N.H. Widow Waiting for Answers from Sept. 11 Attacks
Wednesday, Dec 24, 2003
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DERRY, N.H. -- A New Hampshire woman who filed the first lawsuit against United Airlines relating to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks -- and the first suit accusing President Bush of negligence beforehand -- doesn't want money, just answers.
Ellen Mariani's husband, Neil Mariani, was killed in the attacks. He was a passenger on United Airlines Flight 175, the second of two planes to crash into the World Trade Center.
She and her husband had been on their way to their daughter's wedding in California on the day he was killed. They were booked on separate flights.
"I want answers," she said. "We are living in fear, and it's called orange, yellow and red.
"It's also called Homeland Security and the Patriot Act," she said Tuesday, on what would have been her husband's 61st birthday.
Mariani is one of only about 73 families, according to reports, that did not file for a settlement from the federal September 11th Victim Compensation Fund by Monday, the filing deadline.
Mariani said by taking money from that fund, she would have given up her right to sue the airline and the government, which she believes is the only way she can get information about what happened and what led up to the events of that day.
She refers to it as "a shut-up fund and go-away fund," although Mariani believes she might have received somewhere around $500,000 in compensation for her husband's life if she had taken the federal settlement.
Mariani said her latest lawsuit is aimed at proving that the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks were no surprise to the government. She believes the federal government was aware the attacks would take place.
"I'm 100 percent sure that they knew," she said. "I'm challenging the courts, the government, United Airlines and the courts in Manhattan."
Information has been withheld from the families, said Mariani, such as the list of passengers on the flights.
"I don't see any foreigners names on there," she said, referring to the Arab hijackers. "They know the list of all the people getting on the plane; give it to us."
Mariani said she also wants to know who entered the planes that crashed.
"I want to see their surveillance tapes and the black boxes; you can't destroy them," she said. "Where are they? Why are they telling control-tower employees to shut their mouths?"
Mariani said it was difficult to get a lawyer to take her case.
"Nobody dared take this case because it's against the government -- nobody. I talked to a lot of them. Big shots -- I mean, big-time attorneys didn't want this case," she said.
A lawyer named Phil Berg from Pennsylvania took on Mariani's case.
The lawsuit against Bush and other administration members "is based upon prior knowledge of 9/11; knowingly failing to act, prevent or warn of 9/11; and the ongoing obstruction of justice by covering up the truth of 9/11; all in violation of the laws of the United States," said a statement by Berg on a Web site for the Mariani case.
The lawsuit, filed Sept. 12 in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia, also names Vice President Dick Cheney, Attorney General John Ashcroft and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
The suit also names the Department of Defense, the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency and the Council on Foreign Relations.