9/11 Stories

Nancy Rapchak

I volunteered at ground zero for about 3 weeks. On the evening into the night of September 18 and on to the 19th, I worked at Burger King on Liberty and Trinity/Church. I spotted an injured cop, whose bright white bandages called for my attention from behind the counter where I was standing, past the hoard of workers in front of me.

Finally, later, the cop came in when I was the only person in the place. He came up to the counter and wandered over. I asked how he was doing. He replied in sort of a humorous, theatrical way, (I think), ‘There aren’t enough hours in the world to hear my troubles.” I told him that if he wanted to talk, I was there to listen. He said he’d like that, so we went and sat down, in front of the blown out window, looking out on the destruction. His name was Frank. Eventually I asked him his last name. He began answering but looked down at his badge, I thought, stopped, then restarted his last name. This threw me because it seemed at the time that he had forgotten his last name and if that wre the case, it was heartbreaking.

Now when I look back he could have been checking to see if he had his badge on or something else. Anyway, it was a long Italian name. He was born in Italy and he is, I believe, a sergeant. A very musical name, is the immediate thought that came to me. I rolled it back and forth in my head, and like an idiot I thought, “I don’t need to write this down. I’ll never forget it.” later someone distracted me and I went back to rolling his beautiful sounding name around in my head and I couldn’t remember it. I have been searching for him ever since.

I know some of you workers met him. I know that he has friends, family and co-workers. He was about 5’9” or 5’10” w/ brown hair and moustache, regular build. I remember his sideburns wer shaved off at the hairline, either as a style or because, perhaps, one of them was burned off. He had white bandages on the left side of his neck, an ace bandage all the way up his right arm, and broken ribs. He said he’d lost 69 people in a tower collapse. He also said that he was caught in Building 7, between the 13th and 14th floors when it went down. Frank said he’d also lost 2 nieces. He’s been on the force for 10 years and had 4 - 6 bars above his badge. He majored in psychology in college.

I was trying so hard not to say anything stupid, and to calm him and make him feel better that I never asked things like where his precinct was or where he lived. Not being familiar with police or their uniforms at the time, I didn’t know about the lapel precinct #‘s, though I don’t think he had them on. Eventually, I brought Sigourney Weaver down to meet him from where she was serving food at Boulez’. I had fit her with a gas (particle) mask earlier and she was so so nice to come down to say hi to Frank. I left him with her so he could have her to himself for a minute or two.

I came back and he was talking to another cop, so, not wanting to hover, I went upstairs and got some supplies. When I came back, Frank was gone. I was very glad to see that he’d most likely gone home, as he had begun to pass out from the latest percosett. I never saw him again, in the following days. I’ve worried about Frank for 10 months now, hoping that he’s is feeling okay. I wrote a letter to the police commissioner who assigned a detective to help me find him. Going on the first name is, of course, slow work and I haven’t heard from her in about 2 months. I know someone out there knows Frank. I know he talked to a lot of people that day/night too, because he was telling me about some of them. One guy had invited him out to Long Island when it was all over with, etc. He’d also talked to the same salvation army lady that I’d talked to. He said he’d made a joke and she’d looked at him like he was about to put the gun in his mouth. I could relate.

Frank is the bravest man I’ve ever met, besides my father who used to kill spiders that were terrorizing my sister, brothers and myself. I am by no means the type to hang out with cop type people but this man made a huge impression on me. He was blaming himself for the deaths of 69 people, it seemed, by his insistence that he’d “lost” them. I asked him if the people in front of him got out. He said that they had. I tried to make him understand that he’d saved those people. If he hadn’t been there to get them out, they might not have made it. I told him that he can’t save everybody. I really hope that I was able to help him. If anyone remembers Frank, his last name or if you read this Frank, please get in touch. My whole family across the country and friends too, have been dragged into this hunt by me. I’ve written to John Edward, Howard Stern and Oprah too. (None have answered.) We would all be so relieved if I could know that Frank is ok.

Nancy Rapchak