On the morning of September 11, 2001 New York City fell victim to a series of four terrorist attacks by the hands of an Islamic terrorist group called al Qaeda. Over 2,996 people died and over 6,000 were injured. There are still over a thousand people that have not been identified by the medical examiner. Another mystery still remains though – did Dr. Sneha Philip perish in the attack or did she use the tragedy to start her life over?
Sneha Anne Philip was a 31 year old physician. She was working hard at completing her residency in internal medicine. She was married to Dr Ron Lieberman and the two had an apartment in Battery Park, just a short walk away from the World Trade Center.
Sneha was last seen on September 10th, 2001. She had the day off work and was planning on getting her apartment cleaned up for a dinner with her cousin in a couple of days. She spent two hours having a chat with her mother online, mentioning that she had planned to go visit the Windows on the World restaurant in the North Tower of the World Trade Center. After the chat, she left her apartment to head to the dry cleaners. She then went to a Century21 where she was caught on camera using her credit card to buy lingerie, a dress, pantyhose, and bed sheets. She then purchased three pairs of shoes at a nearby store. The purchases were around 7:18pm and were totaled at $550. This security footage from Century21 is the last known movement by Sneha. She will never be seen again. See the footage at 9:22 and 11:40
Ron came home to the apartment around midnight and noticed that his wife was not there. She had a history of staying out late or all night with her brother so he went to bed. Police discovered that at 4am he received a phone call on his cell phone and checked his voicemail, although he claims he doesn’t remember doing so. He awoke at 6:30am for work and noticed that Sneha had not contacted him and still had not returned home.
Just before the first plane hit in the attack on Sept 11th, a woman was seen on Sneha and Ron’s apartment building’s security footage. The brunette woman walked towards the elevator, paused for a second, then exited the building. She was dressed like Sneha and moved like Sneha, but because of the early morning sun it was never confirmed to be her though Ron swears it was his missing wife. After the attack, he was able to return home to his apartment. The window was left open and dust had settled on the ground. The only tracks in the dust were from their kittens. Sneha had not returned to the apartment.
There have been no sightings of Sneha since before the attack. Her family and investigators believe that after the attack she must have run to the site to help since she had a medical background. She was listed as victim number 2,750 of the terrorist attacks for two years before her name was removed from the list.
During the investigation into her disappearance it was discovered by the New York Police that Sneha had recently been let go by the hospital. She then got arrested, apparently pursued relationships with other women from bars, and was charged with a misdemeanor related to falsely reporting an incident of sexual abuse. The morning of September 10th she was formally arraigned and there are reports of her fighting loudly with Ron in the lobby of the courthouse. Sneha’s family firmly denies these accusations, claiming that she was fired due to reporting racial and sexual bias at the hospital. They claim she had no alcoholism issues and just frequented gay bars to avoid being put in another sexual assault situation. Ron says they never fought at the courthouse and that the police were exaggerating their reports.
After Sneha’s name was removed from the 9/11 victims list, her family took the matter to the courts. After losing and appealing, they finally successfully got her added back to the list of victims.
There are still a lot of people out there who also believe she died in the attacks. Maybe she was helping with the injured? Maybe she was in the Windows on the World restaurant? Maybe she just was in the wrong place at the wrong time like so many of the innocent lives lost that day?
But there are a lot of people who believe she used the moment to start her life over. A postcard was submitted to the anonymous website, PostSecret.com, that simply says “Everyone who knew me before 9/11 believes I’m dead.” Many assume this was sent in by Sneha but there has never been any confirmation.
Despite the number of people that are still unidentified from the attacks, Sneha’s family is hopeful that her remains will be found. They believe that she was wearing a specific piece of jewelry that would have survived the attacks, a pretty diamond minnu – a traditional Malayali Christian wedding pendant shaped like a gold teardrop with a diamond set in it. Her family believes this pendant is still among the items that have been unclaimed.