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After September 11, 2001, Brill became a columnist for Newsweek and an analyst for NBC on issues related to the aftermath of the terrorist attacks. A winner of the National Magazine Award, Brill lives in New York City with his wife and three children.
The Main Characters
John Ashcroft: United States Attorney General
James Brosnahan: Lead defense lawyer for John Walker Lindh
Michael Cartier: Business information systems manager at cable television company in New York; co-founder, Give Your Voice; brother of September 11 victim James Cartier, an electrician working in the North Tower
Larry Cox: President and CEO, Memphis¡Shelby County Airport Authority
Kenneth Feinberg: Special Master, Victim Compensation Fund
Bernadine Healy: President and CEO, American Red Cross
Salvatore Iacono: Proprietor, Continental Shoe Repair (two blocks from Ground Zero)
Robert Lindemann: Senior Border Patrol Agent, U.S. Border Patrol (Detroit)
Brian Lyons: Recovery Supervisor, Ground Zero, and brother of September 11 victim Michael Lyons, member of New York City Fire Department, Rescue Squad 41
Sergio Magistri: President and CEO, InVision Technologies (Silicon Valley)
Kevin McCabe: Chief Inspector, Contraband Enforcement Team, United States Customs Service, Port of New York (based in Elizabeth, New Jersey)
Dean O'Hare: Chairman and CEO, Chubb Corporation
Tom Ridge: Director, White House Office of Homeland Security, and Secretary, Department of Homeland Security
Anthony Romero: Executive Director, American Civil Liberties Union
Gale Rossides: Associate Undersecretary for Training and Quality Performance, U.S. Transportation Security Administration, Department of Transportation
Charles Schumer: Senior senator from New York, and husband of Iris Weinshall
Larry Silverstein: President and CEO, Silverstein Properties, real estate developer (New York City)
Eileen Simon: Harrington Park, New Jersey, widow of September 11 victim Michael Simon, an energy trader at Cantor Fitzgerald
Iris Weinshall: Commissioner, New York City Department of Transportation, and wife of Charles Schumer
Edmund Woollen: Vice President, Raytheon Company (Virginia)
Other Key Figures
Hollie Bart: Sal Iacono's pro bono lawyer
Joshua Bolten: Assistant to the President and Deputy Chief of Staff, the White House
Robert Bonner: Commissioner, U.S. Customs Service
Michael Byrne: Senior Director of Response and Recovery, White House Office of Homeland Security
Andrew Card, Jr.: Chief of Staff, the White House
Michael Chertoff: Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Criminal Division, U.S. Department of Justice
David Crane: Senior Policy Advisor to Senator Trent Lott, and then a lobbyist representing real estate interests
Mitchell Daniels, Jr.: Director, Office of Management and Budget, the White House
Mary Delaquis: Area Service Port Director, U.S. Customs Service (based in Pembina, North Dakota)
Ali Erikenoglu: Electrical engineer (Paterson, New Jersey)
Richard Falkenrath: Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director of Policy and Plans, White House Office of Homeland Security
Jennie Farrell: Co-founder, Give Your Voice, and sister of Michael Cartier and September 11 victim James Cartier, an electrician working in the North Tower
Joshua Gotbaum: CEO, September 11th Fund
M ark Hall: Senior Border Patrol Agent, U.S. Border Patrol (Detroit)
Kip Hawley: Director, go teams, Transportation Security Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation
Mark Isakowitz: Washington lobbyist for private airline security companies, and then for the insurance industry
Michael Jackson: Deputy Secretary, U.S. Department of Transportation
Syed Jaffri: Pakistani immigrant, detained in September after dispute with Bronx landlord
Lee Kreindler: Plaintiffs lawyer specializing in representing victims of air disasters
General Bruce Lawlor: Senior Director of Protection and Prevention, White House Office of Homeland Security
Elaine Lyons: Westchester, New York, widow of September 11 victim Michael Lyons, member of New York City Fire Department, Rescue Squad 41
David McLaughlin: Chairman, American Red Cross
Norman Mineta: Secretary, U.S. Department of Transportation
Sohail Mohammed: Attorney and Muslim community leader, Paterson, New Jersey (represented Ali Erikenoglu)
Barry Ostrager: Lead lawyer representing Swiss Reinsurance Company in suit against Larry Silverstein
Hugo Poza: Vice President, Homeland Security, Raytheon Company (Virginia)
Eliot Spitzer: New York State Attorney General
Herbert Wachtell: Lead lawyer representing Larry Silverstein
Gale Rossides came home from her first day as the new something - no one had any titles yet - at the Transportation Security Administration and told her husband it had been twelve hours of "indescribable chaos." No one had desks, chairs, phones, or computers, let alone any idea of their responsibilities. She bounced around from meeting to meeting, although these were more conversations or encounters than meetings, since they happened spontaneously around a vacant desk or in the tenth-floor hallway of the Transportation Department's white-box, ugly building. Only Magaw seemed to have an office. Sitting outside it in a converted closet was Stephen McHale, who was supposed to be TSA head Magaw's deputy and whom Rossides knew from ATF, where he'd been Magaw's general counsel.
