Victims' kin praise report but remain angry over failures it catalogs

Families look to find fault, ways to foil more attacks

Panel `did a pretty thorough job'

9/11 Commission's Report

July 23, 2004|By Kimberly A.C. Wilson | Kimberly A.C. Wilson,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON - Relatives of victims of the nation's deadliest terrorist attack scanned the 9/11 commission's report for two things yesterday: someone to blame, and practical ways of preventing the failures and destruction of Sept. 11, 2001, from being repeated.

The report won cautious praise from family members, who called it a blueprint for reform for everything from intelligence community rifts to national safety measures for high-rise buildings. Also, many appreciated the readable, straightforward tone the report's authors took to explain what went wrong.

William Doyle, whose 25-year-old son, Joseph, died at the World Trade Center, perused the footnotes during a private morning briefing with commission members and about two dozen other relatives of victims at the National Press Club. "I think they did a pretty thorough job," he said of the commission members, echoing others in attendance. "But it still makes me angry to see all the failures."

"I think the changes they are recommending are everything I could have wished for," said Martha Sanders, of Darien, Conn., who lost her daughter, Stacey, at the World Trade Center.

Carie Lemack, whose mother, Judy Larocque, was on hijacked American Airlines Flight 11 from Boston, which crashed into the north tower of the trade center, had scant opportunity to skim the report yesterday.

But the co-founder of Families of September 11, one of a score of advocacy organizations founded by relatives of those who died in the terrorist attacks, said she plans to read it closely with an eye on the recommended reforms.

"I guess what I'd like to see is a lot of aviation security reform, improved communication between intelligence agencies ... and things like that," she said. "The worse thing we could do now is to do nothing and just let this report sit on a shelf."

Monica Gabrielle, who founded the Skyscraper Safety Campaign after losing her husband, Richard, in the towers' collapse, agreed.

"It's got to be mandatory that when you go into a building as an employee, you're shown how to get out in an emergency," she said. "Not just standing around in the lobby being told what to do, but actually walking down the steps and doing it over and over again. That's something that will minimize death and destruction."

On sleepless nights, Kent Yee goes online to read memorials to the terrorism victims, finding solace in the loss he shares as a 9/11 widower. He admits that what he will look for in the commission's report is blame, pure and simple.

"Starting from the top and going all the way down to the bottom," said Yee, 46, of Staten Island, N.Y., whose wife, Olabisi Layeni, perished in the trade center attacks. "It still angers me that we dropped the ball that day, so there's no reason to gloat about having the report finished. Don't say we've accomplished this now and it's over. Make real changes so it doesn't happen again."

Detailing shortcomings in domestic and foreign intelligence agencies, the report's investigators blame "operational failures" for allowing the terrorists to carry out their plot. But the bipartisan report singles out for reproach neither President Bush nor former President Bill Clinton.

Mere blame casting wouldn't have been productive, said House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland.

"The American people do not want their government to waste time casting blame," he said. "They want to be assured that their government is taking action to prevent attacks against this nation from occurring again."

Doyle called the commission's final report a first step in that direction.

"This isn't the end of this process," he said. "Today is only the first day. We [have] to advocate for the changes now."

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