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Sister-in-law, cousin, wife keep hoping for missing family members

NEW YORK CITY (BP)–James Barbella is a police officer with the New York Port Authority. When terrorists slammed two jetliners into the World Trade Center’s twin towers, Barbella assisted in evacuating office workers from the towering infernos.

Barbella telephoned his wife to assure her that he was not hurt. The time was 9 a.m. He was running up the grand concourse with a group of firefighters. Since then, no one has heard from the 53-year-old father of three children.

Claudina Barbella, his sister-in-law, stood inside a nearby armory a few nights ago waiting — waiting for anyone — who may have seen or heard from Barbella.

“I just wanted to see if anyone knew anything,” Barbella said as her husband met with representatives of the Port Authority. “We’ve been doing this every night since the buildings fell.

“He was a good man,” Barbella said. “He was the type of person that if he made it out of the building, he would go back inside to help someone else.”

Teresa Polan’s search for her cousin, Anna Debin, brought her to the Wall of Prayer at Bellevue Hospital, where hundreds of families have posted photographs of their missing loved ones.

“Our family has scattered out to hospitals all over the place searching for her,” Polan said.

Debin was working on the 103rd floor for Kanter Fitzgerald, a legal brokerage firm. She and her husband, George, have a 2-year-old son.

“Her husband is in a state of shock,” Polan said. “And that poor little baby has been saying over and over, ‘Mommy come home work.’

“I’ve called hospitals everywhere, even in New Jersey,” she said.

Polan said she came to Bellevue because she wanted to let people see what Debin looked like.

“I don’t know if she will ever be found but I want people to know that this casualty is a person,” Polan said. “She gave her life.”

It’s been days since Grissel Valentin has slept. The Bronx native has been on a crusade to find her husband of 11 years, Benito. He was working on the 94th floor of Tower One on Sept. 11.

A travel consultant, her husband arrived at the office around 5:45 to start an early day of work.

“Everyone has been so helpful and kind,” Valentin said. “The police at the 23rd precinct have been especially helpful. They actually listen to you and pay attention to what you say.”

Valentin and her family have scoured the city’s hospitals with photographs of her husband, hoping that someone may have information.

“We’re trying to be strong, but it’s crazy,” she said. “Just crazy.”

For the Valentins, the search will be indefinite.

“We will keep going until we find his body,” she said. “We will search until we get answers.”
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at https://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: PRAYER VIGIL, WALL OF PRAYER, SEARCHING FOR HER HUSBAND, READING THE WORD, and OFFERING COMFORT.

    About the Author

  • Todd Starnes