Rough Skies

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By the time he made the trip, he learned that he, like so many others throughout the country, had lost someone in the terrorist attack. John O'Neill, his longtime friend and former FBI agent, had been the director of security for the World Trade Center at the time and was now listed among the dead.

Walking with a New York police officer into the cavern where the World Trade Center towers had crumbled, he silently watched as search and rescue crews went about their grim assignments, clearing away debris, looking for bodies. "It was an indescribable experience," he recalls.

Larry Wansley thought he'd seen it all: horrific homicide scenes as a cop, man's repeated inhumanity to man as an FBI agent, the death and destruction that resulted when an American jetliner had crashed into a Colombian mountainside in '95. But never anything like this.

"As we made our way through the rubble," he recalls, "the cop I was with pointed toward a man isolated from the others, digging with only a shovel and his hands. 'He's a retired fireman,' the policeman told me. 'He's been here every day, dawn till dark. He's looking for his son.'

"For several minutes I stood watching him, dusty and dirty and in an almost trancelike state. You could literally see the pain on his face. I tried to imagine what was going through his mind. And if anyone had tried to talk with him.

"'No,' I was told, 'he doesn't want to be interrupted. He's got a job to do.'"

That night, as he sat alone in his hotel room, a safe distance from the ugly landscape he'd visited, Wansley found himself thinking of the bereaved and tireless father. And wondering what manner of dark dreams must now haunt his sleep.

(Dallas Observer staff writer Carlton Stowers co-authored Larry Wansley's FBI Undercover: The True Story of Special Agent "Mandrake," published in 1988 by Pocket Books.)

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Carlton Stowers
Contact: Carlton Stowers

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