Eye-opening memoir by the spouse of a 9/11 victim.
The near-miss courtship of Kristen and Ron Breitweiser was anything but a fairy tale. Seton Hall law student Kristen initially believed Ron to be a boozy stalker and spurned his advances. But he was exceptionally persistent and eventually proved himself to be a romantic husband and a proud father. Daughter Caroline was born a year after the death, from cancer, of Kristen’s mother, and the author herself was diagnosed with a breast tumor just prior to September 11. Breitweiser’s devastation over the loss of her husband—he died at the World Trade Center—quickly morphed into vengeful frustration with the “bureaucracy of death.” Incapacitated for a time by grief and paranoia, she eventually began attending Victims’ Rights meetings, where she was befriended and ultimately empowered by three other widows, all seeking answers from double-talking government agencies. She was disgusted by the manipulative machinations of the Victims’ Compensation Fund, which the author believes set a precedent for “assigning a finite value for the pain and suffering of any victim” that encouraged airlines and corporations “to conduct a very cold calculation. . . . Is it cheaper to overhaul our product to make it safer for the public at large or is it just cheaper to pay for the dead and injured?” Just over a year after the tragedy, the author fired up her “Widowmobile,” headed to Washington and spoke before the Joint Intelligence Committee of Congress, arguing for the formation of an independent 9/11 Commission to investigate the nation’s intelligence failures. Illuminated by the media spotlight, Breitweiser’s plight got its due, but questions remained unanswered. Among the grim moments that drive home the burdens survivors bear, the author describes the painful disposal of her New Jersey home’s contents (including her dead husband’s clothes) and the medical examiner’s overdue delivery of Ron’s right arm.
Valiant and heartbreaking.