The Independent (London)
September 15, 2001, Saturday
SECTION: COMMENT; Pg. 8
LENGTH: 1537 words
HEADLINE: THE WEEK THAT SHOOK THE WORLD: A
MARRIAGE MADE IN HEAVEN THAT ENDED IN HELL.
BYLINE: Russ Baker
EDNA CINTRON was a perfect wife. Other than that, she was an ordinary
person: a prototypical New Yorker of modest means and education, without
powerful friends, glittering assets or a thrilling day-to-day life. She
job, and she had her husband.
On Wednesday of this week, her husband, William, was wandering the
streets of Manhattan, carrying her photo, trying to get information on her
whereabouts and condition. Edna, an attractive 46-year-old with long,
curly hair and prominent green eyes, worked in One World Trade Centre, the
North Tower of the gargantuan complex, on the 97th floor. When the first
plane hit, its primary impact was on the 93rd to 100th floors. Mr. Cintron
seemed aware that, with the combination of the low live-body recovery rate
and the location of his wife at the time of the attack, the odds of his
ever seeing her again were
infinitesimally low. Nevertheless, he kept looking.
Mr. Cintron, a lean 44-year-old with short, dark hair, had been to
locations, including St Vincent's Hospital, a key treatment centre in the
Greenwich Village area, hoping against hope that she might have been
there. They had no record of her. He had also tried to get to lower
to help out on the disaster scene, but was turned away. "They said we'd
interfere. We can't just be in the way."
On Thursday, he was at the 69th Regiment Armory on Lexington Avenue,
looking for the correct line to file a missing person's form. The Armory,
just south of midtown and several miles outside the disaster zone, had
been designated as the key processing centre for missing person
information. Although used for years primarily for arts and antiques
exhibitions, the Armory is a fortress-like structure with gun bays
overlooking Lexington Avenue. It is inscribed with the names of some of
America's greatest battles: Antietam, Gettysburg, Bull Run.
With a small entourage (a son from a previous marriage and two
Cintron wandered amid the huge crowd gathered on all four corners of 26th
Street and Lexington - the law enforcement personnel, the volunteers, the
media, the onlookers - then was directed by traffic officers past
canvas-covered military vehicles and through a crazy crosshatch of moving
ambulances, and marked and unmarked police vehicles, to one particular
corner. A long queue went up Lexington and turned down 26th Street. "Wow,
is that the line?" he asked. "That's a long line."
A police officer approached Mr. Cintron, who was wearing jeans and a
yellow polo shirt with a Puerto Rican flag keychain in the breast pocket,
and asked if he had completed a form yet. He had filled out questionnaires
at other locations, but they couldn't be certain it had been the correct official
paperwork, so they gave him one of theirs. It was seven pages long.
Mr. Cintron borrowed a pen and began to write. He entered his wife's
checked the box for female, noted their address and various contact phone
numbers, then stopped to see how much more details were required. The
authorities needed what looked to be hundreds of pieces of information. A
detailed physical description. Medical and dental profile and history,
type, doctor contacts. Had she had any surgery? Were there any old
Did she have any steel plates in her body? Identifiable scars?
Volunteers passed, some wearing signs saying "counsellor" or
others offering a steady supply of nourishment: apples, energy bars,
McDonald's hamburgers, bagels, glazed doughnuts, and orange juice. "New
York City's a powerful place," said Mr. Cintron. "The response has been
wonderful." He glanced again at the sheaf of papers. Clothing she might
have been wearing. Type and description of dress, blouse, hose, slip,
girdle, bra, skirt, belt, belt buckle; whether she wore her watch on the
right or left wrist. Mr. Cintron glanced over the pages, and stopped. Then
he began talking about his wife.
Edna Cintron was born on October 14, 1954. She was 46 years old. She
was born in Puerto Rico, and brought to New York by her mother when she
was about five. They were poor. A clerical worker for the New York City
board of education, mami used to take two boiled eggs to work so she
didn't have to buy lunch. She gave Edna a weekly allowance of several
cents. Edna had an older sister, Myrna, who now lives in New Jersey, and a
long- estranged brother.
