FEBRUARY 23 , 2007
DEAR FAMILIES AND FRIENDS,
This Monday, February 26th, will mark the thirteenth anniversary of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. As we all pause to remember those lost or injured, my thoughts will go out in particular to the families, friends, and others who were impacted in some way by this tragic event. Anniversaries such as this are a painful reminder of our loss, but they also afford the opportunity to take stock of how far we have come – and what still remains to be done.
In recent newsletters, I have discussed the successes and obstacles that have surrounded the critical legislation to fully implement the 9/11 Commission recommendations. Now, I am asking for your help. Next week, as the Senate introduces its version of this legislation, there is a strong possibility that controversial amendments relating to the Iraq War will be included in the debate. While both issues are critically important, both issues deserve to be considered in separate debate.
I urge you to contact your Senators and the Senate leadership to express to them the importance of keeping these debates separate (please see below). It is only through individual deliberation that these two issues will receive the fair and responsible consideration they deserve. I encourage you to make your voice heard.
As always, please feel free to contact our office if we can be of any assistance.
Our best wishes to you and your families,
| PROGRAMS AND EVENTS
1993 WTC Bombing Observance
Next Monday, February 26 marks the Thirteenth Anniversary of the World Trade Center bombing in 1993. To honor the memories of those lost, a memorial mass will be held at 10:30 am at the Roman Catholic St. Peter's Church, 16 Barclay Street at Church Street. Interested members of the public may attend the service, but please be advised that space will be limited. The service will be followed by a private moment of silence and luncheon for family members of those affected by the bombing, which killed six people and injured thousands.
Save The Date:
Saturday, March 31, 2007
9/11 Living Memorial Workshop
Time: 1pm to 4pm
Location: Ridgewood Public Library, 125 N. Maple Avenue, Ridgewood, NJ
The program will include a brief presentation on the 9/11 Living Memorial (www.911livingmemorial.org) and opportunities to begin creating a Living Memorial Page with Debbie Westfal, family liaison for the 9/11 Living Memorial. Refreshments will be served. More details will be announced soon. Call or email Michelle Doherty toll free
(866) 505-3911 to register. To read about a previous workshop held in New Canaan, CT, please click here.
9/11 Living Memorial Feature
Family Tribute to Paul Skrzypek
The moving tributes to Paul Skrzypek on his Family Tribute page paint a portrait of a man always in motion, a fierce competitor on the lacrosse field and a loyal friend. Paul's natural enthusiasm helped him make many friends, and their anecdotes describe full relationships with a man of remarkable character and an inspiring fearlessness. His exploits--from running with the bulls in Pamplona to braving the stormy Atlantic in a tiny kayak--are an enduring testament to his lust for life. Read more on the Family Tribute to Paul Skrzypek:
"Paul did not wait for life to come to him, he charged towards life. He loved Lacrosse as well as other sports. He played Lacrosse up until a few years ago. He gave it up because he was a competitive athlete. He did not like to see himself losing to people he knew he could beat if he had his A game going."
"I remember watching Paul dance. It was one of the funniest things I’d ever seen. It was hard to imagine such a good athlete could be such a bad dancer. He was the opposite of graceful. I called his dancing “doing the crustacean.” It was like watching a lobster or a crab dance. The beauty was that Paul knew he was terrible, and made no bones about it. I can remember Paul dancing and yelling over to me just to be sure I could get a good laugh at watching him. Paul got a kick out of it and didn't mind laughing at himself. That made it even more fun."
"Paul – aka: Mr. Wonderful and Dr. Fun, was a true friend. He embodied loyalty, grit and determination. I have never known someone to be as competitive or driven as Paul, whether it was running a 3:40 marathon on two reconstructed knees after barely training or just trying to get a phone number from a girl in a bar. He was not one to give up. I have on occasion witnessed him making 5 or 6 attempts to obtain a phone number, never taking “no” for an answer. In the end he usually got what he was after."
"When his mom and sister asked me to tell them a funny Paul story I could not tell them just one. My response was which one. I could not pick one out because it was non-stop with him. Everyday was a funny story. He so touched everyone’s life. I’m sure everyone here has experienced a Paul moment in the past couple of weeks. You know what I’m talking about. Walking down the street, driving in your car. Watching TV. He’s in your thoughts and you start to laugh. Remember, that he is laughing with you."
Action Alert on 9/11 Legislation
Next week the Senate is going to introduce its version of a bill to implement the remaining 9/11 Commission recommendations. Its purpose is to improve our security. There is a strong possibility that controversial amendments on the Iraq war will be added which could jeopardize passage of this important legislation. The Iraq War should be a separate debate either before or after the 9/11 Commission recommendations bill comes to the floor.
Your help is needed to emphasize to Senate leadership that it is important to keep the Iraq war and the 9/11 Commission recommendations bill as separate issues. Please call, e-mail or fax both Senator Harry Reid, the Majority Leader, and Senator Mitch McConnell, the Minority Leader and make it clear to them that that the Senate bill on implementation of the 9/11 Commission recommendations is critically important to America's security and that debate and resolutions about Iraq should be separate from this bill. Click here to find contact information for your Senators.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell
Phone: (202) 224-2541
Fax: (202) 224-2499
Read more in the Washington Post
|9/11 REFORMS UPDATE
Security Focus Turns to Trains and Mass Transit
Another deadly train bombing in India has brought increased focus this week to the security of America’s rail and mass transit systems. Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), the new chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee said he will make increased security on trains and subways a priority for the coming term. "Terrorists have yet again demonstrated that transportation systems are targets, and this notice must not be ignored. I call upon my colleagues in the House and Senate to work with me to secure our trains and public transit systems. We have received enough warnings. History will judge us if we don't act now," Rep. Thompson is quoted in United Press International coverage. According to Rep. Thompson’s estimates, The Department of Homeland Security currently spends one penny per passenger on mass transit security, while spending nine dollars per passenger on aviation security. President Bush included only $175 million in transit security grants in his fiscal 2008 budget proposal, the same level as FY '07.
