Published on Friday, May 17, 2002 by the Associated Press
Relatives of 9-11 Victims Distraught Over Report Bush Received Advance Warnings
by David Crary
NEW YORK Some relatives of Sept. 11 victims are seething over revelations that President Bush got advance warnings not shared with the public that Osama bin Laden's terror network might hijack U.S. planes.
"My wife, had she known, would not have taken that flight," said Stephen Push, whose wife of 21 years, Lisa Raines, was killed aboard the hijacked plane that hit the Pentagon.
"It's shameful that they know as much as they did and didn't warn anyone," said Push, of Great Falls, Va. "They put the business interests of the airlines above the lives of the citizens."
"For the safety of ourselves and our fellow citizens, we want an investigation to make sure something like Sept. 11 never, ever happens again," said Kristin Breitweiser, whose husband, Ronald, died at the World Trade Center.
She is part of group of Sept. 11 widows from New Jersey who are organizing a rally for victims' families and friends on June 11 at the U.S. Capitol. The purpose is to support a bill introduced by Sens. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., and John McCain, R-Ariz., that would establish a national commission to investigate the attacks.
"I want accountability," Breitweiser said.
Breitweiser said she became convinced shortly after the attacks that U.S. authorities mishandled clues that could have helped avert the carnage. She also contended that Bush, if he had received private advance warnings, should have acted more decisively at the first signs of trouble on Sept. 11.
"They said they couldn't connect the dots, but once the dots were connected and the picture was drawn on the morning of 9/11, why did they do nothing?" she asked. "Why was the president allowed to sit for 35 minutes with a group of second graders when this country was under attack?"
Donn Marshall of Marbury, Md., whose wife, Shelley, died at the Pentagon, also questioned Bush' actions.
"It sort of makes you wonder where the get-tough president was when he was getting all this information, why they didn't react act more vigorously," Marshall said. "The notion that American planes might be hijacked, that should have caused more concern, even if we didn't think that they might be flown into things."
Bill Doyle of New York City, whose son, Joseph, was killed in the World Trade Center, said he has received numerous phone calls from other victims' relatives, all distraught over the recent revelations.
"I believe our whole government let people down," he said. "It's shocking, every time you turn on the TV, to see what's coming out in the wash."
"If our president was told in August, someone had to drop the ball at the airports," Doyle said. "Were they alerted by the FBI or the CIA?"
He suggested Bush make a personal statement that would address the families' concerns.
Yet some relatives refused to blame Bush or his administration for any security lapses.
"The groundwork for us winding up with a weak CIA and FBI, the weakening of our defense systems based on political correctness and expediency, happened long before Bush took office," said Sally Regenhard, whose son, Christian, was among the firefighters killed in New York.
She strongly endorsed the push for a high-level investigation.
"It's too late now for my son," she said. "But I do want to make the country safe. Right now, we're not there."
Theresa Riccardelli, whose husband, Francis, was killed at the World Trade Center, said she would reserve judgment on Bush until she gathered more information.
"A lot of this is hindsight, and nothing can change the fact that my husband isn't coming back," said Riccardelli, of Westwood, N.J. "But it will be interesting to watch over the next couple of months, and find out what they knew and what they did or didn't do."
Peggy Neff, who lost her partner of 17 years, Sheila Hein, at the Pentagon, said the government probably could not have done more to prevent the attacks.
"Could they? I doubt it," said Neff, of Hyattsville, Md. "It's time to put aside the anger ... it's time to start the grieving process properly so that we can find closure."
Neff said she was "more annoyed" at the news that Republican fund-raisers were selling photos of Bush taken on Sept. 11.
"It's Republican exploitation of an event that shouldn't be exploited," she said.
© 2002 The Associated Press