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Friday, 14 September, 2001, 08:23 GMT 09:23 UK
Letter for a missing friend
Waiting for news of missing persons
Waiting in vain at New York's missing persons centre
It is an anxious wait for the friends and families of those who worked in the World Trade Center. With many phone lines into New York still jammed, Aubrey Hill, a marketing assistant in Florida, is one of millions left desperate for news.

One of my best friends, Tiffany, whom I grew up with in New York, worked on the 81st floor of Tower One in the World Trade Center.

I've been calling Tiffany every hour with no luck so far

I heard the news early on when the first thought running through our heads was that a jet had gone horribly off course and crashed into the World Trade Center.

I began to worry about her and whether or not they were evacuating both towers. Fifteen minutes later my heart sank as I saw the second plane destroy the top third of the other tower.

Rescue workers at the center
Rescue workers dwarfed by the collapsed building
At this point the media didn't know what to report, and no-one in our office knew what to make of the footage on television.

We all stared at the screen, jaws gaping, too horrified to look away or even blink. The faces of shock and amazement were all around me and I could imagine those faces all over the world.

We watched in absolute horror as the first tower came crashing to the ground slowly, almost methodically, like a controlled demolition.

Frantic calls

The feelings of denial, anxiety, aggravation, and utter helplessness were almost overwhelming.

Photos of the missing
Photos of missing people at a New York hospital
People rushed around the office with cell phones calling people they knew in New York, but no-one could get through.

All circuits were busy and understandably so. Some 50,000 people work in the towers. Frantic families and friends, worried sick, in a state of shock and dismay were calling, calling, calling again.

When the second tower came down all I could think of was the idea that my best friend from childhood, one of my bridesmaids, whom I had spoken to just days earlier, was now gone forever. Tears of grief and anger streamed.

Rescue workers with torches
Torchlight illuminates what's left of the center
The entire country stood still. Downtown buildings here in Tampa were closed down with SWAT team members placed on the rooftops. The airports were closed nationwide and MacDill Airforce Base [in Tampa, Florida] was shut down.

I left work early. Traffic was slow, not a honking horn to be heard. I can only think that people were listening to the broadcasts on the radio. You had no choice - the coverage encompassed every airwave.

News from family

I've been calling Tiffany every hour with no luck so far. All circuits are still busy.

Firefighter rests his head in his hands
Searching for the missing takes its toll
My mother finally got through to my aunt and uncle on Long Island and found out that my cousins, both police officers in New York, are still there helping with disaster relief.

They are all right, but I can only imagine what they have been through these past 24 hours. They have witnessed this horror first-hand and also have the difficult task of searching for friends and colleagues crushed in the aftermath.

I can only pray and hope that my good friend is all right. I will not be convinced of her health until I hear her voice and hear her story.

Click here for Aubrey's update

What you have to say:

My cousin works for Cantor Fitzgerald and we haven't heard anything about her. Her sister worked in Morgan Stanley in the second tower and is safe. Has anyone heard from someone who worked for Cantor Fitzgerald in the WTC?
Nina, UK

The CEO of Cantor Fitzgerald was on TV, crying almost uncontrollably. It appears that more than 700 Cantor employees are missing, nearly all of their employees.
Donald, USA

It took me 36 hours to find my 15 friends who were in the area. My friends from American Express have horror stories, they were across the street. My co-workers said they knew some of the Cantor people who made goodbye phone calls.
Deborah Turek, US

It's quite distressing as I make all efforts to get in touch with my brother without success. But I'm refusing to believe he is a goner. Peter, please let us hear from you.
John Donkor, Ghana

Being a Muslim girl I am very much horrified and shocked. It has been the worst moment for both the victims and the victim's relatives. I hope that Allah will bless their souls.
Roxanna Naureen Huq, Bangladesh

While we were all mourning Tuesday's horrific events, a mosque where I live received hate mail and a bomb threat. Regardless of what group the terrorists turn out to be members of, they do not act with the support of all members of their nationality/religion/ethnic background. We cannot forget what happened to the Japanese in our country after Pearl Harbor. In our grief, we should not turn our hate on other innocent people.
Alanna van Antwerp, US

Today, wherever you are, whoever you are: call someone you love, and just tell them. Out of all those killed, someone will have left the house without telling their wife, their husband, their kids, their parents, that they loved them.
Paul, London, UK

We are not scared because the overwhelming sense here is of the intrinsic goodness of man displayed in the actions of the firemen and rescue crews in the aftermath of the disaster.
Leo Cullen, New York (ex-UK)

Going to work today I noticed that someone had hung a large sign on a telephone pole that read: "Arab Bastards". I immediately pulled over and tore it down. I would like to replace all signs promoting hatred and violence with American flags.
Sue, New Jersey, US

Real Time gives people a chance to tell their own stories in their own words. If you've got something to say, click here.

The BBC's Richard Bilton
tells the stories of some of those caught up in the tragedy

Links to more Americas stories are at the foot of the page.

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