9-1-1 Victim or Missing Person? Sneha’s Story – Guest Post Thursday

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Photo courtesy of Guest Blogger’s Facebook Page

September 11, 2001

In the aftermath of the September 11th terrorist attacks, Sneha Philip’s image was one of the thousands on flyers plastered around New York City’s Ground Zero. Surrounded by so many missing-person photos, it was easy to miss the detail that differentiated the 31-year-old Indian-American physician from the others. The flyer of Sneha Philip read, “Missing since Monday, September 10th.”

As with many victims of the World Trade Center bombings, the remains of Sneha Philip were never found. It isn’t clear if she was in the vicinity of the World Trade Center when the twin towers came tumbling down. In fact, no one saw Sneha on September 11; the last confirmed sighting of her was on the evening of September 10.

Sneha was ruled legally dead in 2004 but was not declared a victim of the terrorist attacks. That decision, however, was reversed on appeal, and today, she is officially listed as a victim of the September 11 attacks, and her name appears on the National September 11 Memorial.

Sneha Philip and her husband Ron Lieberman lived in the Battery Park City section of New York City, four blocks from where the World Trade Center stood.

Both Ron and Sneha were physicians. Ron was a doctor at Jacoby Hospital while Sneha was in her third year of residency at St. Vincent’s Hospital, now Richmond University Medical Center.

Ron left home for work at 11:15 a.m. on September 10, 2001; Sneha had the day off, but it would hardly be a day of relaxation.

That morning, Sneha had been arraigned in court on a charge of filing a false complaint to the police. She had accused an intern at work of grabbing her inappropriately, but police found no evidence supporting the claim. Sneha was charged with filing the false report after refusing to recant her claim.

When Ron returned home at 11:15 p.m., Sneha was still gone. He assumed she had spent the night with either a brother or a cousin who lived nearby; she often did so when he worked late.

Sneha, however, still had not returned home the following morning, September 11, when Ron left for work at 7:30. After an airplane hit the first tower at 8:46 a.m. (EST), Ron called home to check on Sneha but received no answer. At 10:30 a.m., Ron phoned home again, shortly after the second plane crashed into the second tower. Due to the burgeoning chaos, however, the phone lines were dead.

After the lines were restored several hours later, Ron phoned home but again received no answer. He was able to reach Sneha’s brother and cousin, but Sneha had not spent the evening of September 10 with either of them. Ron was soon able to reach other relatives and friends who also knew nothing of Sneha’s whereabouts. When Ron was finally able to return to the couple’s apartment, he learned no one who had been in the building that morning had seen Sneha.

Ron filed a Missing Person report with the New York City Police Department. The police were inundated with such reports and didn’t have the manpower to thoroughly investigate all of them.

When Ron returned home at 11:15 p.m., Sneha was still gone. He assumed she had spent the night with either a brother or a cousin who lived nearby; she often did so when he worked late.

Sneha, however, still had not returned home the following morning, September 11, when Ron left for work at 7:30. After an airplane hit the first tower at 8:46 a.m. (EST), Ron called home to check on Sneha but received no answer. At 10:30 a.m., Ron phoned home again, shortly after the second plane crashed into the second tower. Due to the burgeoning chaos, however, the phone lines were dead.

After the lines were restored several hours later, Ron phoned home but again received no answer. He was able to reach Sneha’s brother and cousin, but Sneha had not spent the evening of September 10 with either of them. Ron was soon able to reach other relatives and friends who also knew nothing of Sneha’s whereabouts. When Ron was finally able to return to the couple’s apartment, he learned no one who had been in the building that morning had seen Sneha.

Ron filed a Missing Person report with the New York City Police Department. The police were inundated with such reports and didn’t have the manpower to thoroughly investigate them all.

Gallant initially theorized Sneha may have stopped for a drink and/or supper at the nearby Millennium Hotel and that something may have happened there that led to her disappearance.

The hotel was closed down after the attacks, and the entire area where Sneha was last seen was in ruins. If something happened to her at the hotel, it would be virtually impossible to prove.

However, five days after the attacks, a clerk at the Century 21 Department Store contacted police after seeing Sneha’s missing person flyer. The clerk recognized Sneha and recalled her being with another woman in the store on the evening of September 10. Her companion appeared to be of Indian descent. Sneha told the clerk the woman was a friend.

Ron and Ken viewed the tape again and could see two women leaving the department store together. They believe Sneha to be one of the women but cannot say for sure. None of Sneha’s friends or relatives could identify the woman.

The woman who may be Sneha was carrying two large bags of merchandise which were not found at her apartment, suggesting she never returned home.

