Carole O'Hare, like others who lost family and friends Sept. 11, is
watching the televised hearings about the terrorist attacks intently. And like
some of those who have spent the past 2 1/2 years searching and begging and
praying for answers, O'Hare said she noticed a disturbing trend in Tuesday's
"Not one person has come out and admitted there was a mistake made," said
O'Hare, a Danville resident whose mother, Hilda Marcin, was on San Francisco-
bound United Airlines Flight 93 when it crashed into the countryside in
"When you have people covering their butts, they're not owning up to
being human," O'Hare said. "People make mistakes."
What some Sept. 11 families want to hear out of these hearings is simple:
Why did it happen? And what can be done so the symphony of errors,
misjudgments and ignorance that preceded the attacks won't happen again?
Condoleeza Rice is more than happy to go on the talk shows and spin her
point of view, but why doesn't she go before the commission publicly? And Bush, he's the big decision-maker. If he won't talk and take
questions publicly, then who will?
9/11 Family member
They don't want to hear election-year political spinning.
"I just hope we come out of these hearings with a more clear, resolute
understanding of what needs to be done in our fight against terrorism," said
Alice Hoglan of Los Gatos, whose son, Mark Bingham, was also on Flight 93.
The testimony of two secretaries of state and two defense secretaries
didn't provide Hoglan with much new information Tuesday.
"Of course, they were apologists for their respective administrations,
and I understand that," said Hoglan, a retired flight attendant. "There seemed
to be a lot of covering of body parts up there, if you know what I mean."
Many Sept. 11 families already know much of the information that will be
discussed in the federal hearings this week.
They've digested and dissected every morsel dropped in news stories about
what happened, and they know much about the Middle East-U.S. relations in the
years before and after the attacks. They know the players involved, from the
undersecretaries to the hijackers, and are more familiar with the interagency
infighting that hampered the flow of intelligence before Sept. 11 than
probably anybody who isn't paid to know about it. O'Hare even has a copy of
one of the hijacker's visas.
They don't expect to get any sort of psychological healing.
"Emotionally, we're talking about 2 1/2 years later, now," O'Hare said.
"There's no psychological term that I know of for that. I don't see any
closure. The only thing I hope for out of this is that we learn something so
it won't happen again."
As she watched Tuesday's testimony, O'Hare called Cathy Stefani, a San
Jose resident who lost her 21-year-old daughter, Nicole Miller, on Flight 93.
The two women speak weekly to each other, often spending hours on the
phone discussing the latest Internet rumor or news story about the attacks. Or
just consoling each other when one has had a rough day.
REFUSES TO MEET PUBLICLY WITH 9/11 COMMISSION
National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice listens to President Bush as he answers reporters' questions at the end of a Cabinet meeting at the White House Tuesday, March 23, 2004 in Washington. (Photo/Charles Dharapak)
"This is our life now," said Stefani, who handles insurance billing for a
doctor's office. "We didn't ask for this life, but this is what it is. And we
do the best we can."
There's no respite from what happened that day. The families are
confronted with daily reminders every time they see a magazine headline in the
grocery store and nearly every time they turn on the TV. Tuesday's hearings
were just another, more extensive example of Sept. 11's legacy.
Stefani said Tuesday's testimony, particularly by former Secretary of
State Madeleine Albright, shed light on "how long they had been trying to get
Osama bin Laden."
But they wonder how much the commission will be able to determine given
that President Bush agreed to meet for only one hour -- in private -- with
the commission's top two officials. National security adviser Condoleezza Rice
won't testify publicly before the commission but will answer questions in
"Condoleeza Rice is more than happy to go on the talk shows and spin her
point of view, but why doesn't she go before the commission publicly?" O'Hare
said. "And Bush, he's the big decision-maker. If he won't talk and take
questions publicly, then who will?"
William Kelly Sr. spent Tuesday in Washington at the hearings. He just
wants answers -- and for the proceedings to be as nonpolitical as possible.
"A lot of people want to blame somebody for what happened," said Kelly, a
New Jersey resident whose son, William Jr., died at the World Trade Center.
"But there's no one person or agency that's responsible. I know there's a lot
of people hurt and angry, but placing blame isn't going to bring a loved one
O'Hare wonders if she'll be able to watch today's scheduled testimony by
Richard Clarke, a military and counterterrorism adviser to four presidents. In
his just-released book, Clarke said Bush and his top aides ignored the threat
from al Qaeda before Sept. 11.
"To know that there might have been something we could have done
beforehand," O'Hare said. "That might be difficult to watch."
©2004 San Francisco Chronicle