In a Sunday talk show appearance, Issa said he would seek sworn testimony from veteran diplomat Thomas Pickering and retired Adm. Mike Mullen, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The two conducted an independent investigation of the Sept. 11 attack that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.
Their report was highly critical of the State Department’s handling of at the U.S. outpost. Pickering, who also appeared on the Sunday shows, defended his scathing assessment but absolved former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
“We knew where the responsibility rested,” said Pickering, whose career working for Republican and Democratic administrations, spans four decades.
Issa said he wants to know with whom the pair spoke to reach their conclusions about Clinton. Cummings suggested that they testify in public before the committee on May 22.
“This is a failure, it needs to be investigated. Our committee can investigate. Now, Ambassador Pickering, his people and he refused to come before our committee,” Issa said Sunday.
Pickering, sitting next to Issa during an appearance on one Sunday show, disputed the chairman’s account and said that he was willing to testify before the committee.
“That is not true,” said the former top diplomat, referring to Issa’s claim that he refused to appear before the committee.
In a separate interview, Pickering said he asked, via the White House, to appear at last Wednesday’s hearing by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in which three State Department officials testified. He said he could have answered many of the questions lawmakers raised, such as whether U.S. military forces could have saved Americans had they dispatched F-16 jet fighters to the consulate, some 1,600 miles away from the nearest likely launching point.
“Mike Mullen, who was part of this report and indeed worked very closely with all of us and shared many of the responsibilities directly with me, made it very clear that his view as a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff that there were nothing within range that could have made a difference,” Pickering said.
Witness to Apocalypse
Getting out alive. Watching in horror. Rushing to help. Days after the 9/11 attacks, researchers at the Columbia Center for Oral History began asking New Yorkers to describe their experience.
Published: September 8, 2011
Days after the attacks, researchers at the Columbia Center for Oral History began asking New Yorkers to describe their experience of the most harrowing day in the city’s history. The following account, the fall of the trade center told moment by moment and person by person, is drawn from the more than 600 interviews collected in the September 11, 2001 Oral History Project.
Samuel G. Delaney, union delegate and former maintenance worker at the World Trade Center
Woke up about 4 o’clock in the morning to get into work because we had to start at 6 o’clock — well, I think it was 5 o’clock, 5:30. It was really early in the morning. Came from Rockaway and passed the World Trade Center and just looking at it, saying, “I miss working there and hanging out with the guys and everything,” and then went to work.
With her dark curls, Corinne, the oldest of his three girls, resembles the man in the picture. She was 10 when she found it in a box of family photos a couple of years after his death.
“This picture haunts Daddy,” she told her mother.
“What do you mean?” Pat Hargrave asked.
Corinne pointed at the address spelled out in wrought iron on the top step: “Nine Eleven.”
T.J. Hargrave was one of hundreds of New Jersey dads who went to work in the city on a gorgeous fall day 10 years ago and never came home. Their loss is a shared wound never far from the minds of the people who live in the bedroom communities of northern New Jersey.
The three Hargrave sisters — Corinne, 18, Casey 16, and Amy, 14 — had never shared their story with anyone outside their close circle of friends and the families they met at America’s Camp, a Massachusetts retreat for kids who lost a close family member on 9/11. But they agreed to talk to Schuster, a Rutgers University student from their prosperous hometown of Readington Township, to keep the memories of their father from fading.
For the two oldest, Corinne and Casey, those memories come back in bits and pieces. Ten years later, it’s hard to tell what’s truly recalled and what’s suggested by family stories, photos and home movies. Amy, who was just 4 when her father died, relies on her sisters for her memories.
Before she met the Hargraves, Schuster spent a semester learning everything she could about the terrorist attacks as one of 20 students enrolled in The Rutgers University 9/11 Project. She and her classmates were coached on how to question people who survive traumatic experiences. They read books about September 11 and listened to speakers, including former New Jersey Gov. Thomas Kean, who chaired the 9/11 Commission.
And then they were told to find someone’s story to tell. It was harder than they’d imagined. Many of the children of 9/11 were reluctant to talk about it. Some dreaded the 10th anniversary and the repeated replays of the planes, the impacts, the fireballs and the collapsing towers.
“It was like ripping off a Band-Aid,” recalls Sarah Morrison, a junior who talked to a young man whose dream of a college soccer scholarship in California vaporized when he lost his mother at 17.
Jennifer Lilonsky sensed the young man she interviewed was telling her what he thought she wanted to hear. She could feel the protective presence of his mother in the next room during their first interview at his house in Marlboro. Later, when she talked to him at his dorm room in Maryland, he was more animated, even if he seemed incredibly sad.
It was different at the Hargraves’ house. Schuster arrived for lunch and stayed until dinner. Pat was engaged in the conversation, and the family’s closeness and good humor was evident. Schuster told the sisters they could stop talking if they felt tired or emotionally upset. They never did.
“I got lucky,” she says. Not only did the Hargrave sisters share their story without reservation, they taught her lessons in love, dignity and resilience.
“If I were have to have something terrible happen to me, I would want to live my life like the Hargraves did,” she said. “You can pick up the pieces, and even though there are a couple of pieces missing, you can hold yourself together and not have something bad stop you from living your life. That doesn’t mean you’re going to forget. It’s in your heart. It’s not going to go away.”