Rep. Thompson is holding committee hearings on mass transit and has promised to introduce legislation mandating more training for transit workers, whistle-blower protection for those who reveal security lapses, increased screening at stations and federal grants for mass-transit security. In the Senate, the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee reported out a rail security bill (S. 184) that would authorize $1.1 billion from fiscal years 2008 to 2011 to provide, among other things, system-wide security upgrades on Amtrak, funding for Amtrak’s Northeast corridor, and funding for freight railroads. Also, the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee recently sent legislation authorizing $3.5 billion to be spent over the next three years on transit security to the full Senate. Read more in Congressional Quarterly coverage.
But some critics claim that more grant money will not necessarily make transit more secure. Heritage Foundation homeland security expert James Carafano told the conservative Cybercast News Service this week: "Focusing myopically on specific threats such as a terrorist attack on a U.S. train is a grave mistake. America is a vast nation with millions of people and trillions of dollars of infrastructure. Everything can't be hardened to the point that terrorists will be deterred, and hardening one target to the exclusion of everything else won't stop terrorists." In a January Senate hearing, Transportation Security Administration head Kip Hawley pointed out the inherent difficulty in fully securing systems that were designed to be easy to access and used by large numbers of people: "Many of these systems were designed with mobility and ease of access as an enabling fundamental underlying their operational success… Our security efforts must work within the framework of these systems and not hamper them. That inherent openness and mobility also presents us with our greatest security challenge," Hawley told the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee (click to visit the committee's website).
The attack on a train traveling from India to Pakistan killed at least 68 people Sunday. It is the most recent in a string of attacks on rail and mass transit systems stretching back to the March 11, 2004 attacks on commuter trains in Madrid which killed 191 people and injured thousands; the July 7, 2005 bombings of London mass transit which killed 52; and July 11, 2006 attack on Mumbai, India’s suburban railroad system which killed 209.
|GROUND ZERO UPDATE
Spitzer Seeks "A Resolution that Satisfies Everybody" on Names Issue
New York Governor Eliot Spitzer seemed to reopen debate on the display of names at the WTC Memorial this week despite repeated attempts by Mayor Mike Bloomberg to declare the issue closed. In a joint press conference this week with New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine and Mayor Bloomberg regarding rebuilding at the WTC site, Gov. Spitzer said in response to a question regarding the arrangement of names: “It is an issue that has rightly garnered a fair bit of attention and evoked strong emotion… I'll give you a lawyer's answer: Yes, I have opinions and, no, this is not the moment to begin that very public discussion. Gov. Spitzer added that he would "begin a public discussion about it because it is something I think we will try to work through at the right time and the right place to get to a resolution that satisfies everybody," as quoted in the Associated Press.
Mayor Bloomberg has previously stated that the decision on the names was up to the WTC Memorial Foundation (of which he is chairman) and that their decision was final. He also claimed to have given up on satisfying everybody, a possibility that Gov. Spitzer apparently still hopes for. Some 9/11 family members have begun a "Save the 9/11 Memorial" campaign promoting their own plan for the display of names, which would include ages and denote where the victims worked. Save the 9/11 Memorial claims 18,000 people have signed its online petition of support for their plan. Visit their website to sign the petition and find action alert information if you would like to make your feelings known on this important issue. "It's very encouraging," 9/11 family member Sally Regenhard is quoted in the New York Post. “It is a truism that you can't please everyone, but a huge, overwhelming majority of families have rejected these random listings." Some family members in VOICES support groups feel adamantly that the random listing of names would bring back memories of the search for their loved ones after 9/11. They feel strongly that any order, as opposed to random listings, would make the names of their loved ones easier to find. VOICES will continue to keep you informed on the latest developments in the continuing names debate.
Governors, Mayor Endorse Freedom Tower Design, Sale Possible
At the same press conference, Governors Spitzer and Corzine and Mayor Bloomberg gave a full endorsement to the redesigned Freedom Tower. After taking office in January, Gov. Spitzer began what he called an "honest and hard analysis" of the construction plans for the WTC site, and decided that the 1,776-foot Freedom Tower should be built according to current plans. Officials had considered scaling back the size of the Tower, but a strong Downtown real estate market makes the building viable--even at and estimated construction cost of $2.4 billion plus $500 million in broker fees and other expenses. He added that the budget was "on target" so the project "will, we hope, be iconic at a price that we can afford," Gov. Spitzer is quoted in NY Daily News coverage. The Freedom Tower was redesigned last year to address security concerns. The new "hardened" design has faced some criticism, notably from the New York Times' Nicolai Ouroussoff, who claims: "It speaks less of resilience and tolerance than of paranoia. It’s a building armored against an outside world that we no longer trust." But Mayor Bloomberg rejected the nay saying, claiming that the Tower would be built as designed and that "I don't think it will look like a fortress. "There's nothing wrong with taking appropriate security actions," he added, as quoted in Associated Press coverage.
The real estate market Downtown has made such a rebound that there is speculation that a major real estate firm or hedge fund will buy the Freedom Tower. "I do not have an opposition at a philosophical level to selling the tower and letting a private entity possibly even undertake the responsibility of building it, leasing it, owning it," Gov. Spitzer said at the same press conference, as quoted in the New York Sun. Gov.
Corzine pointed out that the Port Authority's primary mission is transportation transportation and that a "strong case" could be made to sell some real estate. Mr. Bloomberg said that if the financial arrangement is a good one for the Port Authority, it makes sense to sell.