Lost Lives

Here are a handful of stories of those who were lost on Sept. 11. Many more our part of our commemorative issue, "The Spirit of America."

Tom Gardner's wife has asked his friends to write stories about him for their young children, Amy and Christopher. On recent night, Ralph Iskaros, director of System Integration Services at NEWSWEEK, couldn't sleep, and he began to write his. Iskaros had known Gardner, 39, for years; his wife and Gardner's wife had been friends since elementary school. Their children played together, and every month, the families gathered for a potluck supper. Gardner, a firefighter for 17 years, was hoping to teach high school science when he retired from the force in 2004. As Iskaros wrote, he realized two things. First, Gardner's wife had been holding up, but she'd been surrounded by people. "Pretty soon she's going to have start being alone at night," he thought. Then he realized he hadn't even thought about the thousands of other families who would be alone at night. "It's hard to think about the 6,000. It's hard to think about the flag waving," he said. "I keep thinking about Tom and his wife and his children, and the enormity of the whole thing doesn't even register yet."

Ivan Vale, 27, and Felix Vale, 29, were bickering brothers, and anyone who knew them said they were like oil and water. Felix was the heart of the family, he cared for his aging mother and nothing satisfied him more than seeing everyone together, says his older brother, Jose Quintana. "Ivan was the youngest, the fun-loving one who always tried to be different." That could explain his menagerie of animals, including six rabbits, two cats, two fish, two lizards and a dog. Both brothers worked in Tower One, Felix at Cantor Fitzgerald and Ivan as a network administrator at eSpeed. At a memorial in Brooklyn, their mother released two doves in their honor. "She said, 'Go fly, Ivan and Felix' and the birds didn't want to leave her hand," says Lucy, Ivan's wife. "I said, 'See that's a sign. They're still alive; there's still hope.' "

Karamo Trerra, 39, came to the United States 10 years ago from Gambia, West Africa, to grab a piece of the American dream, says his wife, Sharon Schultz. In March, he received an associate's degree in computer networking and started working at Fiduciary Trust on the 97th floor of Tower Two. Teachers and friends described him as loyal and hardworking, someone who had close ties to the Muslim Gambian community in the Bronx and regularly sent money and letters to his family in West Africa. "That man was the hardest working man I know," says his wife. "He worked two jobs and went to school full-time. He was proud of the quality of his work and he would have followed whatever his bosses told him." So when someone told him there had been an accident at the North Tower but there was no need to evacuate, Trerra returned to his desk and called his wife. "He said that everything is under control, stay calm and I love you." The next day, she celebrated their fourth anniversary alone.

Coworkers say they last saw Niurka Davila, 36, around 8:35 a.m. smoking a cigarette in front of Tower One. Later, as frightened workers scrambled down the smoky stairwells, Davila's fiancee, William Villa, was trying to push his way up to the 70th floor, where she worked for the Port Authority. "She was only one floor above me," says Villa, who also works for the Port Authority on the 69th floor. The crush of people finally forced him down the stairs and he left the building minutes before it collapsed. Villa is not sure if she made it back to her office, but two days after the attack, he was relieved to see her name on a survival list posted on the Internet. Later, police said the list was a hoax and Villa resumed his search, scouring hospitals, filing missing-person reports and posting flyers with pictures of "the most wonderful woman" in his life.

After 10 years of traveling with the United States Navy, Tara McCloud-Gray had finally settled down on land. The 30-year-old had recently married and worked as a switch engineer at General Telecom on the 83rd floor of Tower One. Her mother says she wanted to have a baby and was looking forward to enrolling in college soon. After the attack, Doris McCloud hoped that some of her daughter's old military skills would kick in. "My baby was in the Persian Gulf War," she said, "and if she could get through all of that over there, she can make it through this in her own country."