What was it like to lose a mother or father on 9/11? To grow up with a gaping hole in your heart? To be an emblem of one of the worst events in recent U.S. history?
Those are among the lingering questions of the tragedy because the stories of the children of September 11 have been so difficult to tell. Many resent the media for relentlessly bombarding them with the images of their parents’ deaths. Kids who lose a parent to cancer or a car accident don’t have to share it with the world, much less see it replayed over and over on television.
But would they open up to another member of the 9/11 generation? The current crop of college undergraduates was in middle school when the towers fell — old enough to remember, young enough to relate as peers.
The Rutgers University 9/11 Project was born out of a brainstorming session by three members of the New Jersey Press Association. Why not use the association’s charitable arm to fund a grant to train journalism students on narrative storytelling and compassionate interviewing techniques? They could get top journalism students at Rutgers to interview children from 9/11 families and create stories for New Jersey’s media outlets to include in their anniversary coverage.
Rutgers, New Jersey’s state university, seemed a natural fit. After all, the press association founded the university’s journalism school in the 1920s.
With a $54,000 grant for cameras and other equipment, Rutgers professors Ron Miskoff and Liz Fuerst created a special course for the project. The reading list included texts on narrative storytelling and books on 9/11, including “The Ground Truth,” by John Farmer, counsel to the 9/11 Commission, and “Your Father’s Choice,” by Daniel Zegart and Lyz Glick about the passengers on board United Flight 93, which crashed in a field in Pennsylvania. And of course, there was a field trip to ground zero.
To gain admission into the course, students wrote personal essays describing their experiences on September 11. Thirty students wrote essays, Miskoff said, and 20 of them made the cut, along with a handful of promising high school students.
Miskoff expected a dozen or so stories, based on his experiences with college students: “Two will have trouble with their boyfriends, one is going to get sick, one is going to drop out and decide college isn’t for them.”
He was pleasantly surprised: “Everybody came through.”
Mary Fetchet, director of the family advocacy group Voices of September 11, coached the students to ask “open-ended questions” during the interviews and to just let their subjects talk. Some might cry, some might be angry, some might clam up, she cautioned.
For the Rutgers students, the project offered a chance to gain insight into the personal toll of the global and regional event that has dominated half their lives. For their subjects, it offered the opportunity to honor a loved one and share an intensely personal tragedy with a peer who also knows from witnessing the events of 9/11 how life can change in an instant.
For the rest of us, the 9/11 Project at Rutgers uncovered stories that have never before been fully told. They are being compiled on a website, and there is talk of a book. Already one or two have been picked up by hometown newspapers.
CNN talked with a dozen students and focused on five stories that capture different aspects of the 9/11 families’ experiences. With the exception of the Hargraves, the other subjects were unavailable to talk, so their voices are shared through the students’ work.
A paralyzing grief
For many of the Rutgers students and the 9/11 kids they interviewed, their stories began with a confusing morning in school. Adults suddenly seemed worried and scared, but they weren’t talking. The children were left to speculate, and many concocted wild scenarios. They passed notes under their desks, trying to outdo each other. It was a time before smart phones and instant Internet access.
Whatever doomsday scenarios sprang from their childish imaginations, nothing could match the appalling truth, driven home for David Seamon when a fighter jet flew low overhead, shaking the building and setting off car alarms at his Catholic grade school in Somerset.
Seamon, now part of the Rutgers 9/11 project, went back to St. Matthias School to interview his former assistant principal before he talked to his subjects — Marisa and Eddie Allegretto, a brother and sister from Colonia whose dad, Edward Sr., had worked as a bonds broker at Cantor Fitzgerald.
“I wanted to know what it was like to hold an umbrella over 800 kids,” Seamon wrote in a class essay, “and why the school felt it was best to keep the kids in the dark about the tragedy. My questions painted a slightly accusatory picture, as I felt myself sticking up for my seventh-grade self. As if 10 years later, I still felt lied to.”
Jean Patrick, now retired from her job as St. Matthias’ assistant principal, told Seamon that teachers were under direct orders from the diocese not to tell younger students about the events unfolding that morning to avoid a panic. But the kids all knew something was up.
Eddie Allegretto was 11 and in sixth grade at another Catholic school, St. Cecilia’s in Iselin. He was pulled out of class and sent home. All he’d been told was there’d been a plane crash. When he found the house filled with relatives in the middle of the afternoon on a weekday, he knew it was much more.
“At 11 years old, it doesn’t process in your head that something bad happened,” Eddie recalled. “But I walked in, I saw everyone here, I saw my mom. It just hit me.”
His older sister Marisa watched the events unfold on TV in class at Bishop George Ahr High School in Edison. She was 14 and saw and heard enough to grasp the horror of what was happening. She caught a ride home with an older friend.
“Seeing the burning towers, the traumatized survivors, and the helpless jumpers was all too much,” she told Seamon. “When I saw it on the TV, that’s when I was not OK.”
The loss of their father hit the Allegrettos so hard that they abandoned the pursuits they’d enjoyed with him. Marisa quit dancing, and Eddie quit sports, focusing instead on his grades. He felt the heavy burden of being the man of the family at 11.
