Sept. 11 widow urges public action

by Mary Sanchez
Kansas City Star
Monday, Feb 23, 2004

Far too many questions remain unanswered about Sept. 11, 2001, and the American public must press for clarity, an attack victim’s widow told several groups Sunday.

Ellen Mariani, whose husband was aboard one of the jets that struck the World Trade Center, and her attorney, Philip J. Berg, spoke at several gatherings Sunday in the Kansas City area.

Mariani was among the first to sue over the attacks, taking United Airlines and the Bush administration to court. She also was among a small group of survivors that did not accept money from the Victim’s Compensation Fund.

Mariani might have received about $600,000 for the death of her husband of 13 years, Neil Mariani, a retired coordinator at a New Hampshire dairy company.

“I didn’t want ‘shut-up’ money,” said Mariani, of Derry, N.H. “I’m going to make them tell us what they knew.”

Mariani, whose lawsuits are pending, said she is seeking truth, not payments through the courts.

She has accused the airline of negligence in her husband’s death. She accuses the government of having prior knowledge of the attacks, failing to warn people, failing to prevent the attack and keeping the truth hidden.

Sept.11, 2001, was the most horrific and yet least-examined act in recent U.S. history, said Bill Douglas of Overland Park. Douglas was a co-founder of the 9-11 Visibility Project and helped organize Mariani’s visit.

“We have two wars based on September 11 and a continual rollback of civil liberties,” Douglas said. “We are being asked to give up our sons and daughters to wars because of 9-11.”

Several of those who attended an afternoon discussion at Hogan Prep Academy in Kansas City said they also wanted more answers.

Sam Gill of Kansas City said he did not believe some theories that are raised during discussions about Sept. 11, such as the government’s prior knowledge of events such as Pearl Harbor.

“I support full disclosure, but people are innocent until proven guilty,” Gill said. “All we know about the evidence is that we don’t have that evidence.”

Berg, who lives in the Philadelphia area, said he understood the public’s discomfort.

“No one wants to believe our government would be involved in something like this,” he said. He also acknowledged “there are some crazy theories out there.”

“But by sitting back and not demanding answers, we are allowing this administration to take away our rights under the guise of national security,” Berg said.

A report is due May 27 from the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. “If the answers come out and we are wrong, we will go away,” Berg said.

Mariani, 65, said she is living on Social Security benefits. Her husband, who was 58 when he died, had recently retired and did not have life insurance.

Still, Mariani said she would “rather eat dirt first” than accept money from the victim’s fund and surrender her right to sue.

“I want to know why they were not protecting our loved ones in the sky,” Mariani said.

To reach Mary Sanchez, call (816) 234-4752 or send e-mail to