Edna's family lived in lower Manhattan, on Delancey Street, in a
neighbourhood famous for waves of ethnic immigration. She was very private
about her childhood, didn't like to talk about it. "She experienced a lot
her husband said. She made it through the 11th grade, but did not graduate
from high school. (Recently, she was going to school to prepare herself
for a GED, a test that is the equivalent of a high school diploma and is
crucial to career advancement.)
Edna and William met in 1987. William had gone to visit his brother at
brother's girlfriend's house in Upper Manhattan. He walked into the
kitchen, and found Edna sitting at the kitchen table, chatting with her
friend. "I asked my
brother who this young lady might be," he recalls. Edna, who retains her
attractiveness in recent photos, was a knockout back then. William was
immediately smitten, and sat down to talk. "I was charming at that time; I
cashmere," he said. He remembers finding her intelligent. William, then
been married briefly, years before, and had two children who lived with
mother. Edna, who was 32, had never been married.
"We started spending quality time," Mr. Cintron said. Although both had
seeing other people when they met, they soon were an item. Every morning
would drive from his Brooklyn apartment all the way up to the north end of
Manhattan where she lived, pick her up, and bring her to work in midtown.
Then he would head to his own job. Given New York traffic, it was a Herculean commute, rare as a badge of commitment even for the most
romantic couples. He has a simple explanation. "When you're in love, this
is something that's important." A couple of months after they met, they
moved into an apartment in Brooklyn, and were married two years later.
Edna was not able to conceive, so they did not have children. They
about adopting, but never did, usually delaying the move for financial
Like a lot of resourceful couples, they juggled jobs and
handle their bills. In recent years, Edna worked at Manhattan's southern
first in the World Financial Centre (which was also damaged in Tuesday's
attack) and about two years ago took a job in the World Trade Centre with
the computer support section of Marsh McClennan, a large insurance broker,
where she was the billing administrator's assistant. It was a hectic job,
and often tiring, but no harder than William's. He worked as a doorman in
an apartment building on the swanky Upper East Side, five days a week,
from 7am to 3pm. Then, each work day after three, he drove to the Harlem
flower shop they jointly owned, Sweet William's Florist, where he laboured
until 8pm. He was at the florist's on Saturdays, and Edna joined him there
often on Sundays. "She was good with people," he said.
Mr. Cintron, speaking in a soft voice with an urban Hispanic tinge,
his missing wife in very simple, very stark terms. "She was a good wife,"
said. "She took care of me like I was her son. She would get out of work
and go straight home and start cooking and cleaning, getting things
organised. She was a very special wife."
Although she took such care of him, and made him feel protected, she
was no pushover. "She spoke her mind," he said with quiet admiration.
Much of their existence revolved around home life at the apartment
lived in for nine years, in a quiet Queens neighbourhood. For fun, they
going on cruise holidays, and had been to Bermuda, Mexico and Jamaica.
would drive several hours upstate to Bear Mountain State Park for
barbecues with friends and relatives. Edna also enjoyed trips to the
casinos of Atlantic City. "She'd play a little, then we would go to the
buffets and eat," said Mr Cintron. "It's good to get out of New York."
Basically, Edna and William were each others' hobbies. When they
work, they spent all of their time together. "Fourteen years with her,
my life, my world. I knew when I went home I was in the best of hands,
Now, as the Armory line moved forward, a volunteer came over to help
Cintron complete the identification form. "How would you describe her body
type, her build," the woman asked, uttering a small, nervous laugh
comfort. "Her eye colour?"
"Did she have her hair coloured? You know, did she have any
Edna Cintron's hobby, it seems, was collecting angels. The Cintrons
Catholics, but only went to church occasionally. Nevertheless, she had a
angels, in all kinds of forms, framed paintings depicting them, little
"Long fingernails? Were they painted?"
It was time to get out of Mr. Cintron's way. He thanked me for my
"She was a good wife," he said.