World

Alleged 9/11 plotters finally to answer for that traumatic day

** FILE ** Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged Sept. 11 mastermind, is seen shortly after his capture during a raid in Pakistan in this file photo from March 1, 2003 in this photo obtained by the Associated Press. Mohammed, who could face the death penalty for his role in the Sept. 11 attacks, has been peppering his military lawyer with questions in advance of his war crimes trial at Guantanamo, the attorney tells The Associated Press. (AP Photo-File)
** FILE ** Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged Sept. 11 mastermind, is seen shortly after his capture during a raid in Pakistan in this file photo from March 1, 2003 in this photo obtained by the Associated Press. Mohammed, who could face the death penalty for his role in the Sept. 11 attacks, has been peppering his military lawyer with questions in advance of his war crimes trial at Guantanamo, the attorney tells The Associated Press. (AP Photo-File)

WASHINGTON — Sally Regenhard still sobs at the thought of the price her son Christian, a New York firefighter, paid trying to save those inside the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.

"I feel that the 9/11 families have had no justice, no accountability, no responsibility from anyone — from either terrorists or local people in New York City who failed this city to national governmental agencies that failed the American people," she says.

On Thursday, a new chapter opens for Regenhard and other family members of 9/11 victims who have been seeking justice for their love ones: Alleged al Qaeda kingpin Khalid Sheik Mohammed and four others will formally be arraigned as co-conspirators at a military commission in distant Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

"There's no closure for parents. Ever. At least we'll get an idea of what a modicum of justice looks likes, seems like, tastes like," said Regenhard from her home in The Bronx. ‘‘There's a thirst for justice."

No homogenous group, the families left scarred by Sept. 11 include the tens of thousands of spouses, orphans and parents of the 3,973 adults and children killed that day.

Add the survivors, those who escaped injured, both physically and emotionally — and their number is too vast to quantify.

They include people like Alice Hoagland, whose son Mark Bingham fought the hijackers of United 93, bringing it down in a Pennsylvania field rather than perhaps on Pennsylvania Avenue.

She welcomes the trial at Guantanamo of Mohammed, who allegedly confessed in CIA custody, "and I do hope that he is found guilty," she said. "I'd like to see him justly punished ... for his ugly crimes every day of his life."

And they include the children whose parents perished at the World Trade Center, and who are still grieving, says Candy Cucharo, director of programs at Tuesday's Children, non-profit family service organization founded by family and friends of 9/11 victims.

"This is going to be a trauma trigger for them," said Cucharo, who works with the orphans of 9/11.

"For many kids, this is going to be a very traumatic event, reading it in the media, seeing it on television it's going to bring them back to their loss."

Thursday's arraignment is the first public appearance of the alleged organizers, financiers and trainers of the 19 hijackers, among them Mohammed — the man called KSM who has reportedly bragged to U.S. military officers that he masterminded the mass murder by airplane hijacking "from A to Z."

No one knows what he will do when he is led before a Marine Corps judge.

He and his alleged co-conspirators have been shielded from the public since their capture across the globe in 2003 — and subsequent secret overseas CIA custody, which included waterboarding Mohammed into confessing.

But the arraignment will surely thrust that dark day back into the headlines.

The Pentagon airlifted dozens of reporters from Washington to the remote U.S. Navy base — where an arraignment typically includes a formal reading of the charges. These charges include the names of all 2,973 victims.

With no provision for photography or Court TV style coverage, journalists being brought to the base on the eve of the Thursday arraignment will be left to describe what they see and hear.

No family members will be in attendance. The Defense Department is still developing a lottery system to choose observers from among the Sept. 11 families, and considering a secured closed-circuit feed to U.S. military bases in the United States.

Some regret that the trials will be held offshore, in far away Guantanamo, to be tried by U.S. military officers, not at the federal court in Manhattan where other alleged terrorists have been tried — and convicted.

Others say they don't want to put New York at risk, or through the pain, by bringing the alleged senior al Qaeda terrorists there.

Deputy Fire Chief Jim Riches, who led search and rescue operations at Ground Zero, personally carried his 29-year-old firefighter son's remains from the rubble.

Now he wants America to see the trial and the evidence and know what was done.

"They committed the crime in New York, where these people died, the murders occurred," he said. "They're making a commission on a military base. Well, I would like to see it at Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn, where I live."

So what, he said, if the alleged mastermind, known as KSM, boasts like he did in a Pentagon transcript that he orchestrated the plot "from A to Z'' and later, in Pakistan, beheaded Wall Street Journal correspondent Daniel Pearl "with my blessed hand."

"Taunting America will be their final act," said Riches. "Let's see how strong they are when they put that rope around their neck. I would pull the trigger. Or push the button. Or inject them and look right in their eyes -- if these guys are guilty.

"I would tell him, ‘There's no 90 virgins up there, buddy. You're going down to see Satan.' ''

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