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A columnist's post-9/11 encounter with woman in Woods scandal

UCHITEL

The name sounded familiar, but I could not at first place it.

Early reports in the wake of Tiger Woods's bizarre car crash last week included the allegation of an affair with a New York nightclub hostess named Rachel Uchitel. She vehemently denied it, saying that the story was sold by a disgruntled acquaintance to the National Enquirer.

Then I saw an interview with Uchitel's mother in Newsday, the Long Island newspaper. It mentioned that her daughter had an emotional collapse after losing her fiance in the 9/11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. That is when it hit me.

Uchitel cries I spent the better part of the week after the attack in New York covering the story. One of the columns I wrote dealt with loved ones of the missing who, for days after the tragedy, haunted hospitals and train stations. They posted photos of the victim in public places throughout Manhattan, in the faint hope that the person was hurt or disoriented, but had survived.

One of the people I interviewed, outside of Bellevue Hospital, was an attractive woman in her 20s. Rachel Uchitel's then-fiance, Andy O'Grady, worked on the 104th floor of the WTC.

"I don't feel like I've lost my connection with him," she told me. "If he was dead, I think I would have."

I remember feeling incredibly sorry for her, and for all of the others who — days after
the attack — were still understandably unable to accept what by then was obvious: Their husband or wife, brother or sister, fiance or friend was dead.

I was not happy to see her name associated with the Woods story, particularly in an unflattering — and purportedly untrue — way.

But it was nice to know that she had emotionally recovered from that awful day, and moved ahead with life.

   — Donn Esmonde
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