Missing: George V. Sims.
Soon after the World Trade Center collapsed in a heap of smoke and fire and steel, Anna M. Sims reported her son missing. He was a street peddler, a 46-year-old roaming Manhattan, selling his trinkets, working the occasional odd job. He could have been downtown on Sept. 11. He could have been standing in the shadow of those glass towers when they came tumbling down. His mother didn't know. What she knew was her son hadn't been seen since that day.
His name went on a list. George V. Sims, Missing. In the initial hours, in the early days, so many mothers, wives, husbands, children imagined their missing sons, husbands, wives, parents trapped in the rubble, injured in an emergency room they hadn't yet visited, unconscious in a hospital they hadn't yet called.
Over the days, the weeks, the months, the list began to change. Changes wrought by found objects, a tooth in a jaw, an inscribed medal of St. Florian, credit cards, a clothing label, a police shield, an engraved wedding band. The names of the missing became the names of the dead. But not the name of Anna Sims' son.
There it remained: George V. Sims, Missing. And it kept Anna Sims hoping that her wandering son would turn up, would arrive at the door of her two-story home in Newark, N.J. Unlike so many others, she put off filing for a death certificate. She never petitioned for any money from the victims' funds. She would wait a year. Then she would know if her George was still missing.
In the midst of a blistering summer, a call came from a Manhattan hospital. Officials there had seen the casualty list -- George V. Sims, missing -- and questioned it. With a photograph from Anna Sims, they would know if the patient suffering from amnesia and schizophrenia was her son.
He was. The official list of the dead and missing would change again.
As the nation commemorates the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks and grieves anew for the lost lives, the story of Anna and George Sims reminds us that hope can triumph even in the midst of despair.