1:30 pm - By DAVID USBORNE
NEW YORK - Fate was kind to Felix Sanchez, an investment adviser who worked for Merrill Lynch at the World Trade Center until he left on September 11 to set up on his own firm, advising baseball players from his native Dominican Republic on how to manage their money. One day later, the twin towers came crashing down.
But on Monday, destiny visited Mr Sanchez, who was just 29, and he was not spared a second time. On his way to his homeland to meet his new clients, he chose American Airlines flight 587 and perished when the plane plummeted into the Rockaway section of Queens minutes after take-off.
While investigators continued to see no link between the crash and the events of September 11, ties between the two continued to surface. Hilda Yolanda Mayor, 26, has also escaped with her life that day. Employed at a branch beneath the twin towers of Au Bon Pain, a chain of sandwich shops, she had managed to flee to safety before they both collapsed. But on Monday, she also was on the doomed Airbus.
Then there was the sad tale of Navy Petty Officer Ruben Rodgriguez, who took the plane to meet his wife and children in the Dominican Republic.
The 32-year-old sailor had spent the weekend visiting family in New York after a seven-month stint on the USS Enterprise, the first US aircraft carrier to report for combat in the war on terrorism.
"My brother's three-year-old son keeps saying to his mother, 'When's Daddy coming? Where's Daddy?' " Felipe Rodriguez, the sailor's brother, said at a family centre for the grieving. "All we want is the body back so we can mourn properly."
Friends of Mr Sanchez, meanwhile, shared a sense of disbelief that he had been robbed of his life after cheating death nine weeks previously. "After the World Trade Center, he had a renewed outlook on life," said a friend, Sid Wilson. "And the last time I saw him, he was so high on life. I can't believe this."
Leon Sanchez, an uncle, said: "He was really getting tight with all these big-name ballplayers To him, this trip was going to be a victory."
Others, however, did cheat death on Monday, including Pamela Young, an American Airlines flight attendant who usually works the JFK-Santo Domingo route. She was off work to attend a course to become an estate agent, which she started after deciding she had had enough of her career given the events of September 11. "I do that flight regularly," she said. "There's a good chance I would have been on that flight".
In so many cases, families who were already separated by an ocean have now been sundered for ever. For many Dominicans in New York, their time in the United States was spent accumulating money for a better life for themselves and also for those left behind in their homeland.
Rosa Peraz, 53, for example, had been working for 10 years as a domestic employee in the city, earning enough to build her own apartment back home where she kept her possessions carefully protected from the dust with plastic sheeting. She was among those on board.
"You cannot imagine what a hard blow life has dealt me," a weeping Dileni Perez, Ms Peraz's brother, told reporters in the Dominican Republic. "My God, you have taken my mother, you have taken my sister." She had regularly sent money home and paid for a nursing assistant to help her ailing mother.
Map: crash area
American Airlines information (from within NZ):
Tel: 0168 1 800 245 0999
1:30 pm - By DAVID USBORNE