Some 9/11 families to meet Obama in NYC

May 5, 2011 Issues: Killing of Osama bin Laden

By MICHAEL AMON
Newsday
May 5, 2011

John Cartier wants to give President Barack Obama a photo of his brother James Cartier, who died in the south tower of the World Trade Center on 9/11, and a message.

"I'm going to tell him, 'This is the reason you had to do what you did. This face is one of thousands,' " said Cartier, 43, of Queens. "And I want him to personally thank, on my behalf, the team that killed bin Laden."

Four days after U.S. forces fatally shot 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden, the president will meet privately with Cartier and about 50 other family members Thursday after visiting Ground Zero and talking to New York first responders, White House officials said. Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Obama would speak with city firefighters and police to "say thank you for the country for their sacrifice."

The president will make no remarks during a solemn ceremony amid tight security on the 9/11 Memorial Plaza. Instead, he will lay a wreath to mark the deaths of 2,752 people in the collapse of the World Trade Center, an attack carried out by bin Laden's al-Qaida terrorists.

"There will be a sense that we're finally bringing a close to this terrible chapter," said Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, who plans to attend the ceremony with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand and many other New York officials.

Obama's visit to Ground Zero -- his first as president -- was arranged over the past three days, and the White House, mindful of security concerns, released few details about his itinerary. Members of 9/11 families said they received email invites Tuesday.

Margie Miller, of Baldwin, said she's looking forward to meeting Obama but said it will again summon the heartbreak of losing her husband, Joel, a Marsh & McLennan worker killed on the 97th floor.

"We're just glad that's over, glad [bin Laden] was caught but it's like a mini-9/11 day," Miller said. "It's more crying, more missing family."

George W. Bush was also invited, a spokesman said, but the former president declined.

Among those absent Thursday is John Vigiano, 72, of Deer Park, who had two sons killed on 9/11 -- Joseph, a city police detective, and Thomas, a city firefighter.

Vigiano said he was invited but said he was upset the invitation began "Dear 9/11 Family Member."

"I mean no disrespect to the president of the United States and I am sure he didn't send the letter," Vigiano said. "If you don't know my name, why do you want me there?"

After Newsday made inquiries Wednesday, a White House official called Vigiano, apologized and invited him again, Vigiano said. He told the official he wouldn't come.

Obama spokesman Matt Lehrich said the White House consulted with the National 9/11 Memorial Museum to find a representative group of family members for the meeting. "If that personal touch did not come across, it was only as a result of technological and time constrictions in pulling together such an important discussion on such short notice," Lehrich said.