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NEW YORK CITY, NY -- On The morning of September 11, 2001, Painter Wendy Cook fled her apartment building which was located in the shadow of the World Trade Center.

She left her two cats -- Sid and Elvis behind because she felt they would be safer inside as long as the building was sound. But, as she took refuge at shelters and the houses of friends in the ensuing days, she was not allowed back into the area.

Finally, on Friday, Wendy Cook was able, with much help, to rescue not only her to cats but also 15 other pets in the building.

Following are a brief excerpts from Wendy Cook's extensive journal of her experiences:

"....I was frozen by the horror of what I saw a mere block away from my home. There was an enormous hole in one of the towers. Flames were shooting out and black smoke was everywhere. Cars had crashed on the streets below. Blood and what appeared to body parts were on the street below. Glass and debris were falling from the sky and smashing on the street below. People where throwing themselves from the tower to their deaths. You could see ties flapping in the breeze as they fell. I saw what my mind wanted to believe was an indian woman in an orange sari falling, but I soon realized it was a person on fire....."

"....some police boats pulled in right where we were standing and they yelled for us to get in. We jumped aboard and were taken to a pier across the Hudson in NJ. There I saw 3 workers from my building and we cried and hugged...."

"....Some food was brought in, but I could only eat a few bites. I was distraught over my cats and frantic because I wasn't in a place where I could see my building. We were told we were being moved to a naval base, but then told we would remain. I found a blanket and pulled it over my dirty clothes. I tried to sleep on the floor of the gym, [Bayonne High School] but heard explosions, planes, sirens, and screams all night. I wasn't sure if I was really hearing them or not. Others were hearing them too....."

"....I cried most of the day and tried to get to my cats, but couldn't get past the barricades. There was a VOID of information. I was worried about a building collapse and knew I wouldn't be able to live with myself if anything happened to Sid and Elvis. I barely ate. I was still hearing the phantom noises although it was getting a little easier to discern what was real noise and what my mind was replaying. I was on the phone all day trying to find a way rescue my cats trying to get information. It was impossible....."

"....The plan was to get in scrubs with my hospital i.d. and try to get past the barricades. [on Thursday] I drew a map of the lobby so I could memorize the quickest route as it would be hard to navigate with merely a flash light. There was no power and the hallways and staircases would be blacker than night....."

"....They told me my cats were fed by my (angel) super, Juan, but my building was surrounded by military. Mixed reports a possible collapse; a possibility of rescuing the pets. No information. go to 110th St to fill out a form which made no sense to me....Fawn called another number and was told, 'Go to pier 40 NOW!!!' We hopped on bikes and the kind workers there were very sympathetic. They took our names, etc. and we all huddled together outside hoping for a miracle. Water was passed around and some food. I tried to eat half a banana as I knew I hadn't been eating and sleeping and would need my strength to climb 9 stories and carry 2 cats weighing together at least 30 lbs. We applauded and cried as we saw owners returning with their pets. It was good to see life being rescued from a place where we had seen so much death. It was at 2am when I climbed into the van. It would drop me off just north of BPC. We were told we had 5 minutes and we were risking our lives as well as those that were aiding us in the rescue therefore if we took anything other than our pets we would be prosecuted. My thoughts were on the lives of Sid and Elvis and I couldn't even think about anything else...."

"....We got to my door and it was locked. I cried again. I prayed my cats would be safe another day. When I got back to the van the ASPCA boxes were soggy and useless. I had a hard time throwing them away because I wrote my cats names on them and it felt like I was throwing away my cats, throwing away hope. With all the strength I had, I reminded myself that these were just boxes, and my cats were still safe inside. I would try again tomorrow....."

"....Sobbing, I explained the situation to Jack and he grabbed my face and said 'Get in my jeep..we can't wait or they will stop us'. He yelled for Juan the super, Anthony and Jose who worked in my building. Tara came running and jumped in. She said she snuck past....We knew that we had other pets to save besides our own. Once again, we put on our masks and took the same route as the night before. We moved cautiously. It was horrifying. Abandoned strollers, a random shoe every couple of yards...it's a miracle that anyone lived through this. So many workers, piles of debris. We got to my street. Port-o-potties were chained to the side of my building. Police, military, jeeps and what appeared to be a tank at the end of the road. We got to my building and made a plan. First stop, my flat...box my cats, take only what can fit in my small knapsack and remain inside until Juan's return. Jack said to wait for him outside our building when we had all the pets....."

"....We climbed 9 flights in total darkness with a small flash light and counted the steps 7- turn, 7 -floor. I entered my apartment and saw the most beautiful sight...Elvis sitting on the couch. I picked him up and placed him in the box. Called for Sid and did the same....."

"....Juan and Jose returned with more pets. Anthony had a dog named Poncho. We had a dog and a cat in a hamper. By the time we descended the darkness to the lobby we had all the animals left in the building. The problem was how to carry them out. I ran behind the desk and found a cart. Juan said it wouldn't make it over the debris and fire hoses so I tossed it aside. Someone found a mail cart and began loading pets. I found a wheel chair and put my cat carrier on that. Juan grabbed some tape and started taping it to the seat. I yanked the belt of the extra cat bag and made a seat belt to secure the front of the carrier to the wheel chair and put the rabbits on top. We almost made it to the corner when Juan remembered another cat. I yelled and pointed to the extra cat bag near the entrance. Juan got the cat. We now had 17 animals. We moved cautiously over fire hoses, curbs, steps and debris....."

"....It took all 5 of us to lift, push and hold our bundle of animals to get them past each obstacle. Workers in the area stopped and watched us as we rescued these little souls. I made eye contact with one man and his lip quivered and he began to cry as he saw the animals loaded onto to the wheel chair I was pushing...."

".....Several people working on a nearby building were smiling and waving. They understood what we already knew.....the importance of life of ANY kind...."

"....Jack said, 'I'm not a cat lover, but hearing your cat's mewing is the most beautiful sound right now'....".


Wendy gives thanks to Juan- for protecting and feeding and finally rescuing the animals; Jos- the same; Anthony - the same; Jack Linn- the ANGEL in disguise without whose determination and bravery we would have never been able to pass the blockades; Tara Rosenbaum; The Parks escorts; The ASPCA; Lisa Berganty- for trying; Cathy Zweisler- for trying; Nancy McDonald- for trying; Lisa Phillips- for connecting me to the right people and your prayers; Fawn & Dylan for clothes, a roof, food, and support; Dino Geangelo- for helping to protect me in the blizzard of ash; MY FAMILY AND FRIENDS!!!! ;Rob- for getting us swiftly back to LI and helping me recover; Bill Longman- for informing everyone via email; My homeless neighbors; Everyone at The Center For Health & Healing especially Dr. Stephen Quentzel; Barbara Glickstein; Aurora; Chris Cathy

"MY LOVE AND DEEPEST GRATITUDE TO YOU ALL!!!!! I am both awestruck and thankful to be alive with Sid and Elvis." - Wendy Cook ------

Wendy Cook's art supplies and all her paintings were left behind.

About her work, she writes: "My earliest influences are Thiebaud, Warhol and Katz. For the past several years I have been working and producing a body of work that consists of my favorite childhood 'pop-icons'. These works are 25" x 25" paintings encased in a hollow lucite frame containing materials pertaining to the image held within. They are audience participation pieces evoking memories associated with the image whereby pressing a button, one will hear a recording which will produce a loop of time and memory associated with image, sound and childhood memories."

Visit http://community.webtv.net/WLCook/WendyCook to find out more.

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