Gut-wrenching horror hits a local couple who didn't know if their daughter was safe.
BY MARALINE KUBIK
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
GREENFORD -- When Janet L. Mitchells saw the expression on her husband's face, just minutes after he'd seen a televised news report of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center on Tuesday morning, she knew something was terribly wrong.
It was worse than the horror of watching the twin 110-story towers burning and then disintegrating into mountains of rubble.
"It was a traumatic experience. I'll never forget that look," Mitchells said, describing her husband's face. "He was standing like a Marine, which he is. His lips were pursed out and his eyes were glazed. It was like he was in a trance."
In peril: Their daughter, an attorney at the Securities and Exchange Commission specializing in securities fraud, worked in the World Trade Center, said Richard A. Mitchells. Her office wasn't in either of the towers, but it was in the third building to collapse, Building 7 in the complex.
Her mother soon realized Rebecca A. Mitchells, 38, a 1981 graduate of South Range High School, was in peril.
Rebecca called collect from a pay phone, her voice was shaky and she was crying, her mother said. She couldn't talk long because other people were waiting to use the phone, but she said she wasn't hurt and promised to call back later.
"She's very shook up. She's also very concerned about her friends and co-workers who worked in the towers," Richard Mitchells said.
When it happened: Mitchells said his daughter was in a mall in the basement of the complex when the first plane struck Tower 1.
"When they heard all the commotion they went outside and saw Tower 1 burning on three sides. They thought it was a bomb," he said. "They saw the second tower get hit by the airliner and then there was a little bit of panic."
At that point, he continued, many of those caught up in the drama weren't sure what was happening -- if there had been a terrorist attack or a terrible accident.
Smoke was billowing out of the buildings and many of the bystanders were covered in soot. There was no way to leave the area except on foot, so his daughter walked 100 blocks to her apartment in Manhattan.
Rebecca watched the building where she worked crumble to the ground later that day while watching televised news reports. That's when she realized how horrendous the damage was and how lucky she was to be alive.
"I think it's going to be a long time before she heals," her father said.
"The terror of what could have happened -- I can't get that out of my mind," her mother added. "But our daughter's OK, so we're OK," Richard Mitchells added optimistically.