“In the days, weeks and months that followed, grief acted as a glue that bound Eddie and Marisa to each other, their mother and their family,” Seamon said. “Aspirations were put on hold, plans were canceled, and the family’s faith was shaken.”
Ten years later, they have returned to those passions of childhood. Marisa is teaching dance, and Eddie is studying to be a sportscaster. They are apprehensive about the anniversary, though, saying there’s no cure for heartbreak. Time doesn’t diminish the pain, they say. “It hits you more and more. It’s always there,” Marisa says.
“The most profound part about Eddie and Marisa’s story is that despite the tragedy, the decade-long grieving process, and the prospect of a future without a father, they are OK,” Seamon told CNN in an e-mail. “They smile, laugh and joke with each other. They finish each other’s sentences. They have goals again, and the strength to achieve them.”
He finds their strength daunting: “I could reach into the depths of my heart for solidarity and still come up short of the Allegrettos.”
Searching for a memory
No one softened the news for Sarah Morrison and her classmates when the towers fell.
“It was told to us straight,” she recalls. The principal at Shalom Torah Academy, a small Jewish day school in Jamesburg, burst into her classroom and announced that planes operated by terrorists from the Middle East had hit the twin towers of the World Trade Center.
“We were 12, 13, and (the principal) looks at us and says, ‘I just got off the phone with my mother, and my mother said she never thought she’d live through another Holocaust.’ “
It is embedded in Jewish culture to confront terrorism and other atrocities, says Morrison, now a senior at Rutgers. You don’t remain silent, and you don’t hide the truth. It’s a lesson learned through hard experience.
“The mentality is: If we don’t stand up for ourselves, who is going to be there for us? When Jewish people need help, people don’t sit idly by. We were instantly told, ‘This is as serious as a Holocaust.’ That’s a pretty serious parallel to draw. I think it was appropriate at the time,” Morrison says.
The young man she interviewed was 17 when his mother died.
Jean Depalma was a partner at Marsh & McLennan, which lost 295 employees on September 11. She and her husband had divorced the year before, and her oldest child, Drew, was exerting his independence and spending lots of time with his friends. As a result, he can’t point to a final conversation or special day with his mother. She was just there one day, and gone the next. Her remains were never recovered, so there’s no gravesite to visit, and he gets no sense of her presence at ground zero.
Her death plunged him into shock and depression. It took him a year to cry. People told him he was brave and stoic, but inside he was numb. He was an accomplished soccer player, and he and his mom were looking at colleges, particularly in California and South Carolina. The idea of going to college out of state appealed to him.
But then it all stopped.
“I got a lot of scholarships,” he told Morrison. “I pretty much got a free ride. And I chose to go to Hoboken.”
He studied engineering at Stevens College, staying in New Jersey because he couldn’t tear himself away from his family after his mother died.
He deeply feels the void of not being able to recall those last memories or visit a place where he can feel connected to her. He looked into the sky one night, chose a star and gave it her name. He gazes at it often. A friend gave him an iron cross pried from a metal beam from the World Trade Center. He keeps it in a drawer.
“With people with cancer, you know they’re dying, you spend more time with them,” he told Morrison. “I’m not sure which is better: there are good days and randomly they’re gone, or there’s a bunch of bad days and you just hang out with them a little longer.”
After struggling for years, Depalma is in a good place.
“Right after, I kind of just didn’t do much. I was a big lump on a log,” he told Morrison. “As time passed and I started to heal a little bit, I kind of felt that I had to make a good life for myself, because obviously, she wouldn’t want me to sit around and mourn for her forever. I still think of her every day. I kind of tried to move on while keeping her in my heart.”
He married his college sweetheart last year, and they are building a life together. He’s working as an engineer and making plans for the future, not just “living paycheck to paycheck” like some of his friends.
He is training for a marathon, which he plans to run in his mother’s honor in October.
The World Trade Center also was special place for his Rutgers interviewer, even if she didn’t lose anyone there. Morrison’s parents met at the top of one of the towers, broke up and reunited there before they were married. When the towers fell, it felt personal, but “we didn’t see it as the end of our dreams,” she said.
“This was a national tragedy, but people forget that something personal was lost there,” she added. “There was a 17-year-old whose life was ripped out from underneath him because of September 11. I think that’s lost on people.”
The final score
Marlboro is the quintessential New Jersey bedroom community, and it lost 14 people on September 11. Jennifer Lilonsky grew up wondering about them, and she asked to interview Corbin Mayo because she wanted to get to know a 9/11 child from her hometown.
She is saddened by his struggle, by how he received so much public attention in the beginning but seemed so lost afterward.
Mayo doesn’t remember much of sixth grade, or seventh grade for that matter. He went into a tailspin after his father, Robert Mayo, a deputy fire safety director for the World Trade Center, died on September 11. At first, he wouldn’t believe it: He called his father’s cell phone for weeks. And then Mayo’s remains were found, and reality sank in.
His mother told Corbin she spoke with his dad after the first plane flew into the north tower and begged him to come home on the ferry. “I’ll talk to you later,” he told her before going back to help with the rescue effort. He was one of six fire safety directors who died that day.
