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AFTER THE ATTACK | EMOTIONAL RECOVERY

Soldiering On, N.Y. Style

Spirit: Insurance broker whose staff survived the attack sets up shop in midtown. Brooklyn-bred toughness gives way at moments to emotion.

September 18, 2001|GERALDINE BAUM | TIMES STAFF WRITER

As the train rumbled toward Manhattan, Pilipiak settled in, reading the paper. He seemed relieved to reclaim a remnant of what was once his routine--until he happened to look up as the train passed the Meadowlands, home to his beloved New York Giants football team.

"My office would be to the right, where the smoke is," he said, pointing at the savaged skyline. He turned back to the paper.

In Manhattan, he insisted that he was not skittish among the tall buildings of midtown.

Still, he walked up Madison Avenue like an uneasy tourist, even though he had visited the office on the 22nd floor dozens of times.

His parent company, Itochu Corp., a mammoth Japanese trading firm, offered Pilipiak space, phones, computers and all kinds of assistance while he attempts to get his company up and running. As Pilipiak crossed a vast room of occupied desks, Yoshiharu Mori, one of his top aides, saluted him from the other side. Then Tirsa Moya, an account executive who had worked with him at the World Trade Center, came around her desk for a hug.

"You're all right!" he said to this small young woman of extraordinary valor, who had guided an 81-year-old man down 89 flights.

"I'm fine," she said with a smile.

In a conference room set up with doughnuts and coffee for the World Trade Center refugees, Pilipiak hugged all the others as well.

Then Tomoko Ono, a colleague who had been on vacation in Japan on that fateful day, came in. She clutched Pilipiak tearfully and displayed for all to see a diamond engagement ring that spoke of promise and the future. While she was still hugging him, the tough guy from Brooklyn had to turn his face away.

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