9-11 Widow Fights, Won’t Settle

by Susan Nolan
Portsmouth Herald
Wednesday, Dec 24, 2003

DERRY – Ellen Mariani wants answers and she’s willing to forgo money to get them – a lot of money.

The Derry woman’s husband was killed on Sept. 11, 2001. Neil Mariani was on United Airlines Flight 175, the second of two planes to crash into the World Trade Center in Manhattan.

“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,” said Mariani during a telephone interview from her home on Tuesday, her late husband’s 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. Approximately 95 percent of the families of the most deadly terrorist attack ever on American soil filed for compensation.

While she said she does not fault those who have tapped into the fund, Mariani said she could not take money from that fund. By doing so, 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.

Mariani said she believes she might have received somewhere around $500,000 in compensation for her husband’s life if she had taken the federal settlement.

But it’s not about money, she said.

Mariani was the first family member to file suit against United Airlines in New York in 2001. She was also the first to file a lawsuit against President Bush and others, including Kenneth Feinberg, the government’s special counsel for the Victim Compensation Fund. She filed that lawsuit late last month.

Mariani said the lawsuit is aimed at proving that the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11 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, and she wants that information. An example is the list of passengers on the flights, she said.

“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?”

She also wants to know why the president took certain actions following the attacks.

“I want to know why President Bush blocked out 28 pages with his own hand,” she said. “What is he doing in his briefings?

“Bring it out. This is not a game. We want the truth,” she said.

Mariani is a woman on a mission.

“I want to be able to sleep at night, knowing I did everything in my power to get to the bottom of what happened on Sept. 11, 2001,” she said.

Mariani, now 65, and her husband, who would have been 61 had he lived, had been on their way to their daughter’s wedding in California on the day her husband was killed. They were booked on separate flights.

It is not only the recent lawsuit that has made her life difficult. She said her life in general since Sept. 11, 2001, has been hell.

It was difficult to get a lawyer to take her case, she said.

“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 recalled.

A lawyer named Phil Berg from Pennsylvania took on Mariani’s case and filed suit on her behalf against the president, Feinberg and others in federal court late last month.

The “RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) action lawsuit against President Bush and other high level members of his administration 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 printed by Berg on the www.911forthetruth.com Web site, the official Web site for the Mariani case.

Meanwhile, she stands by her decision not to take money from the Victim Compensation Fund.

“I was the first and I’m going to be last to hold out, because it’s a shut-up fund and go-away fund,” she said.

“I’m not going away, government, so don’t try to shut me up. I won’t give up. I won’t give in. And I won’t give out.”