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Sue or settle on 9/11
Courts hold truth for families
By MONICA GABRIELLE
NY Daily News - Opinion - The best chance of discovering the whole truth about 9/11, reforming the system and truly holding people accountable for the failures that led to the deaths of more than 3,000 innocents will be accomplished through the courts.
Any lawsuit is a risk. But for the families of those killed and for those injured 9/11, the alternative, accepting compensation from the Sept. 11 Victim Compensation Fund, involves surrendering both the right to sue and the possibility of getting answers.
On Sept. 11, 2001, I watched in horror as the building my husband worked in collapsed like a house of cards. Ever since, I have been searching - in those first days and nights for my husband, then for information. I have found neither.
It is inexcusable to brush aside evidence of faulty fireproofing, no fire testing and no evacuation plans. It is most certainly not acceptable for FBI and CIA agents to ignore their protocols in watch-listing associates of known terrorists. It is unforgivable that numerous threats against the city and the World Trade Center were allowed be go unheeded.
During the past two years, many lawsuits from those affected by 9/11 have sprung up. They cover the Saudis, Al Qaeda, Islamic charities and their money trails, the airlines and their security companies, the Port Authority. There have been suits filed for damages and for release of information, and a suit to remove the immunities to New York building and fire codes enjoyed by the Port Authority.
All these lawsuits are important, especially because the two major 9/11-related investigations focused on the role and failures of our government agencies continue to be mired in bureaucratic red tape, confidentiality agreements and the privilege - or excuse - of nondisclosure on the grounds of national security. Only as a result of the intense outcry of the families of the victims do we even have the National Institute of Standards and Technology's investigation on the building collapse and the federal 9/11 independent commission. But, unfortunately, it has become increasingly obvious that the answers we seek will not be provided through these investigations.
Sadly, history all too often demonstrates that only the courts ultimately force the full truth to the surface through such mechanisms as discovery, testimony under oath and cross-examination. It is only through litigation that individuals guilty of incompetence or negligence are punished or disciplined. It is only through court imposed-financial penalties that changes in procedures or practices necessary to improve public safety are ultimately achieved.
I, and others who choose to go through the courts, will take our chances on principle. It is the very least we owe our loved ones.
Gabrielle, whose husband, Richard, worked for Aon, is co-chairwoman of the Skyscraper Safety Campaign.
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