USA Today - 'Excuses' anger some families at 9/11 hearing
"These guys did not plan," he said. "What a terrible job they did. I'm tired of the hero stuff. I'm tired of the brave stuff. We know that. Let's get down to the real question: Why did they die?"
Too bad. Another hearing gone by with softball questions that evaded the real lies. Sad to know that so many families *are* standing by and not getting up to cause trouble, as some did this time.. Soon the whole thing will be over and it will be too late. That's what they're hoping for, just buy some time, get some media coverage for certain political figures, then close up shop.some
'Excuses' anger some families at 9/11 hearing
By Martha T. Moore and Rick Hampson, USA TODAY
NEW YORK - Monica Gabrielle came to a family information center at New
School University the day after the Sept. 11 attacks "sobbing,
screaming" and trying to discover whether the husband whose photo she
carried was dead or alive. She returned there Tuesday, again with
Richard's photo but with another question: Why was he lost?
Sally Regenhard, mother of a victim of the Sept. 11 attacks, holds up
a sign showing her agreement with a statement Tuesday.
By Chris Hondros, Getty Images
Like many who attended the Sept. 11 commission's first hearing in New
York City in more than a year, Gabrielle was outraged to hear of
emergency radios that did not work, fire chiefs who knew less than
television viewers, unhelpful 911 dispatchers and public safety
whose mutual mistrust commissioner John Lehman labeled "a scandal."
"It was horrible (in 2001), and then to be back here again and have to
listen to the excuses ... I'm really angry," Gabrielle said. Instead of
admitting to failures, she said, officials were trying to cover
themselves. "Unless they start answering the damn questions," she
warned, "nothing's going to change."
Kurt Horning had watched from his office window as the Trade Center
collapsed and killed his son, Matthew. At Tuesday's hearing, he watched
a video of the attack that was "like a punch in the stomach." But what
he heard from police and fire officials hurt him even more.
"Instead of getting together and saying, 'Something's broken, let's fix
it,' they're all saying, 'Who broke it?' like kids standing around a
broken vase," Horning said. "There was more tap dancing here than in
But among several hundred family members of victims who came to the
hearing, a split was apparent. Some, like Gabrielle, demanded to know
what went wrong. Others, including many relatives of firefighters and
police officers, warned against besmirching the day's heroes.
Steve Karp, a theater producer from Stamford, Conn., came to the
with Beverly Eckert, whose husband died at the Trade Center. "I was
interested in the diversity of reactions from family members.
not everybody feels the same way or believes the same thing," Karp
"You tend to think that everybody's uniform and unified, but ... when
you actually hear it and see the difference and see people being angry
with each other - I suppose that's healthy."
Testimony by past and present officials of city agencies and the Port
Authority of New York and New Jersey was preceded by the reading of a
detailed commission staff report. It incorporated video images of the
towers being struck and collapsing as well as interviews with survivors
and first responders.
That report and subsequent questioning of witnesses by commission
members showed that the deference accorded to New York City's emergency
service agencies, especially its police and fire departments, was
beginning to end. Today, former mayor Rudy Giuliani and his successor,
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, could face the most pointed questions yet
the city's response to the attacks that day and in the 32 months since.
"Everybody's saying 'could've, would've, should've,' " said Bernard
Kerik, the police commissioner on Sept. 11. "We did the best we could
the time, given the circumstances."
A majority of the family members present seemed to side with the
critics. They applauded commissioner Slade Gorton, who charged that the
city was ill-prepared to handle the disaster, despite commission
Chairman Thomas Kean's admonishments against such demonstrations. And
when former fire commissioner Thomas Von Essen denied there was
scandalous about the city's response, a woman sitting among the
yelled, "Yes, there is!"
Before the staff report was presented, Kean warned that parts might be
upsetting. Although the staff toned down the report's audiovisual
presentation to spare relatives' feelings, it still was a wrenching
experience for many, who cried and hugged each other.
"I've seen the planes hit the towers, but I have never heard the planes
hit the towers," said Ann Marie Mauro, whose brother, Bernard
Pietronico, worked and died atop the north tower. "It went right
me. I could physically feel the impact."
Eckert's husband, Sean Rooney, encountered a locked door Sept. 11 when
he tried to escape to the roof of the Trade Center's south tower.
Surprisingly, she said, "I was actually able to steel myself" at the
hearing. But when witnesses mention the towers' rooftops, she added,
hands get clammy. It brings back my husband's ordeal."
There was more anger than sadness, however. During the lunch break,
relatives of civilian victims got in shouting matches with relatives of
police and fire victims outside the auditorium.
The civilians' kin complained that police, fire and other agencies have
not been held accountable. The emergency workers' relatives said the
memory of their loved ones was being demeaned.
Police had to break up at least one argument.
Joanne Langone, the sister of a firefighter who died, was outraged that
Sally Regenhard, the mother of a firefighter who died, held up a sign
during the hearing that said "LIES."
"Leave the politics outside the hearing," Langone said.
Questioning fire department procedures on Sept. 11 is Monday-morning
quarterbacking, she said. If another attack happens, she added, "you
find me a fireman that's going to say, 'I'm not going in there.' This
But Lenny Crisci, a former police officer whose brother John died
serving with a Fire Department hazardous materials unit, said the
department "misused these men" by failing to anticipate the buildings'
"These guys did not plan," he said. "What a terrible job they did. I'm
tired of the hero stuff. I'm tired of the brave stuff. We know that.
Let's get down to the real question: Why did they die?"
Anne Ielpi, who lost her 29-year-old son Jonathan, a firefighter, tried
to comfort her weeping daughter, Melissa. "I am very angry, but what is
the use of yelling and screaming?" she said. "Sometimes I punch the
walls. But nothing they (the commissioners) do will bring my son back."
Gloria Ingrassia, whose son Christopher died in the north tower,
skeptical of officials' claims that things have improved since Sept.
"There was a lot of talk about how much better they're prepared now.
Well, if you were in the city for the blackout, they weren't prepared."
Contributing: Mimi Hall and wire reports
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