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Monday, January 30, 2023



Sept. 12, 2002 – Miles are no measure of feelings, and distances between Virgin Islanders and mainland loved ones were spanned with swift and strong messages of relief and reassurance Wednesday.
The hardest part was not knowing — the experience mainlanders have when trying to find out about family and friends in the Virgin Islands in the aftermath of hurricanes. The fear is that all is devastated; the hope is that those nearest and dearest have been spared.
As contacts with friends and family were made, Day 2 saw many Virgin Islanders separate themselves from their Tuesday vigils in the face of the mesmerizing drama that unfolded on network television.
The little things of life suddenly became prominent in actual tragedy — a missed appointment, a class field trip, a canceled photo shoot, an iron that didn't work, a simple traffic jam.
A sister who wasn't at work after all
Airline mechanic Jerome Kendall hardly realized when he went to work at the Four Star Aviation hangar Tuesday morning on St. Thomas how much a different aspect of aviation was going to play in his day. A hijacked airliner might have killed his sister, who works at the Fuji Bank offices high in one of the World Trade Center twin towers.
But "Cecile was fine," Kendall said Wednesday. His sister called just as he got home Tuesday from a work day he said he will not soon forget.
She hadn't been in the tower. "Cecile had a baby a month ago, and she was still on maternity leave," he said. "She thought I knew."
"Even though I was worried about my sister," Kendall said, "the horror of everything else got to me. Even if something had happened to my sister, I couldn't be selfish enough not to share that grief. Man, think of all those people already dead. I was so engrossed, just glued to the radio all day. Fuji is way at the top; no way would Cecile have been OK."
Kendall said he fears the worst is yet to come. "We'll all be suffering for quite a while now," he said. "A little while from now, when the numbers start coming, we'll get a true picture, the horror of it all … If it had just been one aircraft, if you took the one with the least number of people alone, how much worse would it have been? How sad can you get at one time?"
Whether the persons responsible are brought to justice or not, he suggested, "Only time can heal, if at all." He added, "I pray for the healing. It's the biggest thing for everyone involved."
One left safely, another never arrived
Lillian Moolenaar was greatly relieved to learn that her sister-in-law Lydia Moolenaar made it out of the first World Trade Center tower to be hit in the attack. "It's so traumatic for the family," Moolenaar said. "We're still in shock."
Adding to her relief, she also learned that her son-in-law, former St. Thomas resident Askari Foy, had been on his way to a meeting in the building, but tied-up traffic kept him away. "It wasn't his time," Moolenaar said.
Former tower worker learns relatives OK
Lee Vanterpool, a Government House spokesman, spent an anxious day with his mind on his nephew and nieces who all work in the financial district in New York. "It was a nightmare getting through," he said. "It took me all day."
Around 4:30 p.m. Vanterpool finally reached his niece Barbara Canton Jackson, "who was OK, and everybody else was OK," he learned. He said he has especially been worried about "a great-niece who goes to school in the downtown area — she's 12 years old. But she was out on a class field trip."
Vanterpool found it all too easy to visualize what it must have been like for those in the World Trade Center. "I used to work in Tower No. 2, in the early '80s," he said. "I'm thinking about the people I worked with there, and hoping they're all OK."
Bad day turns out to be good fortune
Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg has a very lucky nephew, Croy McBean, who worked at the World Trade Center. "I tried to get him all day yesterday, and so did my mother," Donastorg said Wednesday. It was McBean who finally got through to them on the telephone late in the day.
"Croy said he had been having a really bad morning — everything was going wrong, and then his iron wouldn't work, so he couldn't iron his shirt," Donastorg related. "Then he heard the news on the radio. I guess he just wasn't supposed to go to work yesterday."
McBean is the son of National Guard Adj. Gen. Cleave McBean, who couldn't be reached for comment Wednesday.
Donastorg recalled, "I was in that building myself two weeks ago. I presented a plaque to the Virgin Islanders United Organization."
He added, "There were thousands of people there for the Labor Day parade. It's kind of ironic: America accepts everybody. There were probably lots of Palestinians in the building, too."
Running late may have been a life-saver
Well-known St. Thomas guitarist James Anderson, one-half of the classical duo Dos Guitarras, and his fiancé, photographer Sonya Melescu, were taking a long-planned vacation in Manhattan when the tragedy occurred.
Melescu contacted the Source on Tuesday afternoon from the Marriott Marquis Hotel in New York. "I'd been to the World Trade Center last week to meet with a client," she said. "I was headed out the door this morning to meet him there again, when he called to say he was late leaving his house. He asked to postpone the meeting."
Connection is calls from former home
David Harrington, who lived on St. Thomas for about 12 years and was frequently seen dancing across the stage at Pistarkle Theater, lives in Silver Spring, Md., outside of Washington. "It's such a good feeling to talk to people from the islands," he said Wednesday. "Several friends have called already to see if I'm OK."
He added, "We're all so connected. It's such a small world, we all know somebody."
Nurse mother does what comes naturally
Richard Doumeng, who runs the Bolongo Bay Beach Resort and is president of the St. Thomas-St. John Hotel and Tourism Association, got a telephone call from his mother, Audrey Sammis, just minutes after 9 a.m. Tuesday.
"She was calling from the fourth floor of the World Trade Center," Doumeng said Wednesday, referring to the first tower that was struck by an airplane. A nurse at American Express, she quickly moved into disaster mode to help injured workers, her son said. She was still in the building when the other tower collapsed.
"I watched it on television," Doumeng said.
He said he spent more than four tense hours before her husband called him to let him know she was all right. She had gone from the World Trade Center to the World Financial Center to help set up a morgue. From there, she headed to the Hudson River waterfront, where she assisted injured people being evacuated to New Jersey. From there, she was able to make her way home to Jersey City.
Doumeng said his mother still doesn't know what happened to the 11 people who worked on her team at American Express.
Son, daughter see disaster up close in New York
St. Thomas resident George Beers relates that his son, Richard, and his daughter, Tracey, live in Brooklyn, a short walk from the Brooklyn Bridge, and have a clear view of the twin towers of the World Trade Center
"Tracey is an attorney for the federal government's Deptartment of Education, Civil Rights Division, and works in the Federal Building about a block and a half from the towers. She arrived at her building just at the moment when the first tower was struck by the first airliner. She was understandably alarmed and quickly went to her office on the 14th floor. A moment after she got there, the second plane hit and her b
uilding felt the shock.
"They quickly evacuated the building and headed uptown, away from the disastrous scene. As she left the area, she looked at the towers and saw several people jump to the ground. She got to 15th Street to wait out for an opportunity to get across the Brooklyn Bridge and get home.
"Before leaving her office, Tracey had called Richard to tell him what had occured. From his vantage point he could see the towers, so he grabbed his digital camcorder and went up on the roof and recorded what was happening across the East River, catching the instant when they began collapsing.
Tracey managed to get through to her parents, George and Luisa Beers, by telephone last night and relate her terrifying experience. "E-mail provided the only off-island communication until the phone circuits became uncongested," he said.
Lynda Lohr also contributed to this report.

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