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Office note from WTC sheds light on 9/11 victims

Associated Press Published: September 14, 2012

STAMFORD, Conn. (AP) — The note is just five words and two numbers.

Randy Scott scrawled these five words and two numbers on a piece of paper on Sept. 11, 2001, while at work at Euro Brokers Inc. in the World Trade Center.

But if a picture is worth a thousand words, these five words and two numbers have changed the picture completely for Scott's family. Family members refer to it simply as "the note." The note that floated from the 84th floor of Two World Trade Center to chaotic streets below, and was tenderly preserved as it traveled from hand to hand and through time to reach them.

Denise Scott learned of her husband's message in August 2011, just weeks before the calendar marked a decade since he died in the World Trade Center's collapse.

For those 10 years, his family members believed he likely died instantly when United Airlines Flight 175 flew into the tower at 9:03 a.m., near the floors containing Euro Brokers offices.

The words of Denise and her children overlap as they consider how the note changed their oral history of Randy's final moments. Each delivers a piece of the agonizing account as though trying to spare the others.

"I spent 10 years hoping that Randy wasn't trapped in that building," Denise, 57, said Friday from a front room in her Stamford home with two of her three daughters, Rebecca, 29, and Alexandra, 22, at her side.

"I thought he was killed instantly," Rebecca interjected.

"It was so close to impact," Alexandra concluded.

Randy Scott's daughters fought tears as his message again triggered new mental images.

In a steady tone, their mother explained the power of the note. "You don't want them to suffer. They're trapped in a burning building. It's just an unspeakable horror. And then you get this 10 years later. It just changes everything."

"84th floor

West Office

12 people trapped"

It is not these words alone that change the narrative of Randy Scott's final moments. The other content on the note is a dark spot, about the size of a thumbprint. It is Randy's blood, and the clue that eventually enabled the medical examiner's office to trace the source of the note through DNA tests and deliver it to his family a decade after he apparently tossed it from the 84th floor.

Not long before writing the note, after the first plane hit One World Trade Center, Randy, 48, called Denise at Springdale School. She was in class with her first-grade students, so someone picked up the school line and passed along the message. Thinking the first crash was minor incident, he just wanted her to know he was fine. The full news of the terrorist attacks would not reach Denise until later that morning, when Rebecca called her from Ohio, where she was attending college.

For the next few days, they considered Randy a missing person, checking bars, restaurants and hospitals.

In the years to follow, Denise recorded key information in a black notebook. On Friday, four days before another Sept. 11 anniversary, she consulted the notebook when needed to ensure she was accurate in sharing details. She glibly refers to the space in the front of the home as "the 9/11 room," since it is here that so many friends and family members gathered nearly 11 years ago waiting for news and consoling one another. Though Denise quickly dismissed her own name for the room, it is accented by reminders of one of the most famous days in U.S. history: The New York Times book "Portraits: 9/11/01" on the coffee table, the faint names of the victims weaved into an American flag on the wall over the piano, photos of Randy with family members and at play.

The home, which they moved into two decades ago, is blue with white trim. Red shutters were added to complete the color scheme weeks before Sept. 11, 2001. Now they make an indelible reference point. "We're the red, white and blue house," Rebecca says wryly when offering directions.

After returning Friday from a day with her second-grade class at Springdale, Denise tells the story of the note like a school teacher. She avoids dramatic embellishments ("I try not to personalize it; just the facts") and references her black notebook when needed. Her account is punctuated by flashes of emotion, pauses to ensure accuracy, and laughs when describing her husband.

Denise was out of town visiting a friend in August 2011 when she received a call from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of New York. With the passage of time, and the evolution of DNA technology, the office will sometimes call families with news that something has been identified, most often fragments. This call, though, came from Dr. Barbara Butcher, chief of staff and director of Forensic Investigations at the ME's office.

"I said, 'What kind of fragment?' " Denise recalled. "She said, 'No, it's not a fragment. It's something written.' And that's when I just fell apart."

Denise did not know the contents of the note, or how it had been linked to Randy. The uncertainty made her grateful that she was able to process the news away from her daughters, for fear of upsetting them.

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