When she heard about the attack, Jennifer Salzer, a Park Avenue orthodontist, was halfway through fitting braces on a patient. She immediately thought of a 31-year-old Cantor Fitzgerald employee who had been in for braces a few weeks before. “We have all his stuff here,” she says. “He was wearing Invisaligners; he was so excited about it.” When his out-of-town family called to ask for his records, she offered to go down to the armory and register him as a missing person.
All over the city, dentists are being asked to pull the records of patients, some of whom they’ve seen twice a year for decades, to help identify remains. For members of a profession not normally confronted with death, it is a grim task that will likely continue for months.
“I’ve gotten requests for three sets of X-rays,” says Jonathan Levine, a prosthodontist on Fifth Avenue. “Our Wall Street office lost five. It’s a pit-in-the-stomach feeling. Every morning, there’s the anxiety. I ask, ‘Did I get any more requests?’ One came from the FBI. They came and picked them up themselves. They wanted fifteen copies.”
By his last count, dentist Jeff Shapiro is missing fourteen. He is not sure if there are more, since it’s not exactly easy for his patients to reach him. His office – inside a building next to Trinity Church – is off-limits, as is his apartment building in Battery Park City. “I sent out an e-mail to my database of 1,300,” he says, after a police escort helped him salvage his computer. “A lot of these people I knew for ten years or more. It’s like a family. One guy in particular lived right next door to me. He was on the seventy-ninth floor of the first tower hit. His wife doesn’t understand. She spoke to him two or three times. He said something like the floor was caving in. I was looking at his records the other day. I couldn’t believe it, the 11th was his birthday.”