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Context of 'December 22, 2003: Most 9/11 Victims’ Families Accept Cash Settlement from US Government, While Some Sue'

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Congress approves a $15 billion federal aid package for the battered US airline industry, and sets up a government fund to compensate 9/11 victims’ relatives. [Los Angeles Times, 9/22/2001] However, relatives are only allowed to sue US-designated terrorists, and if they sue anyone else, they are not entitled to any compensation money. The law also limits the airlines’ liability to the limits of their insurance coverage—around $1.5 billion per plane. [Los Angeles Times, 1/17/2002] Nevertheless, some later sue entities that make them ineligible for the fund, such as the Port Authority, owner of the WTC.

Entity Tags: Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, US Congress

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Right before the expiration of a one-year legal deadline, the Port Authority, the government body that owns the WTC complex, is sued by five insurance companies, one utility and 700 relatives of the WTC victims. The insurance companies and utility are suing because of safety violations connected to the installation of diesel fuel tanks in 1999 that many blame for the collapse of WTC Building 7. [Dow Jones Business News, 9/10/2002] The relatives’ lawsuit is much more encompassing, and even blames the Port Authority for the Flight 93 hijacking (the Port Authority owns Newark airport, where the flight originated). The relatives’ lawsuit is likely to lie dormant for at least six months as evidence is collected. Relatives are also considering suing the airlines, security companies, and other entities. [Newsweek, 9/13/2002]

Entity Tags: Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, World Trade Center

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Mindy Kleinberg.Mindy Kleinberg. [Source: Public domain]Following introductory statements by 9/11 Commissioners (see 9:15 a.m. - 9:45 a.m. March 31, 2003) and questioning of New York officials, several of the victims’ relatives testify on the first day of the Commission’s first hearing. One relative is selected from each of the four organizations they have formed. [Shenon, 2008, pp. 102] The relatives are unhappy and, as the Miami Herald reports, “Several survivors of the attack and victims’ relatives testified that a number of agencies, from federal to local, are ducking responsibility for a series of breakdowns before and during September 11.” [Miami Herald, 3/31/2003] The New York Times suggests that the 9/11 Commission would never have been formed if it were not for the pressure of the 9/11 victims’ relatives. [New York Times, 4/1/2003] Some of the relatives strongly disagree with statements from some commissioners that they should not place blame. For instance, Stephen Push states: “I think this Commission should point fingers.… Some of those people [who failed us] are still in responsible positions in government. Perhaps they shouldn’t be.” [United Press International, 3/31/2003] The most critical testimony comes from 9/11 relative Mindy Kleinberg, but her testimony is only briefly reported on by a few newspapers. [United Press International, 3/31/2003; Newsday, 4/1/2003; New York Times, 4/1/2003; New York Post, 4/1/2003; New Jersey Star-Ledger, 4/1/2003] In her testimony, Kleinberg says: “It has been said that the intelligence agencies have to be right 100 percent of the time and the terrorists only have to get lucky once. This explanation for the devastating attacks of September 11th, simple on its face, is wrong in its value. Because the 9/11 terrorists were not just lucky once: They were lucky over and over again.” She points out the insider trading based on 9/11 foreknowledge, the failure of fighter jets to catch the hijacked planes in time, hijackers getting visas in violation of standard procedures, and other events, and asks how the hijackers could have been lucky so many times. [9/11 Commission, 3/31/2003]

Entity Tags: Mindy Kleinberg, Stephen Push, 9/11 Commission

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The deadline arrives for 9/11 victims’ relatives to apply for government compensation. [Toronto Star, 12/23/2003] By receiving an award from the fund, families give up their right to sue the airlines, airports, security companies, or other US organizations that may be faulted for negligence and inadequate security measures. [CBS News, 3/7/2002; USA Today, 7/13/2003; Washington Post, 9/10/2003] Relatives may still sue “knowing participants in the hijacking conspiracy” without losing compensation. [USA Today, 7/13/2003] Ninety-seven per cent of the 2,973 eligible families apply to the fund; compensation averages about $2.1 million per family. However, 70 families decide to forego the fund, and instead sue various government agencies and private companies for alleged negligence. [New York Times, 6/16/2004; Guardian, 6/16/2004] Widow Beverly Eckert explains her decision: “I am suing because unlike other investigative avenues… my lawsuit requires all testimony be given under oath and fully uses powers to compel evidence. The victims’ fund was not created in a spirit of compassion.… Lawmakers capped the liability of the airlines at the behest of lobbyists who descended on Washington while the September 11 fires still smoldered.” [USA Today, 12/19/2003]

Entity Tags: Beverly Eckert, Relatives of September 11 Victims

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

In January 2004, the White House announced that it opposed giving the 9/11 Commission more time to complete its work (see January 19, 2004). But on this day, CNN reports, “After resisting the idea for months, the White House announced… its support for a request from the commission investigating the September 11, 2001 attacks for more time to complete its work.” 9/11 victims’ relatives and some politicians had been pressuring the White House to support the deadline extension. [CNN, 2/5/2004]

Entity Tags: White House, 9/11 Commission

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline, 2004 Elections

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