Wren - A Quiet Wait by Two Friend's Families September 15, 2001
are moments when the only sound in the living room is the ticking
of the big wood clock on the wall. Its hands count down the wait
for the family inside the brick house. Pat Wren sits on the couch,
surrounded by her children, who stretch out on the soft blue carpet.
Everyone jumps at a knock on the screen door. The caller is a
neighbor, Colleen Fitzsimons, who has come to join the vigil.
The Wrens and the Fitzsimonses are awaiting news of Pat Wren's
husband, William, and Colleen Fitzsimons' father, Richard. Both
men worked together as fire security officers at the World Trade
Center. Both have been missing since the towers collapsed Tuesday.
"We walk around the house passing each other like ships in the
night," Pat Wren says. "No one is talking." Colleen Fitzsimons
nods. "Same with us," she says. "It's like being in a daze." The
Wrens and the Fitzsimonses live a few houses apart on a street
where children play in each other's yards. The vigil has unsettled
this quiet, shady block along Vincent Avenue in Lynbrook. William
Wren, 61, and Richard Fitzsimons, 57, have been neighbors for
nearly three decades. Both are retired New York City firefighters,
and both work for OCS Security, providing fire safety at the Twin
Towers. The Port Authority contracted with the company as part
of stepped-up safety precautions that were put into place after
terrorists bombed the World Trade Center in 1993. When terror
struck again Tuesday, Wren, operations manager at the towers,
and Fitzsimons, a safety officer, helped evacuate the buildings
to bring tenants to safety. Shortly after 9 a.m. Wren called his
wife to tell her he was fine. Sirens wailed in the background.
Ten minutes later, he called again. "Richie's OK, too," he said.
"Call his wife and tell her." So Pat called Patricia Fitzsimons.
"We're home free," Pat remembers thinking. "Then nothing." That's
the last the families have heard of the men who shared tools and
books. Whose children played along the tree-lined sidewalks together
as youngsters and took part in each other's weddings as adults.
Now the families are left to worry together. To listen to deep
sighs and ticking clocks. To share questions. They wonder if the
rescuers know that the men might have fled to the subbasement
of one of the buildings. It's more secure there, isn't it? they
ask each other. Cell phones line the coffee table in the Wrens'
living room, just in case an important call comes in. A family
photo hangs over the fireplace. The families talk about the missing
men. William Wren spent his childhood in Gerritsen Beach in Brooklyn,
graduating from James Madison High School. He served in the U.S.
Army for three years before joining the fire department. He is
a private, reserved man, the kind of person who doesn't talk about
his fire-fighting adventures. "He'd seen it all, but we'd never
know it," says his son, Chris Wren, 29, of North Carolina. "He's
kind of a low-key type guy." Richard Fitzsimons was raised in
the Bronx and Astoria. He served in the Army in Vietnam, then
spent years working in internal auditing for NYNEX. He's the kind
of man who likes to try everything, his daughter says, from coaching
ice hockey to taking piano lessons. "He had a lot of different
interests," says 32-year-old Colleen Fitzsimons. "He is definitely
outgoing." The families want people to know that the fire security
officers are heroes, just like the firefighters and rescue workers
who are missing. They want everyone to know that the two men,
along with others who are missing in their crew - Philip Hayes,
67, of East Northport and Larry Boisseau and Robert Mayo, both
of New Jersey - knew the building inside and out. They evacuated
the day care first. The hope that is almost palpable on Vincent
Avenue touches Seventh Avenue in East Northport. Hayes, a retired
New York City firefighter, was trying to evacuate everyone from
the building when someone handed him a phone and told him to call
home. He told his wife, Virginia, over a static-filled line, that
things were crazy, but he was fineF. "He said he was going to
call back," says son-in-law Brian O'Gara. "We're waiting." The
Wrens and the Fitzsimonses are doing the same. "I don't even want
to think of the days ahead," Chris Wren says. He sighs. The clock
ticks in the background. --Dionne Searcey (Newsday)
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