The previous night, Corbin had been watching “Monday Night Football” with his dad. The New York Giants were in Denver playing the Broncos, and the first half was a seesaw battle. The Giants had fallen behind before coming back, but Corbin had to go to bed before the game ended. His dad left him a note on the kitchen table with the final score: “GIANTS = 20″ and “BRONCOS = 31.”
It was just a final score, but that last note written in his father’s hand holds special significance now.
Mayo keeps it in a heart-shaped box along with other mementos of his dad. Because Robert Mayo died a hero, his son received plenty of media attention — unlike the other 9/11 children interviewed by the Rutgers students. He was interviewed by Katie Couric on NBC’s “Today” show, and when he said he dreamed of meeting Michael Jordan, the wish came true the next day.
The owner of the New York Giants saw his story in the local paper, and Mayo was invited to a game. He visited the luxury box and the locker room, posing for photos with his gridiron heroes — Tiki Barber, Michael Strahan and others.
Corbin also visited the White House to receive his father’s Medal of Valor.
But after the cameras went away, he struggled in school. He was angry and rebellious. He was prescribed anti-depressants in high school, he told Lilonsky. His mother battled breast cancer and remarried, but he didn’t get along with his stepfather.
And then one day, he just decided to grow up. He went off the meds and struck up a civil relationship with his stepfather. He hunkered down with his studies and got into Towson University in Maryland. He joined a fraternity and finally feels more at ease. He’s studying sports management, hoping to make a career out of a shared passion with his father.
“I know he’s looking down on me, and I’m trying to make him proud as can be,” he told Lilonsky. “I have an internship in the fall. I know he would be proud of me.”
Lilonsky knows its only natural for people to want to help immediately after a tragedy. But Corbin Mayo’s story taught her that the time to step up is in the long lonely days that follow that first outpouring of kindness.
When she interviewed him in Marlboro, the family’s house was silent and felt empty, as if no one lived there. An uncollected package sat on the steps and a vacuum cleaner had been left in the center of the room. She says Mayo never really opened up to her.
“I just wanted to shake him,” Lilonsky said. “Everybody expected sad stories with happy endings.”
Still, the 9/11 project had a profound effect on her. It was a game changer. A former Manhattan chef, she took journalism classes in the hopes of becoming a food writer. Instead, she’s chasing breaking news for the city’s cable news channel.
“If it wasn’t for this class,” she said, “I’d be an intern for Martha Stewart and not NY 1.”
A Walk for Dads
Travis Fedschun’s 9/11 journey began on the afternoon of the attacks, when he accompanied his parents to the highest hilltop in his New Jersey hometown, Cedar Knolls, and stared at the black plume of smoke rising over the trees.
Ten years later, it would take him to Westfield, a posh suburb where the Walk for Dads, a train station memorial, pays tribute to 12 commuters who died on September 11.
He knelt before a concrete impression of footprints — a woman’s and two children’s — and wondered if they belonged to his interview subject, Kaila Starita, and her mother and brother.
Fedschun says he wanted to interview someone who hadn’t told their story before to better understand 9/11 from a family’s perspective.
“They are more than just numbers in stone, many were just average people just going about their day when they wound up in this situation,” he says.
Kaila was just 6 when her father, Anthony Starita, died. He was 35, a senior partner at Cantor Fitzgerald, and worked on the 104th floor of the north tower.
“I thought this was only a time thing and that he would be back in only a week or so,” she told Fedschun. “Since I was so little, I didn’t understand what was going on.”
The final leg of his journey took Fedschun to the backyard memorial the family built for Starita behind a massive white frame house on a tree-lined street not far from the center of town.
But 16-year-old Kaila Starita says she feels closest to her dad at ground zero. This year, she hopes to be among the 9/11 family members called on to read the names of the dead at the annual ceremony there. She says she won’t watch the television footage of planes flying into the towers and that she’ll never feel any closure.
During the last summer of his life, Anthony Starita was trying to spend less time at the place where his daughter now feels his presence most strongly. He was working on balancing his life, scaling back his work hours a bit and cutting back on the golf. The family had taken a vacation in Wildwood on the Jersey Shore that last summer.
On the night of September 10, he got to spend some extra time with Kaila and her brother, who was 3. Their mother had gone to a long PTA meeting, and they spent the evening watching television. Kaila smiles as she remembers how he tucked her into bed that night — one of her last memories of her father.
She’s grateful for that last summer together at the beach. Many of the pictures used on his missing person flyer in the days after 9/11 were taken during that vacation. This summer, the family ventured back to Wildwood for the first time as they prepared for the 10th anniversary of his death.
Fedschun was startled recently as he watched a film clip about 9/11 at the Newseum in Washington. It featured a makeshift clearing house of missing persons that sprung up at ground zero in the tense days following the attacks.
His heart jumped when the camera focused on a crying woman holding up one of the posters. It was Anthony Starita’s.
Because of the project, Fedschun said, “I now know he was an avid golfer, could probably fill an entire room with his tie collection and would spend extra time out in the yard watching his kids play. I think that’s a much better understanding than simply reading (about 9/11) from a textbook.”
‘You are going to grow up to be good people’
“That’s for me!” Megan Schuster thought the minute she saw a journalism class on September 11 being offered. She immediately got to work on the essay that would win her admission into the course.
