A Sister's Search For a Missing Brother

Timothy Reilly, 40, worked on the 100th floor of One World Trade Center as a vice-president with Marsh. He has been missing without a trace since about 8:45 a.m. Tuesday morning, the same time the first terrorist-hijacked plane hit the tower. Following is a first-person account of one family’s desperate search for a loved one:

I was getting ready to leave for work at LEGO Direct Tuesday morning and was watching the morning news on television when I saw the first pictures of the plane crashing into the World Trade Center. I immediately woke up my husband, John, who immediately shouted out, "Oh my god, your brother!" He was talking about my brother Tim Reilly, who I had momentarily forgotten worked on the 100th floor of One World Trade Center.

It was just before 9:00 a.m. and, knowing my brother is not usually the earliest guy in the office, called Tim at home. When he didn’t answer at home, I tried his cell phone. Tim never has his cell phone turned on and barely knows how to use it, but I thought it would be worth a try. But he didn’t answer his cell phone either. I left a message and tried his office. Again, no answer.

John and I both work near the World Trade Center and as I was trying to reach Tim, calls started pouring into our apartment in the Cobble Hill section of Brooklyn from concerned friends and relatives checking to see if we were both okay. But all I could think of was Tim, and I kept answering the phone "Tim?!!!", hoping it would be him reporting that he was okay.

After the second plane hit, John biked to Tim's apartment building in Brooklyn Heights and asked the doorman if he remembered what time he saw Tim leave the building. The doorman said he did not remember seeing Tim leave that morning, but said Tim might have left while he was on a coffee break.

While John was gone I heard big fighter jets speeding overhead, and as I watched the television, I heard the awful sounds of the first building collapsing. The sky above my apartment turned gray and black. We now started to feel the first wave of real fear and dread. With the phone lines down and the cell phones also not working, we couldn't call out. However, we have DSL Internet access, and I was able to email my two sisters.

I am one of six siblings, three girls, three boys total. My brother Chuck works on John Street, also near the World Trade Center, but had never even made it into the city and was safe at home in Westchester County. My sister Kathleen works in Westchester, and reached our brother Brendan, who lives in Essex, Mass.

My sister Erin in Colorado was happy to hear via email that John and I were alive. She was happy for any news at all. But we all started to really worry about Tim, the middle boy in the family.


We all worked independently on gathering information. No one wanted to call our 70-year-old mother, who was teaching her second grade class at Holy Rosary School in Port Chester. But when she left me a voicemail on my cell phone around noon, I had to call her back. She did not know both towers had collapsed, and though she was glad I was alive, she also was devastated that no one had yet heard from Tim.

Tim’s girlfriend Christine contacted us. She also had no information about Tim’s whereabouts and joined our search. We started calling hospitals, and I spent the rest of the afternoon manning a make-shift call center from our apartment. I called the hospitals, the many information and help lines that were being established, and the emergency line my brother’s employer, Marsh, had set up. Calls were streaming in from family and friends, and I asked friends who live in Manhattan to check hospitals and triage centers for Tim.

Grim news came at about 2 p.m. when my brother Chuck called and said he had confirmation that Tim had been at his office. Chuck had reached a colleague of Tim's who said that Tim had had an early conference call. Then, our cousin Dan Hughes retrieved an e-mail that Tim had sent between 8:00 and 8:30 am. Tuesday. I knew Tim was definitely in town because we had made plans to hear some music Tuesday night.

But Tuesday night came and went without word from Tim. Anxious and frantic, John and I slept on an airbed in the living room so that we could be in front of the television. We resumed our search at 7 a.m. Wednesday morning.

So far, we have been able to find out that Tim and five others from his group have been confirmed missing by their company. We’ve learned that one member of his group, a man named Keith Merholz, got out of the building but is rumored to be badly burned. I am trying to find out which hospital he is in so that I can contact him. Maybe Tim is in the same hospital, maybe not. Maybe Keith knows something about Tim.

John went to Tim’s apartment to find something with his social security number. My brother-in-law works in securities for Master Card and is going to try to get Tim’s name placed on a priority list, but doing so required his social security number. At Tim’s apartment, his answering machine blinked with 34 messages. We are now facing the task of returning all those calls from his worried friends and colleagues.

John and I have now joined Chuck and Kathy at my mother’s home in Larchmont, N.Y. I called for Tim's dental records and Kathy is going to pick them up. We have to move Tim's car. We cling to Tim’s good fortune last year when he survived a horrible car accident and saved our mother’s life. Maybe his luck has held out for him. Maybe he was able to save his own life Tuesday.

I have not yet given up hope that Tim will turn up somewhere. I can’t shake the feeling that he is still going to just call or walk through my door as if nothing has happened. Meanwhile, we continue to search and continue to wait.

Respond to the Writer