Fred Marrone retired from the New Jersey State Police eight years ago, but as the director of public safety for the Port Authority, Marrone, 63, immediately went to Tower One to evacuate the building. He helped someone down from the 67th floor and when his assistant director in New Jersey called his cell phone, Marrone said he wasn't leaving until everyone was out. They were still talking when the building collapsed. Now, Greg Marrone just wants to find anyone who saw his father in those last precious moments. "He wasn't running out of the building, he knew what he was getting into. My dad died being a hero."

Richard Caproni, 33, was known for his sense of humor, and making people feel at ease around him. He wasn't known for being on time. But that ill-fated morning found Caproni sitting at his desk at Marsh & McLennan on the 98th Floor of Tower 1 by 8 a.m. He had already spoken to someone in the company's Boston office. Caproni's siblings-brothers Mike and Chris and his sister, Lisa-are trying to start a scholarship fund to honor the life of their oldest brother.

When the first plane hit, Officer John Perry was off-duty. But he ran straight to the World Trade Center and spent his last hours guiding people out of the darkness just before the towers collapsed. "My brother stayed at his post til the very end," says his brother, Joel. Perry had just come from 1 Police Plaza, where he had gone to file his retirement papers. In addition to making arrests, Perry, 38, also acted in movies, always playing a role close to real life. His Web site lists them: prison guard, "Deconstructing Harry;" NYPD dog handler, "Die Hard III." He also appeared in several plays, had small roles in two soap operas and was a DJ for WUSB on Long Island. In his spare time, he earned a law degree from NYU and after retirement, was hoping to become a medical malpractice attorney.

It was still very early in the morning when Mark Bingham, 31, called his mother, Alice Hoglan, from Flight 93 to tell her he loved her and that he might never see them again because "three guys have taken over the aircraft and say they have a bomb." Hoglan, a United Airlines flight attendant, could hear a commotion in the background; then the phone went dead. Law-enforcement officials say a number of passengers on Flight 93 probably fought with the hijackers and forced the plane to crash in a Pennsylvania field instead of hitting its intended target. His family believes Bingham, a public relations executive, would have been one of them. At 6'5" and 230 pounds, he was a dedicated player in San Franciso's first gay rugby team. He also once disarmed a gun-wielding mugger and ran with the bulls in Pamplona. Says his mother: "He was not one to back away from a fight."

E-mails have been pouring in from all over the world to Amgen, the Thousand Oaks, Calif, biotechnology firm where Dora Menchaca worked. "They're remembering her as a marvelous woman and a great scientist," says her friend and colleague, Dr. Mary Ann Foote. Menchaca, 45, led a team working on a new prostate cancer drug. "She was pestering all the men in the company to get tested," says Amgen spokesperson Jeff Richardson. And they did. Menchaca, a passenger on Flight 77, was returning home from a meeting in Washington, where she briefed FDA officials on the new prostate cancer drug. "She was scheduled to be on a later flight," says Amgen spokesman Jeff Richardson. "But she wanted to get home to spend more time with her family:" her husband of 18 years, Earl Dorsey, and their two children Jarid, 5, and Imani, 18. "We learned that the passengers were herded to the back of the plane," says Foote. "She probably grabbed somebody's hand to offer comfort." She loved to travel, says Foote. "Dora's luggage was always getting lost. She'd be in Brussels and her luggage would be in some third-world nation. But it never phased her. She'd go about in her leggings, t-shirts and running shoes." Foote would offer her some of her clothing for the meeting but Menchaca would say, "Don't worry, it will show up.' "And it did. Her luggage always showed up in time." The running outfit was part of Menchaca's daily routine. She participated in several L.A. Marathons and has medals hanging in her office." Now we're going to have to do the marathon in her honor," says Foote.

