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Chelsea James
Diane Hunt
Danny Wambolt
Jannay Johnson
Monique Champagne
Kevin Kuczewski
Chelsea James
Diane Hunt
Danny Wambolt
Jannay Johnson
Monique Champagne
Kevin Kuczewski
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We Remember
 
Honored Dead: Victims of 9/11
 
Moments of remembrance on the South Shore and beyond
 
Stories of survival, heroics
 
Taunton man remembers the last day with his wife
 
Have things changed?
 
How attacks affected kids, and how are they now
 
Nationally
 
Brockton native decided how much to give 9/11 families
 
Graphic: Sequence of 9/11 events
Audio interviews and editing for this series were conducted by Cory Hopkins, Diana Schoberg, Ryan Menard, John Kelly, Andrew Lightman and Ken Johnson from The Patriot Ledger, and by Jean Porrazzo, Elaine Allegrini and Craig Murray from The Enterprise.
Site Design: Stephen Ide

 

KENNETH FEINBERG

Somber job: Placing a value on victims

GREG DERR/The Patriot Ledger
Kenneth Feinberg spent nearly three years deciding how much money to give survivors of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Brockton native decided how much to give 9/11 families

The Patriot Ledger

BOSTON - Kenneth Feinberg played a unique role in the aftermath of Sept. 11. As special master for the Sept. 11 Victim Compensation Fund, the Brockton native decided how $7 billion in federal money would be divided among 5,300 spouses and family members.

Two years after his work ended, he still thinks the fund was the right response to one of the most traumatic events in the nation’s history. He also thinks the 9/11 Fund will remain the first and last of its kind, even if there is another successful terrorist attack.

“It was a unique response to an unprecedented event,” Feinberg said yesterday during a lunchtime speaking appearance at the University of Massachusetts Club. “Next time, (our reaction) won’t be the same.”

Compensating
9/11 victims

2,973 killed

5,300 spouses, family members paid

$500 Lowest payment

$8.6 million Highest payment

$2.3 million Average death payment

$400,000 Average injury payment

Referring to the shock and anger of the first few days after the 2001 attacks, he added, “If Congress had waited two weeks (to vote), I’m not sure they would have passed this law.”

Feinberg, a 1967 UMass graduate, is managing partner of the Washington, D.C., mediation and arbitration firm The Feinberg Group. Already known for his work with Holocaust slave-labor lawsuits, he was appointed special master for the 9/11 Fund by then-Attorney General John Ashcroft.

He finished 33 months of work in 2004 - all of it pro bono.

As a result, Feinberg may have more 9/11 memories than anyone else - 1,500 by his count.

That’s how many victims’ survivors spoke to him in confidential, personal meetings - an average of more than one for every day he was special master.

There was the husband who insisted that he listen to his wife’s farewell phone message from the 100th floor of the World Trade Center, and the 24-year-old widow of a firefighter, who asked him to speed up her payment.

When he asked why, she told him she had terminal cancer, with two months to live, so she needed to set up a trust fund for the couple’s two young children. Feinberg did.

“We went to her funeral seven weeks later,” he said.

He decided early on to open his door to any family members who wanted to talk to him. The sessions took their toll on Feinberg - he says he’s more fatalistic these days - but he says the sessions were a crucial part of the fund’s success.

“We let people put a face to the program,” he said. “And they didn’t come to talk about money. They came to validate the memory of the dead.”

In the end, 97 percent of eligible spouses and family members applied for compensation, including a few families of illegal aliens who worked at the World Trade Center.

Feinberg said undocumented survivors were protected against deportation by the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

If it had been up to him, the payouts would have all been equal, from janitors to bond traders.

“Everybody should have gotten the same,” he said.

The fund’s unequal payments, calculated by the victim’s lost lifetime earnings, were the most controversial part of the program. That policy was set in the congressional act, which Feinberg said made him “judge and jury.”

While payouts did include equal amounts for pain and suffering, “how do you compensate for a life?” Feinberg asked. “How do you tell the widow of a firefighter that she’s going to get $1 million less than a bond trader’s family?”

ANALYSIS

Bush pleads the case to stay the course


New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON - Five years ago, with the World Trade Center and the Pentagon still burning, President Bush faced the difficult task of preparing a shocked nation for war against a single enemy, one that had attacked American soil.

Bush

Last night, he faced a different, more daunting challenge: to make the case to a skeptical nation that stabilizing and democratizing Iraq is now the most important element of winning that battle.

For in the end, a speech that began as a commemoration of one of the most searing and painful moments in American history became something else. For much of his 17-minute address, he effectively acknowledged that his political standing and the success of his avowed mission to make the world safe from Islamic terrorism now rests on victory in Iraq, a mission his critics say was a deadly detour from the task he set out five years ago.

Bush’s aides acknowledged beforehand that it would not be easy. The country Bush faced last night was very different from the shocked, angry, but unified nation he addressed 1,826 days before. Iraq and its aftermath had changed everything, dividing Americans who five years ago had largely unified around Bush’s strategy, cutting his approval ratings in half and leaving questions about whether he had made an ugly confrontation with Islamic extremists worse.

On a day when the White House said it wanted to focus on the victims of 9/11 and their still-grieving survivors, Bush nonetheless put Iraq front and center.

“I’m often asked why we’re in Iraq when Saddam Hussein was not responsible for the 9/11 attacks,” he said, midway through his speech. “The answer is that the regime of Saddam Hussein was a clear threat” and “posed a risk that the world could not afford to take.”

Bush’s aim was to put the arguments about Iraq into a broader context, to try again to change the minds of most Americans who tell pollsters that Iraq was, in retrospect, a dangerous diversion.-

“We are now in the early hours of this struggle between tyranny and freedom,” Bush said, describing a conflict with no end in sight.

He had to make the argument, he has told visitors to the White House, because five years after the 9/11 attacks he worries that the country no longer views itself as at war. But his new approach has its own risks.

“If you conflate all of our problems into one massive, single enemy, you do not define the enemy properly,” said Lee H. Hamilton, the former co-chairman of the 9/11 commission. “The risk is that you think you can take them all out with a single strategy. And you alienate the sympathizers, the people who we might be able to talk to. ... And if you don’t define your enemy correctly,” Hamilton concluded, “you risk getting your strategy wrong.”

--

Bush made it clear last night that while the war might have become more complicated, he believes that the choices remain as stark as they were five years ago.

“Whatever mistakes have been made in Iraq,” he said, “the worst mistake would be to think that if we pulled out, the terrorists would leave us alone. They will not leave us alone. They will follow us. The safety of America depends on the outcome of the battle in the streets of Baghdad.” To Bush’s admirers, this was Bush at his Reaganesque best: defining America’s enemies broadly, vowing their defeat and promising to make the spread of freedom his legacy. To his critics, it was Bush at his most dangerous, approaching the world with little interest in how America is perceived and lumping together its many opponents - even if their agendas and interests are quite different.