This possible sighting of Sneha with another woman led Ron and Ken to speculate she may have stayed at this woman’s home on the evening of September 10. The woman could also have been visiting the city and staying at a hotel. They theorize the woman may have been an old friend whom neither Ron nor Sneha’s inner circle knew. If this were the case, Sneha might have been heading home at the approximate time of the attacks on the World Trade Center.

Sneha’s friends and family believe if she were in the area at the time of the attacks, she, as a doctor, would have tried to help the wounded. Had she done so, she most likely died in the attacks.

Police initially believed it possible that Sneha disappeared of her own accord.

In addition to her legal troubles related to the alleged false complaint, Sneha had been reprimanded at work several times for arriving late and for a drinking problem. She was on thin ice; one more screw up and she would be fired.

Several acquaintances alleged Sneha had a substance abuse problem, that she and Ron were having marital troubles, and that she had engaged in several lesbian affairs. Those contentions are denied by both Ron and Sneha’s families.

Despite the initial suspicions, most investigators came to the conclusion that Sneha perished as the twin towers of the World Trade Center collapsed on that awful day.

Police could never identify either woman seen on the department store video. They believe if it is Sneha on the tape, the other woman is the key to learning her fate.

The second woman was described as possibly being of East Indian descent, approximately 5’2, 115-120 pounds, with short black hair.

In 2002, Ron Lieberman petitioned to have Sneha declared a victim of the September 11 attacks.

A Circuit Court declared Sneha Philip legally dead in 2004 but also ruled evidence to conclude she had died in the September 11 attacks was insufficient. In January of 2008, an appeals judge agreed there was no proof Sneha had perished in the Twin Towers but concluded it was the most likely explanation for her disappearance.

Sneha Philip is now officially listed as a victim of the September 11 attacks. Her name is located on Panel S-66 of the National September 11 Memorial’s South Pool.

The September 11 victim’s fund closed in 2003, and Ron never collected any monetary compensation from it.


THIS LIST OF LINKS IS NOT AN ALL-ENCOMPASSING SOURCE CITING. ALL OF THE INFORMATION USED IN THIS ARTICLE CAN BE EASILY FOUND ONLINE. LINKS BELOW WERE USED AS SOURCES AND ARE RECOMMENDED READING FOR SYNOVA’S READERS. Synova strives to cite all the sources used during her case study, but occasionally a source may be missed by mistake. It is not intentional and no copyright infringement is intended.

Further Reading:


More About Our Wonderful Guest Blogger:

Ian Granstra

Ian Granstra is a writer and a native Iowan now living in  Arkansas.
Growing up, he enjoyed watching real-life crime shows and further researching the stories featured. He wrote about many of them on his personal Facebook page, and several people suggested he should start a group featuring his writings. Ian founded the Facebook group “Murders, Missing People and More Mysteries” in August of 2018 he writes about many cold cases. The group also features many current criminal cases in the news.
When Ian isn’t writing, he enjoys exercising, traveling and collecting sports cards. He’s also a big animal lover (his Facebook nickname is “beaglelover.”)

This week’s Recommended Reading:


I Survived the Attacks of September 11th, 2001 (I Survived 6)


The 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (Authorized Edition)


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Synova Cantrell may be known for her fedora, but she wears many hats. Synova volunteers with the Missouri Missing organization by highlighting obscure cold cases on her true crime blog to help generate tips. She firmly believes together we can give grieving families answers, hope, and support. Synova works as the Production Editor of True Crime: Case Files Magazine. http://www.truecrimecasefiles.com As SWMO’s #1 True Crime Writer, Synova authored Unorganized Crime; a biography of the ex-gangster Sidney Heard of Chicago, IL. This thrilling tale of con games, bank robbery, and mayhem has recently been endorsed by a retired FBI agent. Her best-selling series, Seriously Stupid Criminals, is a fan favorite in both paperback and e-book formats. Her latest e-book, Grim Justice tells the story of a judge and his wife retired in Palm Beach, Florida in 1955. Her first case files book, Snatched was released on New Year's Day. Fans eagerly await her newest serial killer series set to launch late 2019. Synova has a passion for helping fellow authors and knows how overwhelming it can be to get started in this business, that is why she created Synova's Simply Biz. Synova breaks down the business of writing in a simple way. If you need help with your business check out her new page www.synovaink.com/simplybiz. To follow all her adventures and read her true crime blog, log onto www.synovaink.com Connect with Synova: Twitter: https://twitter.com/synovaink Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/synovacantrell Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/synovaink

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