Responding to Tragedy

Relatives of those who died on September 11th channeled their grief in many different ways. These examples of action can reflect at times radically different concerns. (Note: Bruce De Cell appears in the film, Peaceful Tommorows does not. Lorie Van Auken played a harrowing recording of a final call from her husband, Kenneth Van Auken, who was trapped on the 105th floor of Tower One, during her July 2005 Congressional testimony. This recording is in the film.)


Lorie Van Auken and Mindy Kleinberg
Kleinberg (l.) and Van Auken (c.) testify at the Capitol with Monica Gabrielle (r.) of the Skyscraper Safety Campaign

Three of the four “Jersey Widows” were married to men who worked at Cantor Fitzgerald, but they became friends only after their husbands were lost to the disaster. The four women are known nationally for their direct challenge to the lack of transparency in official accounts of 9/11. They fought alongside hundreds of other September 11th relatives in a 14-month battle to gain an independent investigation, finally overcoming the stubborn objections of the White House.

When the 9/11 Commission finally convened in 2003, they were among the dozen September 11th relatives who formed the Family Steering Committee, which oversaw the Commission’s activities. In advance of each hearing, the FSC published exhaustive sets of questions directed to the witnesses and to the Commission’s research staff. Although the Commissioners publicly spoke of how these questions would serve as their blueprint, they completely ignored the vast majority of their questions and the crucial issues the FSC raised.

The families repeatedly called for the resignation of the Commission’s executive director, Philip Zelikow, due to what they described as his grave conflicts of interest (Zelikow was a member of the Bush administration, a close associate of Condoleezza Rice and was a also part of the Bush transition team for the National Security Council.) But to no avail.

The Jersey Widows Lorie Van Auken and Mindy Kleinberg gave the Commission a failing final report card, and delivered a blistering critique on Capitol Hill during a July 2005 briefing held by Cynthia McKinney. Kristen Breitweiser and Patty Casazza remain equally active in the public eye, still posing the questions, still waiting for the answers.


The retired New York City police officer is the father-in-law of Mark Petrocelli, age 28, WTC, North Tower, 92nd floor. He is a member of Families for a Secure America, which does not question the official account, but does hold that “the federal government failed to live up to its most basic obligation to its citizens – to protect them from foreign attack.”

There were failures in the areas of foreign and domestic intelligence. There was a failure to respond with sufficient force to the string of terrorist acts perpetrated against American citizens throughout the 1990’s. And we know our government failed to maintain control of our borders. The failure to keep out unauthorized aliens led directly to the 9/11 attacks and the deaths of our loved ones.

PEACEFUL TOMORROWS Turning Grief into Action

Peaceful Tomorrows

September Eleventh Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, founded by family members of those killed on September 11th, united to turn their grief into action for peace. By developing and advocating nonviolent options and actions in the pursuit of justice, they hope to break the cycles of violence engendered by war and terrorism. Acknowledging our common experience with all people affected by violence throughout the world, we work to create a safer and more peaceful world for everyone.”



Skyscraper Safety Campaign

SSC was created by the Regenhard family in memory of Christian Michael Otto Regenhard, a 28-year-old probationary firefighter who remains missing at the WTC, along with his entire Engine Company 279. SSC nowadays includes the families of all firefighters, emergency workers, and civilian victims of 9/11. Having lobbied successfully to get an investigation of the collapses by NIST, the Campaign focuses now on encouraging better compliance with building and fire codes; educating “codes groups” to allow fire services to have more input into writing building codes; and ensuring that future WTC development by the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey is characterized by quality, safety, security and compliance with New York City codes. The last is a central concern, as the Port Authority was never required to conform to New York building codes when first building the Twin Towers, and many people believe this may have been a factor in the later disaster.



Glenn Corbett

Glenn Corbett is a fire captain in Waldwick, New Jersey, a professor of Fire Safety at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan, a member of the New Jersey State Fire Code Council, and a technical editor of Fire Engineering Magazine, the nation’s 128-year-old fire service trade journal.

He was on the committee advising the National Institute of Standards and Technology on its investigation of the WTC disaster, and came to a critical assessment overall, although he fully supports the hypothesis of collapse due to plane impacts and fires alone. Corbett testified several times to the House committee on science, about the state of the various WTC investigations by FEMA and NIST. Finally, Corbett is lead adviser to the Skyscraper Safety Campaign.

Corbett on NIST:

“Instead of a gumshoe inquiry that left no stone unturned, I believe the investigations were treated more like research projects in which they waited for information to flow to them… they were reluctant to use the subpoena power given to them…”


Corbett on the FEMA study:
“Handling the collapse study as an assessment has allowed valuable evidence – the steel building components – to be destroyed. The steel holds the primary key to understanding the chronology of events and causal factors resulting in the collapse.”


Mayor Bloomberg on the steel:
“If you want to take a look at the construction methods and the design, that’s in this day and age what computers do. Just looking at a piece of metal generally doesn’t tell you anything.”