Surrounded by chaos in her sixth grade class, she’d taken comfort in her routine. After all, her peanut butter sandwich that day still tasted like any other, even if her teachers were whispering in clusters and looked worried.
“I remember crying and seeing other students around me crying,” she wrote about the dark days immediately after the attacks. Her mother, Geri, says she didn’t notice any change in Megan’s behavior but recalls constantly crying and watching television with her children.
“It probably left an impression in her mind that something was seriously wrong,” Geri Schuster said of the oldest of her four children. “It’s almost as if 9/11 made the children lose their innocence. … They saw then that not everything was good in the world.”
The tragedy hit home when they learned about T.J. Hargrave’s death.
“I remember going home and learning that the husband of one of my mom’s friends had died in the attack,” Megan Schuster said. “She had three children and now was unexpectedly a single mother.”
She thought about the Hargraves often over the years and decided to interview them for her project. Pat Hargrave agreed, saying it would be good for her girls to share memories of their father on the 10th anniversary of his death.
The Hargraves met with Schuster and CNN in Pickell Park in Readington, where a small memorial stands in remembrance of T.J. Hargrave and the township’s other 9/11 victim.
Pat Hargrave wasn’t thinking about fate or foreshadowing when she took the picture Corinne would later find, the one she said haunts her father. But Pat remembers the day vividly. She and T were dating back then. They weren’t a family yet, and their whole lives lay ahead of them.
They’d gone to Wildwood, but it was a lousy beach day at the Jersey Shore so they headed to nearby Cape May. He was frozen in time as he sat down on the steps of one of the rambling Victorians, the “painted ladies” that make Cape May a popular honeymoon destination. She kept the photo because she thought he was so good looking.
Hargrave was an actor as a child, appearing in commercials for Sealtest ice cream. He was the boy in the yellow rain coat in Morton salt commercials that promised, “When it rains, it pours.” His speaking line was, “It really works!” Later he had a role in a TV movie, “The Prince of Central Park,” and a recurring role on the soap “The Guiding Light.” When he left the show, his role of T.J. Werner went to an up-and-coming young actor named Kevin Bacon.
His friends compared him to a walking Zagat’s guide; he always knew when a hot new restaurant was opening. Although he never finished college, Hargrave rose through the ranks at Cantor Fitzgerald. One of his projects was eSpeed, the online bond-trading program that helped the company stay afloat in the dark days after September 11.
“There are so many ‘what ifs’ in this story,” Schuster said. “T.J. had a desk mate, and ever since the 1993 bombing (at the World Trade Center), Cantor Fitzgerald required employees to personally greet visitors in the lobby. T.J. and his desk mate worked on the 105th floor and took turns. On 9/11, it was the desk mate’s turn to greet the visitor and T.J. stayed behind. He died. The desk mate survived.”
When he called home for the last time, he told Pat something terrible has happened, and they were running out of air. He said he loved them. When Pat frantically tried for the next 24 hours to call him back on cell phone, she couldn’t get through.
He lived a big life full of family, and even now there are photographs of him all over the house, Schuster says. Adds Pat, “I wouldn’t say it’s a sad house. It’s a loud house.”
Although Pat Hargrave was devastated, she held herself together for the sake of her daughters, who were 4, 6, and 8 when their father died. She tells them losing him on 9/11 is just a part of their story, not all of it.
“Here’s the deal,” she told them. “You are going to grow up to be good people, and that’s all there is to it.”
Corinne, now 18, remembers coming home from school after the attacks to find the house filled with relatives and food. So many people brought hams and cakes and lasagna they had to invest in a second freezer.
“When people don’t know what to do, they make food,” she told Schuster.
Every Wednesday night, an uncle came over and read them a story and tucked them into bed. It gave their mother time to cope with her own grief.
Casey, now 16, remembers seeing her mother cry just once — at their father’s memorial service. Until then, Casey kept expecting him to walk through the door at any time.
Amy, now 14, remembers spending a lot of time alone in her room, not quite sure what was going on. She believes her father watches down on her from heaven.
If that’s the case, her mother asks, “Then why do you do some of the things you do?” Amy smiles and says she hopes he’s looking at one of her sisters during her less-than-stellar moments.
The girls just want to blend in. When she was in the fourth grade, Corinne came home in tears, her mother recalled. Somebody introducing a new student around school announced, “That’s Cori, and her father was killed on September 11.”
Her mother advised her then, as she often does: “That’s not who you are. You’re a piano player. You’re a soccer player. You’re a good student, and your father died on 9/11.”
They don’t like when the topic of 9/11 comes up in history class, and they don’t like explaining themselves to strangers. For Cori and Casey, the transition to high school was difficult because everybody wanted to know their story. Their friends knew, and that was enough. They didn’t want to be the 9/11 poster children.
Corinne begins college this month at New York University, just over a mile from where her father died. She feels comfortable in her father’s favorite city. Casey already has been to England on a school trip and wants to see Spain and Greece next. Amy says she’s still figuring it out.
They want to lead lives that would make their father proud. Like Kaila Starita, Amy is thinking about reading from the list of the dead during this year’s 9/11 remembrance.
Schuster says she plans to keep in touch with the Hargraves. They inspire her.
