For almost ten years Denise Scott believed her husband Randy 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 9/11 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 Scott, 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.”
Randy 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 Scott 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 Scott 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 Scott asked what it was they had found.
“She said, <<No, it’s not a fragment. It’s something written>>,” Denise Scott 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 Scott 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 Scott struggled to find the right moment, she told the Advocate. When her father died in January, she realized it was time.
Her daughters, Rebecca, Alexandra, and Jessica, were stunned to hear of the note.
“I was bawling, because I recognized his handwriting,” Rebecca Scott, 29, recalled.
“I thought he was killed instantly.”
Alexandra, 22, added: “Everyone hoped that it was right on impact. That he didn’t suffer.”
They had hoped the same for his colleagues, too, she said, who also had children and families. The Scotts began reaching out to other relatives of those killed alongside Randy, to tell them the truth.
Denise Scott said that although it changed their knowledge of that day for the worse, she is so thankful she found out the truth – while other families have chosen not to be notified when fragments are found.
Jan Ramirez, chief curator of the museum, told the Advocate: “It’s so amazing to think that Randy Scott wrote it and it eventually ended up with his wife and three daughters, which is an amazing arc of a day.
“We are incredibly proud to be able to show it and I think it will be one of the most powerful artifacts in the museum.”