Report gets poor review locally

Friday, July 23, 2004
Kaye Spector
Plain Dealer Reporter

Families of victims in the 2001 terrorist attacks had pushed to form the Sept. 11 commission, but two area people directly affected by the events say the panel's report has little value.

The report, released Thursday, offered a dismal accounting of repeated intelligence failures that led to the 2001 assault.

Bruce Kratofil, a Lakewood resident who survived the attack on the World Trade Center in New York City, said he doesn't think the commission's report says anything new.

"It said we should have better intelligence, we need more precautions. I think we knew that on Sept. 12," he said.

Kratofil said U.S. leaders in the 1990s should have been more vigilant against terrorists.

The panel's report is "a lot of people covering their" - and here he made a long pause - "policies."

Kratofil, 46, was attending a business meeting in the Marriott World Trade Center the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, when the first plane hit the North Tower. He got outside, found his family quickly and was able to leave Manhattan shortly before the first building collapsed.

William Faragher of Mayfield Heights lost his 33-year-old daughter Kit in the terrorist attack. A computer programmer, Kit was attending a technology conference on the 106th floor of the North Tower when the first plane hit.

Faragher said there is little meaning in assigning blame for the attacks.

"It couldn't have been helped," he said. "None of it could have been helped."

About 30 relatives of people who died in the terrorist attacks attended the commission's re lease of its final report, which recommends sweeping changes in U.S. intelligence agencies.

Some of the victims' families have been outspoken advocates for the commission. At times, the families also have been among the panel's harshest critics.

In a private meeting, panel co-chairman Thomas Kean asked them to continue to help by pushing those in government to adopt the recommended changes, the Associated Press reported.

Family members said they are eager to take up the cause.

"The families know that this is an election year. We're going to hold these people's feet to the fire," said Debra Burlingame, whose brother Charles was the pilot on the hijacked plane that struck the Pentagon.

"I had a lot of my questions answered," Terry McGovern, whose mother, Anne, was killed at the World Trade Center, told the AP.

"They weren't answered in a good way, but I think it's really useful to show what kind of job needs to be done," McGovern said.

Ellen Mariani of Derry, N.H., lost her husband aboard Flight 175. She said the commission did not do enough.

"There are people who need to be blamed," she said.

Matthew Sellitto, whose son, also named Matthew, died at the World Trade Center, said he would assign wider blame if action wasn't taken.

"If this gets pushed under the rug," he said, holding a copy of the report, "I won't even blame Congress, I'll blame you and me."

© 2004 The Plain Dealer. Used with permission.
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