From the Margins Erased: When the Towers Fell, Homeless People Disappeared; Their Friends Are Still Searching

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The front page headline in this weeks’ Village Voice reads:

“When the Towers Fell, Homeless People Disappeared. Their Friends Are Still Searching. From the Margins Erased”

And the story begins like this:

“There was this one lady named Arlene, and another named Maryann. A shoeshine guy named Jack. A guy named Keith. Anelderly woman named Rose sat by the PATH train bathroom. Marvin, a tall, gray-haired man with a dark complexion,stood around tower one every morning, there by the N train, regular as a dripping faucet.

“Carlos, a tall Jamaican some called Ras, wore his hair in dreadlocks and thoroughly cursed any social worker whotried to move him. When people asked him his problem, he rubbed his goatee and explained that it wasn’t homelessness,it was spiritual. Once in a while, the neatly dressed beanpole Mr. Mann came striding through the concourse. Theself-appointed mayor of the World Trade Center, he assigned himself the task of delivering grand, free-floatingoratories to passersby. He was scheduled to meet with the president of the United States soon.

“They all used the World Trade Center as a place to sleep, panhandle, or pass the time before September 11. They allremain unaccounted for. Their friends and acquaintances fear they died when the towers fell, perhaps only a smallportion of the still uncounted street people who perished that day. No one papered the city with flyers bearing theirpictures. No family members came in with their toothbrushes to identify their DNA. Maybe their families didn’t evenknow where they were. They died in the anonymous way they lived. Their memories now depend on the informal network ofpeople who saw them every week, yet perhaps knew them only by a nickname, a first name, a familiar face.”

One group is trying to make sure that their deaths do not go completely unnoticed. At the urging of its members, theUnited Homeless Organization has begun to tally the disappeared homeless. The list so far contains more than 50names, and it continues to grow.


  • Andrew Friedman, freelance journalist and author of Village Voice article, “From the MarginsErased.”
  • Stephen J. Riley, founder and director of the United Homeless Organization.

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