For someone who had spent every day of the twenty-three years of her working life in the same government agency, this might have been Rossides's way of explaining to her spouse why she thought she had made a terrible mistake. But Rossides had loved it. Everything about it gave her the feeling of having been swept away into a group of warriors fighting on an important front in the new home front war.
Even the groups of seemingly know-it-all private sector hotshots, who were running all those go teams she heard about only after she arrived ("who are the guys with all the laptops," she wondered), didn't bother her. The charts full of deadlines and milestones they'd taped along the walls of a conference room that they'd converted into their war room, and all their lists, and lists of lists, made it seem like these guys had everything so well under control that they didn't need her. They cheerfully disabused her of that, welcoming her, clearing a desk for her in the war room, and pushing her to join the fray. They needed help and really didn't have anything solved yet. If it looked like they'd been working here for years, that was only because "TSA time," one of them told her, was something akin to dog years only more so: In terms of how fast they had to move, a day was like a month and a month was like a year. In fact, most of them had started only a few weeks ago.
Rossides had jumped into a budget meeting, agreed to join an organizational structure committee, and begun working with the go team that was a week or two ahead of her on trying to figure out how to recruit and train all those new federal baggage screeners.
By the end of the day, she felt like she'd been there a week or two. The go team guy was right about TSA time and dog years.
Wednesday, January 23, 2002
Ken Feinberg knew that the attacks on his regulations would come from all sides. He'd even joked with Ted Kennedy about it. But deep down, he also thought that reason would prevail and that it would quickly become clear to the victims that his was, indeed, "the only game in town." Yet as of today only 250 people had applied to his fund. It had now been a month since the draft regulations had been issued. The program guaranteed an immediate $50,000 and the rest within 120 days of Feinberg making an award. Still, most weren't biting.
Perhaps because he didn't yet appreciate how the charities had covered so much of the immediate cash needs of so many of the families, while life insurance payouts had provided even more to people like Eileen Simon, Feinberg was surprised that more people weren't signing up faster.
This morning in Ridgewood, New Jersey, he got a firsthand lesson in what was holding them back. His audience of about 150 were mostly well-dressed widows from the New Jersey suburbs, who arrived at a local courthouse in Suburbans, Lexuses, and BMWs. Several sat with babies in their laps.
Feinberg, standing at a lectern in front of the courtroom, ran through the basics of his program. His voice boomed a bit too loud, his words came a little too quickly, and his promise to get to another subject "in a minute" became more annoying the more he repeated the phrase. Yet he seemed to talk to these people like he was trying to help them. He wasn't defensive. He used no legalese.
"You give up your right to sue, before you know what you're going to get," someone complained.
Feinberg answered that although the statute seemed to require that, he had developed three ways around the problem. First, they could look at the presumptive awards on the charts, something they could ask a lawyer or other advisor to help them with. Second, they could watch his website and see what other, similarly situated people got. (To preserve privacy, names and identifying details would not be given on the website, but enough specifics would be provided to give them a good idea.) Third, and most important, they could make an appointment to come see him or a member of his staff and get an estimate of an award calculated in advance. It would not be binding, but "you would be able to trust me."
"Why should we trust you?" someone yelled from the back.