“When I was 11, I didn’t think there was a worry in the world,” she wrote. “Yes, I knew there were things like cancer and diseases that could take the ones I love. I knew that there were murders and crazy people out there. I learned about Hitler and Pearl Harbor and all the things of the past that negatively affected our country. But that’s it — they were in the past and they were far away from me.”
The Hargraves taught her how to hold her head up and cope with tragedy, see the big picture and not let a single, horrific event define her life, Schuster says.
Theirs may be just one story among nearly 3,000 lives lost, but it’s one that now feels like her story, too.
Washington (CNN) — The FBI has launched an investigation into Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. after a report that employees or associates may have attempted to hack into phone conversations and voice mail of September 11 survivors, victims and their families, a federal law enforcement source told CNN Thursday.
“We are aware of the allegations and are looking into them,” said the source, who requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of the investigation. “We’ll be looking at anyone acting for or on behalf of News Corp., from the top down to janitors,” to gather information and determine whether any laws may have been broken.
Because the investigation just began, it’s too early to say when the first interviews will be conducted, the source said, adding the probe is a “high priority.”
New York Rep. Peter T. King, a Republican, earlier this week asked FBI Director Robert Mueller to investigate the possibility that journalists working for Murdoch may have tapped into the phones of 9/11 victims and relatives.
News Corp. said Thursday it had no comment on the FBI investigation or the possibility of congressional hearings.
Concerns appear to be traceable to a story published Wednesday by the Mirror, a British tabloid that includes a section it describes as “gossip gone toxic.”
The newspaper cited “a source” who referred to a former police officer who now works as a private investigator. “The investigator is used by a lot of journalists in America and he recently told me that he was asked to hack into the 9/11 victims’ private phone data,” the source reportedly told the newspaper. The source told the Mirror the request came from News of the World, the newspaper at the center of the phone-hacking scandal in Britain.
NPR White House correspondent Ari Shapiro joins host Scott Simon to talk about the last-minute Democratic victories of the lame duck session and what awaits when Congress returns in January.
Bloomberg urges passage of 9/11 health billSTORY HIGHLIGHTS
- Bloomberg says the Senate should not adjourn until the bill is passed
- The bill would provide free medical coverage for responders exposed to toxins
- Democrats are hopeful they pulled off “a Christmas miracle” to garner Republican support
- Republicans have complained the price tag for the health care fund is too high
New York (CNN) — New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg joined fire and police officials and lawmakers on Monday in urging U.S. Senate passage of a health care bill benefiting September 11 rescue workers.
“The time for excuses is over,” Bloomberg said. “The Senate has a full week ahead of it and should not adjourn until it passes this bill.”
Bloomberg said the measure is paid for by “other revenue generators,” referencing a procurement fee on some foreign countries that trade with the United States, the continuation of a fee on some travelers to the United States and a fee on visas for some companies.
“There are men and women dying today,” said Republican Rep. Peter King, who stood beside Bloomberg during Monday’s news conference. “We are absolutely obligated to pass this bill for them.”
The bill has been in legislative limbo since Thursday, when Senate Democrats failed to win a procedural vote to open debate on it.
But on Sunday, the Democrats said they were hopeful they had pulled off “a Christmas miracle” by changing the bill enough to garner Republican support.
The James Zadroga 9/11 Health Bill — named after a deceased New York Police Department detective who had worked in the toxic plume at ground zero — seeks to provide free medical coverage for responders and survivors who were exposed to toxins after the attacks.
Joseph Zadroga — father of the bill’s namesake — asked lawmakers Monday to pass the measure so that first responders now suffering from working in the toxic conditions can “go on with their life with dignity and honor.”
The House has passed the bill on a mostly partisan 268-160 vote.
Bloomberg had called Thursday’s result “a tragic example of partisan politics trumping patriotism.”
Republicans complained that the $7.4 billion price tag was too high, while Democrats said the government had an obligation to help the first responders in the deadliest terrorism attack in U.S. history.
On Sunday, a longtime champion of the bill, Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, said Democrats had retooled the measure to gain Republican support.
“Barring a setback, we believe we’re on the path to victory by the end of this week,” he said.
Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York, called the announcement “a Christmas miracle” for the bill, noting that its sponsors changed the way the fund would be paid for and cut its total cost in response to Republican concerns.
Instead of coming with a $7.4 billion price tag, the bill will now cost $6.2 billion over 10 years, after a court settlement that benefited some of the responders.
Senators have a long to-do list to finish before breaking for Christmas. In addition to resolving the debate over the START treaty, they need to pass a funding bill that would keep the federal government running into 2011.
CNN’s Rachel Streitfeld and Raelyn Johnson contributed to this report.
The six troops who died after an insurgent attack in southern Afghanistan on Sunday were Americans, a U.S. military source says.
Sources: Al Qaeda eyes more Mumbai-style attacksBy Nic Robertson and Paul Cruickshank, CNNSTORY HIGHLIGHTS
- German sources reveal extent of al Qaeda’s plan for Mumbai attack in Europe
- Sources in Germany and U.S. concerned about a similar possible plot on U.S.
- Osama bin Laden signed off on the Europe plot, U.S. counter-terror officials say
- German mosque used by 9/11 lead hijacker was apparently center for recruiting radicals
Hamburg, Germany (CNN) — Al Qaeda is still planning Mumbai-style attacks in Europe, with the United States also possibly being targeted, counter-terrorism officials in Europe and the United States tell CNN.
