9/11's Political Legacy
Victims' families have turned to activism
They were wives, mothers, husbands, and fathers living mostly quiet, private lives. But since the calamitous events of Sept. 11, 2001, some of the relatives of those who died that day have turned themselves into a force to be reckoned with.
Four widows dubbed the "Jersey Girls" got much of the credit for creation of the 9/11 commission; the political heat they generated helped turn the controversial commission concept into a reality. And the families have tried to keep the heat on Washington ever since. Other family membersmostly kin to firefighterstried to sue Motorola and New York City for radios that did not relay an evacuation order to firefighters, which the families believe may have cost some firefighters their lives. Yet another group has fought for what it considers proper burial of victims' remains that were disposed of in a Staten Island dump. Still others have fought the design of the 9/11 memorial.
But while many have been impressed with the passion and power of the 9/11 families, family members themselves sound frustrated. "People think that [the families] have so much political clout, but there is no such thing," said "Jersey Girl" Mindy Kleinberg. Kleinberg said she and others were disappointed by the final 9/11 commission report and are even more saddened that not all of its recommendations have been implemented.
And the other family groups haven't had much luck. A court threw out the Motorola suit, saying that the families had effectively waived their right to sue by accepting payments from a federal compensation fund. The group World Trade Center Families for Proper Burial has a federal lawsuit pending against the city, but a judge must decide if the families have standing.
Still, some victims' family members aren't giving up. As Rudy Giuliani makes his run for the presidency, members of a group called Sept. 11 Firefighters and Families for Truth are protesting at campaign events around New York. They're echoing the earlier beefs and arguing that the city was not well prepared to deal with a terrorist attack. In regard to 9/11, they say, Giuliani was no hero.
This story appears in the July 23, 2007 print edition of U.S. News & World Report.