by William Weir
April 12, 2005
NEW HAVEN — In the days after 9/11, Mary Fetchet was one of many family members who descended on Washington, D.C., demanding answers from government officials.
Fetchet, who lost her son Brad, 24, in the attack on the World Trade Center, is still haunting the nation’s capital – but said she’s one of only a few still doing so.
“There is a sense of complacency in the American public – the American public feels that they’re safer today,” she said. “They probably are, but I’m concerned about the complacency.”
Fetchet, of New Canaan, the founder of a nationwide organization for families of 9/11 attack victims, was part of a panel discussion Monday at the Yale law school on progress made since Sept. 11, 2001, in implementing security proposals and obstacles that lay ahead.
The panel also included U.S. Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays, R-4th District, and Michael Hurley, the former director of counter-terrorism policy review for the 9/11 commission.
Fetchet’s organization, Voices of September 11, offers support for the victims’ families and has been an advocate for greater national security. Other panel members credited Fetchet and the organization as a key factor in creation of the 9/11 commission in 2002 – the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States.
Fetchet said it’s understandable that so many other family members have become less dogged in their pursuit of government reforms. For one thing, it’s exhausting. Had she known the amount of bureaucracy and politics involved in her quest, Fetchet said, she likely would never have founded her organization.
But in the days after 9/11, she wasn’t thinking about any of that. She choked back tears when she told the roughly 100 in attendance Monday of a rally she spoke at to promote the creation of the 9/11 commission.
“Like the other families that attended that day, I recognized that our country was vulnerable due to systemic failures,” she said. “I wanted to be sure that those failures were identified and that our government took the necessary measures to make our country safer.”
She said the organization has been busy campaigning on four topics: • Producing a more accurate assessment of high-risk areas in the nation and setting up appropriate funding for those areas. • Streamlining congressional oversight of Homeland Security. As it is now, she said, Homeland Security officials are bogged down by having to testify to so many congressional committees. • The creation of an independent civil liberties board to help ensure that Americans’ rights aren’t jeopardized in the war on terror. • Addressing the root of terrorism by improving international relations.
Hurley was upbeat about the progress made since 9/11. Many of the 41 recommendations in the 9/11 commission report, issued in July, have been signed into legislation. But that’s still a big step away from having the recommendations implemented, he said. One of the tests will be how John Negroponte succeeds as the first U.S. director of national intelligence. The creation of the position was one of the commission’s key recommendations.
He also told the Yale law students that the future of intelligence depended on their generation.
“The government needs good people – young people with your backgrounds,” he said. “We need to look at what happens when the rule of law breaks down in other countries.”