The discovery of al Qaeda’s plans to launch coordinated attacks in several cities in Britain, Germany, and France led to the U.S. issuing an unprecedented travel advisory in October for its citizens traveling in Europe.
European counter-terrorism officials tell CNN they believe the aim was to carry out the attacks before the end of this year. The expected timeframe of the plot had not previously been disclosed.
In November 2008 gunmen belonging to Lashkar e Taiba, a Pakistani Jihadist group affiliated with al Qaeda, went on a shooting rampage against several targets in Mumbai, including its most prestigious hotel, the main railway station and a Jewish center, killing more than 160 people.
In an exclusive interview with CNN, Dr. August Hanning, a former head of Germany’s foreign intelligence service, said intelligence indicated that al Qaeda had already started planning to launch Mumbai-style attacks in the United States.
“We have got information that they have planned or are planning a plot like the Mumbai plot in Europe and the United States,” said Hanning who retired late last year as State Secretary in Germany’s Interior Ministry, one of the country’s most senior counter-terrorism positions.
The revelation is the most concrete indication yet that al Qaeda is planning mass casualty gun attacks on U.S. soil.
A senior U.S. counter-terrorism official told CNN that U.S. intelligence agencies have for some time been concerned that al Qaeda would attempt to replicate aspects of the 2008 Mumbai attack on US soil. “The assumption has been that they would make plans to do this and the potential threat is being treated very seriously,” the official told CNN.
The capture of Ahmed Sidiqi, a militant from the German port city of Hamburg, in Afghanistan in July, helped Western intelligence uncover the conspiracy, according to European and U.S. counter-terrorism officials. Sidiqi is currently being held in American custody at Bagram air force base in Afghanistan.
Information came from “different sources … and this is one of the sources,” Hanning told CNN. His statement was echoed by a senior U.S. counter-terrorism official.
Western intelligence agencies also learned that Ilyas Kashmiri, a senior al Qaeda operative, had a planning role in the plot. According to U.S. counter-terrorism officials, Osama bin Laden himself signed off on the plot.
Kashmiri, a veteran jihadist who made his name fighting Indian troops in the Kashmir conflict, has in the last year emerged as a key planner of al Qaeda operations against the West, according to Western officials and court documents.
Last month Britain’s Daily Telegraph newspaper citing intelligence sources reported that Kashmiri met with Sidiqi in Pakistan’s tribal areas and boasted that he had already dispatched terrorist teams to Britain and Germany to launch Mumbai-style attacks.
“[Kashmiri] knows our situation in Germany and therefore he is dangerous,” Hanning told CNN.
German authorities may have particular cause for concern. German authorities are investigating the alleged involvement of several militants from Hamburg, including Bagram detainee Sidiqi, in the al Qaeda plot against Europe.
Sidiqi and 10 other militants from Hamburg set off for the tribal areas of Pakistan in March 2009, according to German intelligence officials. “When they left Hamburg they [had] decided to join the jihad in Afghanistan or Pakistan but then they came into contact to certain groups then after this they developed the plan … not to stay there and fight there but to go back and commit some crimes in Germany in Europe,” Dr. Manfred Murck, Hamburg’s Intelligence chief told CNN in an exclusive interview.
According to European counter-terrorism officials, Sidiqi revealed that four other members of his group were part of al Qaeda’s plans to attack Europe. Several of them met with Younes al Mauritani, a senior al Qaeda operative who tasked some of them to return to Europe to prepare the attack, according to the officials.
“The general assumption would be that Sidiqi and some others planned to come back to Germany and might develop terrorist attacks in the long term,” Murck told CNN, “this is the general assumption that we do have, but it’s not concrete, we don’t think they had a concrete plan.”
Murck said Hamburg’s intelligence agency has found it difficult to untangle how the Hamburg group fitted into Al Qaeda’s plans because they have had no direct access to him in Afghanistan. “As far as we can see we don’t have the evidence that [theirs] was a terrorist attack in the Mumbai style,” Murck stated.
In early October two members of the Hamburg group — Naamen Meziche and Shahab Dashti — were reported killed in a drone strike in North Waziristan, one of Pakistan’s tribal territories. According to European intelligence officials the group’s travel coordinator — Asadullah Muslih — is still believed at large somewhere in Pakistan. Murck said his intelligence agency has evidence that Dashti was killed but has not been able to verify the reported death of Meziche.
Rami Makanesi — another member of the Hamburg travel group allegedly implicated by Sidiqi — is currently in custody in southern Germany. He is being investigated for membership of a terrorist group but has not been formally charged by German authorities. “He wanted to go to the German embassy or consulate [in Islamabad] and then he was picked up,” Murck told CNN.
Murck hinted that some of the Hamburg group may have wanted to return to Europe because they were fed up with conditions in the al Qaeda camps in Pakistan.
“It’s not the nice romantic jihad they were thinking about,” he said.
According to German intelligence officials, the Hamburg group were recruited by Meziche, the group’s ringleader in the Taiba mosque in Hamburg , a mosque — previously called Al Quds — attended by 9/11 lead hijacker Mohammed Atta in the late 1990s. In August this year Hamburg authorities closed down the Taiba mosque because of its ties to extremists.