"Because if I don't make good on those estimates, I'm sure you'll hear about it."
When someone asked what would happen to the money if there was no will, Feinberg reported that the estimates he had seen were that only 25 percent of all the families had had wills - which meant that in three quarters of the cases the money would be divided up according to how the state where the deceased person had lived dictated it be divided. (In New Jersey, that meant a spouse gets half and the children split the other half.)
A woman stood up to complain that because she didn't have children and her husband had no will, under her state's law "my mother-in-law will get half, and she didn't suffer at all. I'll get one twentieth of my loss and she'll get twenty times her loss."
Feinberg said maybe he could talk to the mother-in-law for her and get her to be reasonable. She smiled a teary smile and said, "That's not likely."
A baby let out a wail. Her mother, toting a Prada bag, shot up from her seat to take her out into the hall.
Someone asked if she could come to Feinberg's office and provide proof of her husband's real potential for earnings growth, potential that was "way beyond the formula [for assumed income growth over the years] in your charts."
"You could," said Feinberg, "but it'll have to be more than a letter from someone saying he was a star and would have made a lot of money."
It was that kind of truthful but unvarnished response that alienated the group. Feinberg just didn't have any kind of bedside manner.
"You should talk to a lawyer about what kind of proof you can present."
"What if we don't want to hire a lawyer," someone shouted.
"Then talk to an advisor, or come ask me or someone on my staff."
Another baby cried.
One woman asked why she shouldn't be compensated for the value of her husband's lawn mowing and other services, such as cleaning the pool. Feinberg said it was unlikely that he could help her with that.
Someone else stood and talked about her life partner, another woman who had died. What could she recover?
That depended on whether New Jersey changed its law to recognize same sex partners, Feinberg replied.
One woman complained that she had five kids, ages two to nine, to support, but she'd get zero because of the deductions to be made from any award for life insurance policy payouts, which in her case amounted to $2 million. This brought on a barrage of more complaints, even catcalls, about life insurance offsets. The one who complained most adamantly was the woman who was hosting the meeting - Marge Roukema, the longtime Republican congresswoman from this area of New Jersey. She declared that her constituents were being destroyed by this unfair rule.
When Feinberg reminded the group, and the congresswoman, that the insurance offsets were specifically in the law that Congress had passed, Roukema blurted out, "I voted for it, but I didn't understand the full implications of what I voted for." Some laughed at their hapless congresswoman. Others booed. Someone yelled out, "What else didn't you understand?...How in blazes could Congress vote and not know about the insurance?"
"This is a travesty," a heavyset man in the far right corner yelled.
Roukema recovered to tell her audience that she was co-sponsoring legislation to repeal the offsets, but Feinberg politely said that it was unrealistic to expect Congress to pass anything like that. "You should see the letters I get attacking the whole program, or asking, 'What about the Oklahoma City victims?'" he added.
As Feinberg looked at his watch and said that he had to leave soon, another heavyset man in the back asked about pensions being offset, and about Social Security. A chorus of "yeahs" followed.
Feinberg, who had by now begun to understand the widespread concern about the Social Security, workers' compensation, and pension offset issues, seemed to welcome the question. "There are pensions and there are pensions," he said. "Many won't be offset. The same is true for workers' compensation and Social Security. We are looking at that right now. I think an argument can be made that no workers' comp should be offset and most Social Security should not be offset. I'm doing my best to make sure no one gets zero because of this. My goal," he continued, adding something that would have surprised Mitch Daniels back at the Office of Management and Budget, "is to deduct as little in the way of offsets as possible. I'm really going to do my best."
This got the attention of a blond woman in the first row, who had had her hand up through most of the question period. Now, she waved it more purposefully.
"Widows only," said Roukema.
"I am a widow, that much I know," the blonde replied with a chuckle. Then she turned to Feinberg.
"Uh, I have to tell you that you're saying you're doing your best is not enough," she said with a smile. "You have to tell us. What are the rules?" Her face now lost its smile. She stood up, and continued. "In the beginning I felt like you were on my side. Then you put out the regulations, and I'm being told I get zero.
Excerpted from After by Steven Brill Copyright © 2003 by Steven Brill
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