After reflecting upon the chain of logic I followed in order to determine the identity of this “eyewitness,” I decided it was interesting enough to present alongside the actual details of the information. In fact, it’s almost impossible for me to present the information without also explaining how I acquired it.
By slightly altering the presentation format for this installment, I hope to give readers a little insight into the way that I approach problems in general. I’ve intentionally left this installment “unfinished,” so I can offer a challenge to all comers to “fill in the blanks.” So without further ado, let’s get on with this installment.
Introduction – “Libby” Clark
“Libby” Clark offered the first “eyewitness account” of the “first plane” on WABC. Her story, at least the beginning of it, can be heard in this video.
If you clicked on the link, you may have noticed that "Libby" gives us very little information about who she is and where she was when she saw what she says she saw (she also doesn’t mention if she sells seashells by the seashore).
Approach – Establish All Known Information (regardless of importance or validity)
“Libby” defines her location as “the 33rd floor of Mercer Street.” This is an odd way for someone to describe their location, isn’t it? This is hardly enough information to pinpoint her actual location, right? Not so fast…
Trying to find a person in New York with no information is like looking for a needle in a haystack. However, if you have a street and an elevation, the simile becomes more like looking for a golf ball that you just sliced into the woods. You know the general line it went in on - you’re just not sure how far it went in.
The golf ball simile fits perfectly for me, because even when I know there isn’t a chance in hell I’m ever going to find my golf ball, I feel I’ve developed a close enough relationship with it after a few holes to warrant a courtesy drive-by search.
Lo and behold, when I look down the length of Mercer Street using Google Earth, I see only 4 buildings that look like they may have a 33rd floor:
Three of those buildings are NYU housing facilities (including the “Silver Towers” @100 & 110 Bleecker St). As luck would have it, all three of these buildings are only 32 stories high.
This leaves 300 Mercer Street as the only possible building that “Libby” could have been in if she was on the “33rd floor of Mercer Street” and had a view of the towers.
Persistence – Follow the Trail
Now that we have a location, it’s time to gather more information. We can start by having a look at the building using Virtual Earth:
In this case, there happens to be plenty of information available, since this building has its own website.
The fact that they have a doorman and a rooftop pool isn’t terribly important, but it gives us a general idea of the income required to be able to afford living there. A very helpful bit of info is the floor plan. Based on a standardized layout, we can assume that “Libby" was on the 33rd floor between units E and J:
They are also kind enough to provide us with an interactive pool view, from which we can get an idea of what “Libby” would have been able to see from her vantage point, looking to the south:
Resourcefulness – Use Every Available Tool
I decided I knew enough to perform a reverse address search. From that search (which yielded over100 results), the first thing I was able to determine was the apartment number format. After going through the entire list, there were only three names listed on the 33rd floor, (two in 33I and one in 33J). Furthermore, there was not a single “Clark” result at all.
After finding far too many Clark results for the entire city of New York and no Libby, L., Elizabeth, or E. Clark anywhere near there, I finally hit on a winning combination. Using only the last name and the street name, I came up with one result:
James Clark: [undisclosed] Mercer Street, New York, NY 10003.
Upon closer scrutiny, this address ends up being far from undisclosed. I pulled up a map of the 10003 Zip Code, and as it turns out, only the two northernmost blocks of Mercer Street fall inside the 10003 Zip Code boundaries:
300 Mercer Street is not only within these 2 blocks, it also happens to be one of the only buildings that isn’t a commercial business site or an educational institution (NYU):
Profiling – Know Your Mark (or in this case, your Clark)
That was enough for me to go searching for notable James Clark’s in New York. Based on all prior "eyewitnesses," I was looking for links to the media, financial institutions, or a law firm.
I found a couple of interesting candidates when I Googled “James Clark NY.” There is a James Clark who founded Silicon Graphics, Netscape, Healtheon (now WebMD) and myCFO. He is also on the board of Shutterfly, myCFO and DNA Sciences. This sounded promising, but after reading the actual article, I found it difficult to believe that this was the Clark I was looking for.
Another result that caught my attention was aNY Times wedding announcement. The wedding announcement result reminded me that the initial reason I was searching for James in the first place was because of his wife. Granted, this wedding announcement was back in 1993; but after taking a minute to read the jobs of everyone in both of these families, these people seem to fit the profile of some of the earlier “eyewitnesses.”
If you take a look at who Evan's sister married a few years earlier (also announced in the NY Times), it’s difficult to ignore the apparent marriage strategy of the Freehill family. All the while, from Darien, CT to the Big Apple - daddy’s law firm continued its rise to prominence.
Here’s where I’m really deviating from the norm. All I have presented here is half a story. I’ve been so impressed by the follow-up work that’s been done by others after some of these articles (most notable is Fred’s follow-up on Richard Davis and Bessemer Trust) that I’ve decided to go interactive with this installment.
I’ve set up a temporary hotmail address where I’ll be accepting YOUR analyses and conclusions with regard to “Libby” Clark. Please submit your research to LibbyClarkSubmissions@hotmail.com.
My half story is missing some critical information/validation, including:
Is “Libby” really Evan Marie Clark (nee Freehill), who seemingly changed her name to Evan F. Clark in 2001?
Where exactly was she?
What doesn’t make sense about her “eyewitness account?”
Did she lie about feeling/seeing a plane on behalf of her husband, her father, or do you think she acted alone?
Why would anyone name their child Siobahn?
(That last tidbit, complete with Evan’s e-mail address, comes from here)
I’ve set the pins up, and I’m asking you to knock them down. I have nothing to reward you with but credit and praise (and maybe some podcast airtime). If you believe in my approach, I should hope that would be enough. I will post the winning submission on January 1, 2007, in addition to presenting any unique viewpoints I come across in your e-mails.
If I don’t get any submissions, I guess I’ll just have to finish the article myself. At the very least, this should free me up to format and publish my list.
I don’t plan on posting much (if any) new material until 2007. Of course, I can’t guarantee that I won’t stumble upon an irresistible story in the meantime, but I’ll be doing my best to enjoy the holidays.