Murck told CNN that 15 foreign radical extremists were deported from Germany based on information authorities collected at the Taiba mosque. But over time he said, more and more clusters of radical extremists formed in the mosque.
“If there is one place, from Denmark even to the United States, where people know if you want to be a brother in the name of Allah and have an idea to be a member of jihad then go to al Quds mosque in Hamburg. It was that famous, and this was one of the reasons that we decided to close it.”
Hamburg authorities had to fight a tough legal battle to close the mosque. “We have a Constitution and churches, mosques are protected by our Constitution and it’s very difficult for German authorities to forbid praying in such kinds of mosques,” August Hanning told CNN.
Hamburg intelligence officials stress that Hamburg is not unique among European cities grappling with the problem of violent Islamist extremism.
“We count about 40 persons at the moment … who justify violence and find it’s right that there is an international jihad … and that terrorism might be right, and there might be a 100 more that are in close contact to them,” Murck told CNN.
“Taken altogether we don’t have a real chance to look at each of those 40 or 140, 24 hours a day, every week so what we have to do is to look at the [radical] scene, to have some human sources within that scene.”
Radicalization is on the rise in Germany according to German counter-terrorism officials with hotspots emerging in such cities as Berlin, Bonn, Ulm, Frankfurt, Cologne and Hamburg, fueled by radicals’ exploitation of online social media sites.
According to Hanning, around 100 to 200 hard cores supporters of al Qaeda in Germany currently pose the greatest concern.
The trajectory that has most worried German counter-terrorism officials is Germans who have gone overseas for terrorism training and returned.
“Our estimate is 220 people who have left Germany for training purposes in Pakistan, being trained in terrorist techniques and nearly half of them have come back to Germany and that has been the real threat for us. … We know that they still have contact with these dangerous groups in Pakistan,” Hanning told CNN.
Murck, Hamburg’s Intelligence Chief, says the city’s intelligence agencies are determined to do everything they can to prevent a terrorist attack on the city. “We just have to live with the possibility it might happen and with our responsibility to hinder it.”
By Peter Finn
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 22, 2010; 10:50 PM
Though al Qaeda has primarily focused on large-scale coordinated attacks since the tragic events of Sept. 11, including the attempted downing of several commercial airliners, the terrorist organization and its allies are increasingly likely to attempt small-scale attacks in the U.S., senior Obama administration officials said Wednesday. These less intricate attacks—like the plot against New York’s subway system and the failed car bombing in Times Square—are harder to detect. The threat has increased with the rise of al Qaeda-affiliated groups in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia, and with the higher number of American terrorists inspired by terrorist ideology. “The spike in homegrown violent extremist activity during the past year is indicative of a common cause that rallies independent extremists to want to attack the homeland,” said Michael Leiter, director of the National Counterterrorism Center. The anti-U.S. narrative has become more accessible in recent years, primarily through the Internet, and these “homegrown extremists are increasingly more savvy, harder to detect and able to connect with other extremists overseas,” according to FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III.
Full article available at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/09/22/AR2010092203807.html
22 September 2010 Last updated at 06:49 ET
Barack Obama’s administration ‘divided’ over Afghan warBob Woodward made his name exposing the Watergate cover-up
President Barack Obama’s senior advisers have been waging internal battles over Afghan policy for 20 months, according to a new book.
Obama’s Wars by Bob Woodward is said to portray an uncertain administration as the president agrees to a troop surge of 30,000.
In one excerpt leaked to US media, US special envoy Richard Holbrooke sums up US policy by saying: “It can’t work.”
In another, President Obama tells a meeting he wants an exit strategy.
A number of US media outlets have had access to the book, including the Washingon Post and the New York Times, which said it had obtained a leaked copy.
Among the main points of the book that have emerged are:
- Afghanistan adviser Lt Gen Douglas Lute and Mr Holbrooke appear dubious about US strategy
- President Obama rejected a Pentagon request for 40,000 extra troops
- His main concern is portrayed as reducing US troop numbers
- A withdrawal timetable was set because the president could not “lose the whole Democratic Party”
- Former national intelligence director Admiral Dennis Blair fought with both the White House chief-of-staff and counter-terrorism adviser
- BBC North America editor Mark Mardell says that what is perhaps most significant in the revelations is the hint of future conflicts over the timetable for a US withdrawal.
The top US soldier in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus, is said to believe the military could “get more time on the clock”, before being told by a senior adviser: “That’s a dramatic misreading of this president.”
But the president is portrayed as insistent that a US withdrawal should begin in July 2011.
According to the Washington Post, Mr Obama is quoted in the book as saying: “This needs to be a plan about how we’re going to hand it off and get out of Afghanistan.”
The New York Times says a six-page document dictated by Mr Obama is reproduced in the book, laying out the terms of his troop order and its objectives to prevent the defence department from reinterpreting his decision.
Veteran reporter Woodward made his name exposing President Richard Nixon’s cover-up of Watergate and has more recently written a searing account of President George W Bush and the Iraq war.
His latest work claims the CIA is running a covert 3,000-strong army which captures and kills Taliban fighters.
It also reports intelligence suggesting Afghan President Hamid Karzai has been diagnosed with manic depression and is taking medicine.