffic sawhorses on Manhattan's Lower East Side. Images to which family and friends have attached their last hopes for clues to what became of loved ones.

Yesterday morning, Israel Shamir, an unemployed 29-year-old writer, was struck with an idea: to scan, to post and to share.

"I was watching TV and seeing all these pictures go by and thinking, `Probably they are never going to find anybody.' Then I thought about what I could do. I knew I had the time and I wanted to help."

So Shamir lugged his laptop and a portable scanner down to the 69th Regiment Armory at Lexington Avenue and East 26th Street. That's where relatives of the missing in the trade center collapse paced the sidewalks to draw attention to the names and faces they seek. He persuaded Hassan Imam, manager of New Kasturi Pavilion Fine Bangladeshi Restaurant to set aside a table where he and friends Jennifer Cusack and Anson Chan could work.

Then he stepped outside, politely asking worried family members to let him make a quick scan of their loved one's picture before guiding them down the three steps into the restaurant.

"It's like what Spielberg did with the Holocaust," Shamir said, referring to film director Steven Spielberg's video catalog of concentration camp survivors telling their stories. "It's how you remember people."

Shamir's idea quickly caught on. By late afternoon, word had trickled out among the grieving that a red-headed guy wearing a New York Mets cap was trying to put together a photographic log of the unaccounted-for.

A Web specialist for CNN took notice, arranging to copy more than 50 JPEG files to post on the news network's Web site. A New York City worker and a local Internet cafe owner also expressed interest in posting the growing collection of pictures.

For the family of air conditioner technician Felix Calixte, online exposure offered one more chance to find clues to his fate, said his girlfriend, Frances Constantine. Calixte, a Brooklyn resident, was last seen Tuesday morning on the 101st floor of the World Trade Center's North Tower. Since then, Constantine and Calixte's father, Angus Jacques, had numbly offered a black-and-white photocopy bearing the image of the grinning, 38-year-old St. Lucia native to anyone who would take it.

"To see if anyone recognizes him from that day," Constantine explained.

Shamir, who said he doesn't know much about creating a Web site, said he hoped someone with expertise would build a site with links to photographs of all of the trade center's missing occupants.

"If it helps find one person, or helps find out what happened to them, that's worth it," Shamir said.

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