Some WTC families unhappy with Bush

May 17, 2002 at 7:53 PM
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NEW YORK, May 17 (UPI) -- Families of Sept. 11 victims demanded answers Friday after hearing President George Bush had been briefed in August that Osama bin Laden might hijack airliners for a possible strike against U.S. targets.

"I'm shocked, saddened, livid," Steve Push, co-founder of the group Families of Sept. 11, whose wife was aboard American Airlines Flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon, told the New York Daily News.

"If that was important enough to brief the president about, they should've told the American people," Push said. "My wife would be here today if they had disclosed that information in August, because she was on a one-day business trip that was completely optional."

Several family members said they felt like there was more that could have been done by Bush.

"I'm wondering what else they did know, and they're not choosing to share with us, because they're so afraid of liability," Steve Campbell, 36, of Middle Village, N.Y., who lost his wife Jill, told Newsday. "That would explain the federal compensation, too. They want people paid off as fast as humanly possible."

Some families said they are planning to attend a rally in Washington on June 11 calling for approval of the Lieberman-McCain bill in the Senate, which urges the appointment of a congressional panel to investigate the causes of the attacks.

However, not all of the families shared that view.

Clifford Russell, whose firefighter brother died at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, said the "speculation was 20-20 hindsight and not helpful."

Deena Burnett, the widow of United Flight 93 whose husband, Thomas Burnett was one of the passengers that tried to overcome the terrorists, said the warning was too vague.

"There's no cause for alarm unless we find out there were more specific details, like a particular flight, or the fact that the planes were going to be used as missiles," Burnett told the New York Daily News.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a news conference Thursday that to "think the president did know something and did nothing is "ridiculous."

"There's no question the president has tried to share information among federal agencies," Bloomberg said. "This has always been a problem, but hindsight should only be used to correct the system."

Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik said no federal information made it to the city and they agreed with Bloomberg that federal agencies are "not flawless communicators."

Kerik said he was confident no one walked into the president's office and said, "Osama bin Laden is going to hijack a plane into the World Trade Center" and then no one did anything.

Meanwhile, many of the victims' families are angry that the city chose May 30, a Thursday, for the ceremony that symbolically ends the search for remains and the clean-up of rubble where the World Trade Center once stood.

"You can never pick a day that will please everyone," Bloomberg said. "We wanted a day that would not preclude religious observances."

City officials had met with many of the families before they announced the May 30 ceremony that will include: a fire bell tolling at 10:29 a.m., the moment when the second Twin Tower collapsed; a flag-draped empty stretcher symbolizing the remains of the people that have not been found and a flatbed truck removing the last steel beam symbolizing the end of the 1.8 million tons of rubble removed.

Family members said that many have returned to work and children have settled in school and that it would be difficult to ask for time off and get baby-sitters. Some said they want the city to change the date to June 2, a Sunday, so more people could attend.

"Not all of the relatives of the 2,823 victims will be able to be accommodated or the families of the police, firefighters and construction workers who have worked at Ground Zero because there simply isn't enough space," Bloomberg said. "Many could stand on West Street as the vehicles proceed, and I'm sure the ceremony will be on television."

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