Yuri Moushinski arrived in the U.S. from the Ukraine with little more than his name and his dreams. "He had nothing," says his son-in-law, Yevgenny Pavlov. "He had nowhere to sleep his first night. He didn't know anyone, but he went straight to the employment office the first day and found some construction work." Moushinksi, who didn't smoke or drink, eventually got his green card and started his own plumbing business. The morning of the attack, he had an 8:30 a.m. appointment at the Windows on the World restaurant on the 106th floor of the North Tower. Moushinski, in his mid-fifties, has not been heard from since. "I'm sure he tried to save himself," says Pavlov. "He loved life and would cling on to the very last."

Melissa Vincent lived in New Jersey, but she loved New York City. Broadway plays, museums, shopping, quiet afternoons in Central Park-Vincent, 28, always had a story to share with her family in upstate New York about her visits to Manhattan. Eventually she left her job in Jersey and took a position as a technical recruiter for Alliance Consulting, located on the 102nd floor of WTC 2. "She had started saving money so she could move to Manhattan," says her father, David. "She knew it would cost a lot, but she wanted to be in the middle of it all. And we just told her to go for it."

Josh Vitale passed the exam to become a trader just this past March. And the 28-year-old was making progress in other areas of his life as well. He loved his job at Cantor Fitzgerald on the 104th floor of Tower One, and he and his fiancee had finalized their wedding plans and settled into a Manhattan apartment. Close friends and relatives gathered to remember Vitale on a private beach in Lloyd Harbor, N.Y. "It's very rare that you get to marry your best friend," says his fiancee, Ina Weintraub. "I will never love anyone like him."

In 1994, after eight years as a policeman, Matt Rogan, 37, became a New York City firefighter, like his father and brother. Though his work kept him in the city, his first love was the outdoors. "If he hit the Lotto, he would have sold his house, moved way upstate and had a farm," says his wife, Missy, 37. He loved to camp and hike. Last summer he took daughter Sarah, 12, and son Matthew, 10, to the Adirondacks. Missy and Monica, Matthew's twin sister, are not so much outdoor types and stayed behind. Rogan also liked working with wood and gardening. "I did the flowers and he did the vegetables," says Missy. "We had so many grapes this year that we talked about trying to make wine next year."

John Gnazzo started in the mailroom at Cantor Fitzgerald and worked his way up to become the vice president of operations. At Christmas, he would dress like Santa Claus and give out presents to the sons and daughters of employees on his floor. During the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, Gnazzo helped an elderly woman down 90 flights of stairs. Smoke was coming up the stairwell and everything was dark. "We were trained for this when we were younger," says John's brother Nick, 35. The boys grew up in a loft located at the corner of Houston and Sullivan, before it was trendy SoHo. "On the weekends they shut off all the lights in the stairwell. It was completely black. So as little kids, we got used to going down those stairs. You had to count the stairs until you could see the light at the bottom." John became the fire marshal of his floor after that. Nick says that in the event of an emergency, "he would have to direct everyone to the fire exits, and he would have to be the last one out, to make sure everybody got off the floor."

Alona Avraham, a 30-year-old from Israel, had planned to visit Australia this summer. But when her traveling companion decided not to go, Alona switched plans and instead came to the United States, where she had friends and family. She was looking forward to a break from the recent stresses of life in her country and a respite from her job in management at Applied Material, a semi-conductor company. After visiting friends in Boston, Alona boarded United Flight 175 for Los Angeles, where she planned to celebrate the Jewish New Year with her aunt. The plane was hijacked and flown into the World Trade Center. "Alona loved her life in Israel," says co-worker Yohanna Bamnolker, "but she was always horrified by the frequent terrorist attacks."

Mary Lou Hague had a great time the Friday before the World Trade Center was attacked-she attended the Michael Jackson concert at Madison Square Garden. "She loved the concert," says her mother, Liza Adams. "She said it was a monumental night in her life." Hague, 26, worked at Keefe, Bruyette and Woods, Inc., a securities company on the 89th floor of Tower 2. "She'd walk into a room and it's like a light bulb went on," says Adams. "And if the average person is 60 watts, she'd be 150 watts."