In the middle of an impromptu media center set up near the 68th Armory building of Manhattan, a pay phone booth stands as a simple metaphor for the agonizing search for the missing.
The booth's silver walls are covered with fliers posted by relatives and friends desperately searching for loved ones. They feature photographs of smiling mothers and fathers holding their children, husbands and wives embraced in wedding poses, and sisters and brothers, sons and daughters in happier times.
"If you have any information on her whereabouts, please call," says one. "If you see this woman, please call," pleads another. One simply says, "Worried sick!!"
But the phones have been silent since Tuesday morning, when the last of just five survivors rescued from the buildings were pulled from the rubble.
Thousands of family and friends of those who were in the Twin Towers on Tuesday have come here to file missing persons reports, a necessary step in the long and difficult process of accounting for the victims. The site has also become a magnet for members of the national and international media, who gravitate here in their attempts to put a more human face on what has happened.
All day, family and friends ask the media for help. They hand out fliers with physical descriptions and phone numbers, and tell their stories. They talk about phone calls received in the moments after the airliner slammed into the first tower.
The family of Donald Jones, a Cantor and Fitzgerald employee, is here from Philadelphia. A survivor of the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, his family pleaded with him to leave New York after the event. But he loved the city, he said, and refused to leave.
The mother of Annette Dataram, a 25-year-old who worked in the accounting office of the Windows on the World restaurant, sits numbly on a folding chair up the street, while family members post pictures and speak to the media nearby.
John Rizzo talks about his father, John, a carpenter, who turned 50 in July. Rizzo was working near the top of the second tower when the first plane hit, and was quickly told by his supervisor to leave the building.
Rizzo called his wife, a nursing supervisor at a Brooklyn hospital, from an elevator on the 85th floor to tell her he was alive, and waiting for firefighters. Then the phone went dead. He has not been heard from since.
His family is haunted by eerie signs of possible life. Rizzo's pager, which is with him, keeps receiving messages. So they page him and page him, hoping that rescuers will hear the signal from under the rubble.
K.C. Anthony, a college student from Vermont, arrives with her brother to post pictures of their uncle, David Campbell. He worked on the 89th floor of the South Tower of the Trade Center for Keefe, Bruyette, Woods. Campbell actually left several phone messages for his loved ones on the day of the attack, both for his own wife and children and for the family of his niece and nephew.
Here, too, are Rob Nason and fiancee Nancy Cox, who live in Kansas City, Kan. Nancy's brother, Freddie Cox, lives in Manhattan just a few blocks from the Armory. He was on the 104th floor of the second tower on Tuesday.
Nason and Nancy were together on Tuesday when they heard reports of the attack. They stopped at a gas station back home, and watched on television as the two towers collapsed.
They then climbed back into their truck, and drove 24 straight hours to New York, where they met up with Cox's fiancee, Annelise Petersen.
And here, half a country from his home, Rob Nasson tells the story, so overcome with grief that he must shake the tears streaking down his face.