Here at the Armory, the real estate is precious indeed. Every available inch of space in front of this 26th Street building—on phone booths, mailboxes, lamp posts and tree trunks—is covered with the faces of the missing—and increasingly, the presumed dead. The names on the flyers are as varied as the city itself: Suranya Srinuan, Arlene Babakidis, Shang Wen Wang, Stephen P. Morello—180 pounds, Doris Eng—5 feet 2, Giovanne 'Gennie' Gambale, Richard C. Rescorla, Kiran Reddy. The subjects wear tuxedoes and formal dresses. Their smiles are broad and frozen.
According to the description, Krishna V. Moorthy is aged 59, 5 feet 6, and 150 pounds in weight. In the color photocopy, he's wearing a pink and white shirt. An employee of Fiduciary Trust, he was last heard from at 8:59 on September 11.
Nearby, a group of Indians stand on the sidewalk, waiting for their friend who has driven up all the way from Dallas. After a full day of checking the hospitals, she is now at the Missing Persons Bureau inside the Armory, inquiring as to the whereabouts of her fiance Shashi. He was on the 97th floor, a Wipro programmer working on the Marsh McLennan account. Shashi's friends are sure that he was in the building, as he had just sent out a few e-mails when the first explosion happened. But it has been over 60 hours since the buildings came down, and hope grows dim. "Till you find some clue, you never know," says Bharath Singh Yadav, who also works for Wipro. "We're keeping our fingers crossed. Until we're sure, we don't want to make any negative statements to anybody."
According to New York's Indian Consul for Political Affairs Ashok Bajpai, there are 250 to 500 Indians missing. This is clearly a vague estimate, the result of several approximations. He assessed that about 20,000 people would have been in the towers. "A large number would have escaped," he notes, adding that about five per cent of the entire building may have been Indian.
Immediately after the crisis began, the consulate, under consul-general Shashi Tripathi, looked for ways to address the situation. "We have been taking a proactive approach in finding Indians affected by the tragedy," explains Bajpai. "We went to the family centres and hospitals, and we found 37 Indians. We put their information up on the web. We even had one person call us up to say he was safe."
In the wake of the disaster, the consulate received over 1,000 phone calls, many from panicked relatives in India. "We have a set procedure," says Bajpai. "We ask for the caller's phone number and the missing person's number as well as the company they worked for. We call the hospitals, the crisis centre and we make physical trips to the hospital. Then we call back India and tell them what we have found." Considering that several hundred are presumed missing, it seems strange that not even one fatality has been announced, but Bajpai points out that everything is completely transparent. "No, it's not confidential," he says. "If we have any fatalities, we'll definitely want to share it with the families."
Another hotline was established by Wipro, which coordinated with the consulate to make sure that people in India or the US could easily find any of the company's employees.
"There were seven employees at the wtc—all from India," says V. Raju from Wipro's office in Santa Clara, California. "From what we know they were in the North building, on the 97th floor. Three of them are safe: two didn't get into the building, and one was three-quarters of the way up before he turned around and came down. " While friends and relatives continue to scour New York, there is only so much that can be done, by Wipro or otherwise. "We frequently ring the hospital for any information they may have," says Raju. "It's wait-and-watch from here on."