They still haven't found Gregory Saucedo's body.

They do have his flashlight, a crumpled yellow hunk on which his name is written in black marker. Recovery workers found it about a month after the twin towers of the World Trade Center collapsed on Saucedo and thousands of others. The useless piece of plastic sparked hope in Saucedo's friends and family: Maybe their beloved brother, uncle and friend would soon be lifted from the wreckage and given a proper goodbye.

But six months later, they are still waiting. Nothing, not even Saucedo's jacket, boots and helmet, all durable equipment that could have survived the disaster, has emerged from the wreckage. Toiling around the clock since Sept. 11, rescue workers have pulled out more than 100 complete bodies and more than 13,000 body parts. They've found sacks of money, pieces of sculpture, wallets, personal notes, photographs and broken computer keyboards.
But no other sign of Gregory Saucedo.
For his family, the wait keeps the pain fresh and their lives in limbo. At Christmastime, Christopher Saucedo left his Gentilly home and went to New York. He visited his parents' graves in Brooklyn, then traveled to ground zero the next evening and "talked to a pile of rubble."

"Because that's where Greg is," said Saucedo, Gregory's older brother and a fine arts professor at the University of New Orleans. "That's Greg's grave."

The underlying message may be: We have survived, and it's time to put this behind us. To families like the Saucedos, that message means little.

"It doesn't seem like six months to me. It seems like six weeks, six days," Christopher Saucedo said.

He can't help but think about Gregory, the youngest Saucedo, who was only 7 years old when the brothers' father died. The loss of their father at such an early age brought the four brothers even closer, Christopher Saucedo said. Gregory was an athlete who chided his older brother about eating fast food, a jokester who donned a hula skirt for a theme party and who dressed up each Halloween with the eagerness of a child, a loving uncle who could easily sling Christopher Saucedo's children, Felicia, 7, and Michael, 6, onto his shoulders for a quick ride.

"It's unnatural. It's hard for them, when your uncle, full of energy, strong as an ox, vanishes and your dad's crying," Saucedo said. "They lost their uncle. I lost my baby brother."


'Not a second-class hero'

It is a complicated grief that engulfs the families and friends of people killed Sept. 11. There was no chance to say goodbye, and there are few bodies to cry over. And, most unusual of all, most of the country watched these people -- husbands, wives, sons, daughters, friends -- die on television.

Some things, Saucedo said, make it easier, like the hugs from strangers who ask him about the FDNY shirt he proudly wears and the shopping bags filled with sympathetic letters and cards. A friend in California sent Saucedo pictures drawn by kindergarten students at an East Los Angeles elementary school. One wrote, "I'm sorry your brother died. My brother died, too."

Other things rip Saucedo apart anew. Like the waiting, the constant phone calls between New York and New Orleans. Like the red tape, securing extra urns of ash from the city of New York so each of the three surviving Saucedo brother has one, and fighting for Gregory's pension because he has no parents or wife to accept it.

"We want to make sure Greg's not a second-class hero," Saucedo said.



Growing up with WTC

The four Saucedo brothers -- Paul, Christopher, Stephen and Gregory -- were born and raised in Brooklyn. As children, Chris and his older brother, Paul, watched the twin towers being built, two structures racing each other into the sky from the start of construction in 1965 until their dedication in 1973. One day, their father took the boys, barely school-age, to the site and snapped their photograph in front of a sign that proclaimed the center would be the world's financial hub.

Stephen Saucedo was too young to join them; Gregory hadn't even been born.

"It's unbelievable to me," Chris Saucedo said, "that (Greg and the World Trade Center) both lived the same span."

Gregory Saucedo became a firefighter when he was 20. So did three of his closest friends, a group with ties going back to elementary school. After a few years as an electrician, Stephen Saucedo joined the department too. It seemed only natural. When the four brothers were growing up, it was always "Stephen-and-Greg," one word for the two born 18 months apart. Before Sept. 11, the pair had never spent more than a vacation's worth of time apart. Of course, they would work together. Of course, Greg would be the best man at Stephen's wedding last October.

But on Stephen's big day, Christopher Saucedo had to fill in for his little brother. And instead of working with Gregory, Stephen Saucedo and his brother's childhood friends spend their days and nights searching for him.


Unwavering mission

Stephen Saucedo has toiled at ground zero for three months because, he said, "I know Greg would look for me." Most recovery workers leave after 30 days. He works 24-hour shifts, followed by 72 hours off. The other recovery workers know to telephone Saucedo at any hour if any sign of his brother is uncovered.

"I want to escort him out," Stephen Saucedo said. "He'll get a hero's farewell. I want to be there for that."

Saucedo has watched as his fellow firefighters have dug through dirt with their hands looking for any remainder of a human life -- a finger bone, a tooth -- and been overwhelmed with gratitude.

"I wish I could hug every firefighter who's been there for my family and for everyone's family. We want to bring everyone home," Saucedo said. "The world has to know there's still a tragedy going on."

Stephen's supervisors have offered to reassign him, saying he's been there doing the grisly work long enough. He won't go.

"He told them,