Friday, July 23, 2004

Families find vindication, but say their work isn't over

By Devlin Barrett
The Associated Press

WASHINGTON - Family members found vindication and a call to action in the Sept. 11 commission's report, saying they will now set their sights on persuading Congress to make sure Americans are better protected.

Full Commission report
"All of the emotion of 9-11 comes back," said Bob Peraza, whose son Rob died in the World Trade Center.

"I don't think it could have been prevented. We were not prepared as a country. ... Nobody can be blamed for that. It's what the commission says, and I tend to agree."

Robert David Peraza was a 30-year-old broker for Cantor Fitzgerald, a bond trading firm with offices on the 104th floor of Tower One.

Bob Peraza wants more national dialogue about what measures should be implemented to prevent another attack. While he doesn't think the war in Iraq has anything to do with preventing terrorism, he does support legislation, such as the Patriot Act, a counterterrorism law that gives the federal government broader law-enforcement powers.

While the report has given his Mason family more information about the attack and the circumstances that allowed terrorists to hijack planes that crashed into the World Trade Center and Pentagon, Peraza said there will never be resolution on the personal side.

Family members still think about lost opportunities. Since Rob's death, Bob Peraza and his wife, Suzanne, have welcomed two grandchildren into their family. In August 2001, just before Rob died, he wrote his parents a letter noting how good his life was. He had a good job and had found the woman he wanted to marry.

Peraza can't help but think that the family might have welcomed a third grandchild by now.

About 30 family members of 9-11 victims attended the commission's release of its final report.

"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.

The victims' families have been both outspoken advocates for the commission and sometimes its harshest critics. They were credited by Chairman Thomas Kean and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., with forcing the creation of the independent inquiry.

Kean, in a private meeting with the families, asked them to continue to help by pushing those in government to adopt the recommended changes. That may be the toughest test yet of the families' influence.

Enquirer reporter Kristina Goetz contributed.

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