Saturday, September 15, 2001

Local family looks for news of son

By Kristina Goetz
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        There are only three stops to make: the apartment, the armory and the hotel. Only one number to remember: 1-2-2-6.

        And only one prayer to recite: that Robert David Peraza made it out alive.

Rob Peraza
Rob Peraza
        “We're hoping for a miracle,” said his father Bob Peraza, a Procter & Gamble employee, Mason resident and president of the local Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

        “The odds are small, but we are hoping, somehow.”

        From a crackling cell phone in their son's apartment on 71st Street and Columbus Avenue on Manhattan's Upper West Side, family members recounted the search Friday for a local son.

        It was 8:15 a.m. Tuesday when Rob Peraza, 30, e-mailed his girlfriend a good-morning note. A half-hour later, he was on the 104th floor of the World Trade Center's Tower One. At his bond brokerage company's desk, he was sending instant messages to a friend in a nearby building.

        Out the window, the friend saw the first plane and wrote:

        “Holy s---, get out of there!”

        But there was no response. And there has been none since.

        “As the plane hit, everything went dead,” his father said.

        Family members started checking survivors' names on unofficial Internet Web sites. Miraculously, it seemed, his name appeared Wednesday morning.

        “That raised our hopes,” Mr. Peraza said.

        But that hope turned to heartbreak when the Perazas arrived in New York to find the report erroneous.

        “Thursday we had to go up to the armory and register him,” the elder Mr. Peraza said of his son.

Waiting and praying

        At the National Guard Armory at 26th Street and Lexington Avenue, his son was given a number: 1-2-2-6. And with that, the family put forth pictures, dental records, a hair sample and what's left of their hope.

        “We spent half an hour with a detective and waited in line three hours until we received the first reports from hospitals,” Mr. Peraza said.

        His son's name was not listed.

        With no word at the armory, the family headed to the ballroom of the Pierre Hotel, where Cantor Fitzgerald, a brokerage firm, set up a center. Photos of hundreds of missing people line the walls. Cantor Fitzgerald took up five floors of the tower: 101 to 105.

        “Unfortunately, there has been no news from anyone who has survived floor 104.”

        Sitting on her son's bed Friday, Suzanne Peraza started to cry.

        She talked about her son, the graduate of St. Bonaventure University. The Roman Catholic. The bond trader. The man who lived with his parents in Loveland, then went off to live in New York City, his dream since he was growing up in upstate New York.

        The man who was ready to propose.

        “When I woke up this morning, I woke up crying,” she said. “I just want to die. His pictures are on the walls, things that we have given him. I see evidence of the life he was building. It's heartbreaking. It's absolutely devastating.

        “I want my son ... I want to find him alive and well. I can't think of anything else.”
       Gina Buccino and Dan Sewell contributed to this report.


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