For nearly a decade, Denise Scott believed her husband had been killed on impact when United Airlines Flight 175 smashed into the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.
But last year, just weeks before the 10-year anniversary of the horrific attack, she received a call that changed her life – and the story of her husband’s death.
A note in his handwriting and with a smudge of his blood had been found, reading: ’84th floor. West Office. 12 people trapped.’
The note had drifted to the ground outside the building just moments before it collapsed – and left Randy Scott’s wife and three children horrified that he had been alive to experience fear.
‘I spent 10 years hoping that Randy wasn’t trapped in that building,’ Denise, 57, told the Stamford Advocate from her Stamford, Connecticut home.
‘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.’
Scott, 48, worked at Euro Brokers Inc. in the World Trade Center when he phoned the school where his wife taught to let her know that one of the Twin Towers had been hit by a plane.
Believing the first crash was minor, he asked to pass on the message that he was fine – and she only discovered the full horror when her daughter Rebecca called from college later that morning.
In the days after the attacks, Denise and her three daughters checked bars, restaurants and hospitals for their husband and father, the Advocate reported.
Nearly 10 years later, in August 2011, Denise received a call from Dr. Barbara Butcher, chief of staff and director of Forensic Investigations at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of New York.
Aware that the office called families if they came across fragments of victims, Denise asked what it was they had found.
‘She said, “No, it’s not a fragment. It’s something written”,’ Denise said. ‘And that’s when I just fell apart.’
The note had been found on the street amid the chaos on 9/11 and handed to a guard at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. As he reached for his radio to alert help, the tower crumbled.
The Federal Reserve kept the note and eventually turned it over to the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, which worked with the medical examiner’s office.
It was linked to Randy Scott after a medical examiner carried out DNA tests on a dark spot on the note, and discovered it was Scott’s blood.
After taking the phone call from the Medical Examiner’s office, Denise travelled to New York with Randy’s best friend to see the note.
‘The minute I saw it I didn’t need to see the DNA test,’ she said. ‘I saw the handwriting. It’s Randy’s handwriting.’
She added: ‘I’m speechless that they actually were able to identify it. This note was written on September 11. It came out of a window. Somebody had it. People had their hands all over it.’
Butcher from the Medical Examiner’s office asked if the museum could exhibit the letter and Denise agreed – but asked for them to keep it quiet until she told her daughters.
But the months passed and the girl returned to college, and Denise struggled to find the right moment, she told the Advocate. When her father died in January, she realised it was time.
Her daughters, Rebecca, Alexandra, and Jessica, were stunned to hear of the note.
‘I was bawling, because I recognised his handwriting,’ Rebecca, 29, recalled. ‘I thought he was killed instantly.’
Alexandra, 22, added: ‘Everyone hoped that it was right on impact. That he didn’t suffer.’