9/11 Widow Kristen Breitweiser
Gutsy and incisive performance from a woman with a mission
DONAHUE: Well, Kristen Breitweiser is one of many widows
left behind after September 11th. But in the midst of her grief, shes
decided to wage a battle against the United States government, demanding
answers to why her husband had to die.
Thank you so much, Kristen.
You know, I read the Vanity Fair piece which called our
attention to you. You eloped, you said, with your husband, and you werent
even pregnant. Made me smile. And there are not a lot of smiles in this
story. He called you from his office. What floor was he on?
KRISTEN BREITWEISER, HUSBAND KILLED
ON 9/11: He was on the 94th floor. He called at 8:51 to tell me that he
was OK. He said Sweets, dont worry. Im fine.
And I didnt know what he was talking about. I didnt have
the television on. And he said, You dont know? You
know, I was sitting at my desk and...
DONAHUE: Now, wait a minute. Didnt he
say something about heat and...
BREITWEISER: Thats what I was
just going to say.
DONAHUE: Oh, Im sorry. Im sorry.
BREITWEISER: He was sitting at his desk
and had a window seat. And he said My cheek got warm, and I looked
over and there was this huge fireball and...
DONAHUE: The other building.
BREITWEISER: Which was the other building.
And he knew that I wouldnt know what building he was in. And he
said, I didnt want you to worry. I just wanted you to know
that Im OK and that its not my building and that I love
you and I just didnt want you to worry. I said, OK,
you know? He said, Turn the television on, and I turned
the TV on. And hes, like, I have to go. Were going
to go watch it on the television. Dont worry, though. I love you.
And Im, like, OK, just be careful. And that was the
last I spoke to him. And about three minutes later, I saw his building
DONAHUE: So youre watching live television.
You have received the call from your husband saying Dont
worry. You turn on the TV, you see the second plane hit and you
know, dont you?
BREITWEISER: I knew right away. I knew
approximately where his office was because he said that he was looking
directly across at tower one. And I just had a feeling inside. And then
when I saw the building subsequently collapse, I just said, My
God, he is gone. And I fell to the floor and...
DONAHUE: Was your 3-year-old daughter there?
BREITWEISER: And my dog and...
DONAHUE: Probably wanting to know whats
going on with Mom. Thats -
OK, so here you are. You know youre
not alone. Nothing anybodys going to say is going to ever make
you feel better. You got to hold up. Youve got a daughter you got
to worry about, all the rest.
But as the days go on-do I understand this,
that-you know, and you start to put yourself together here, was it an
anger that you felt?
BREITWEISER: I think what really initially
started was I saw the picture of the president in, I think it was Newsweek
or Time magazine, and I read the caption. And the caption
said, you know, Andy Card telling the president about the second
plane. And then I read that he proceeded to read for 25 minutes
to the 2nd-graders. He was in a Sarasota school that morning for a reading
And I read it again, and I thought it was,
you know, misreported. And it wasnt, and I got upset. I said, you
know, this nation was under attack. It was clear that we were under attack.
Why didnt the Secret Service whisk him out of that school? He was
on live local television in Florida. The terrorists, you know, had been
in Florida. I mean, we find out that out now. He was less than 10 miles
from an airport.
BREITWEISER: And I-I am concerned. I
want to know why the Secret Service did not whisk him away. I want to
know why he is the commander-in-chief of the United States of America,
our country was clearly under attack, it was after the second building
was hit. I want to know why he sat there for 25 minutes.
DONAHUE: Yeah. Well, I dont want to
argue this with you at all. You know, theres lots of things that
would make Americans upset, to be sure. I think the president might argue,
you know, those kids were there. Hes the president. If he acts
like hes nervous or in a hurry-I dont know. Less forgiving-you
know, Im less generous about the issue of what happened after those
planes took off. And I think you feel this way, too. Do you want to talk
BREITWEISER: You know, I think...
DONAHUE: Two took off from Boston, one from
BREITWEISER: Right. And I think that
I have a lot of problems with the Pentagon. I dont understand how
a plane could hit our Defense Department, which is the Pentagon, an hour
after the first plane hit the first tower. I dont understand how
that is possible.
Im a reasonable person. But when you
look at the fact that we spend a half trillion dollars on national defense
and youre telling me that a plane is able to hit our Pentagon,
our Defense Department, an hour after the first tower is hit? There are
procedures and protocols in place in this nation that are to be followed
when transponders are disconnected, and they were not followed on September
DONAHUE: Right. You make the case that they
scrambled and escorted Payne Stewarts plane faster, you think.
BREITWEISER: Right. We use that as an
example in our meetings.
DONAHUE: Ive only a couple seconds here,
but I want you to get this in.
DONAHUE: Go ahead. They got up there quickly
with the golfer...
BREITWEISER: They got up there right
DONAHUE: ... who was deprived of oxygen. Everybody
fell asleep on the airplane.
BREITWEISER: They got there very quickly.
Moreover, the jets that were scrambled on September 11th were not only
late, but they were sent from Air Force bases 200 miles away.
DONAHUE: Well be back in just a moment with
DONAHUE: Kristen Breitweiser-theres
her husband. He was killed when the second plane hit the World Trade Center
on September 11th. She saw the plane hit his building after he called
her. Middletown, New Jersey, Kristen.
You want an independent investigation. Now,
lets make this point here. Incidentally, you came here with three
other widows, didnt you? You guys must be tight.
BREITWEISER: Theyre my family.
We are all family. And it is how we have all survived in the last year.
DONAHUE: Tell me about what your-whats-what
is September 11th Advocates all about? What do you want to happen?
BREITWEISER: At this point, we are
fighting for an independent investigation, an investigation into 9/11
removed from the political process. We dont feel comfortable with
Congress investigating itself, basically. You have congressional committees
that had oversight duties with the FBI and the CIA. We want politics removed.
We want pure accountability, and we feel that an independent investigation
is needed to have that.
Weve had independent investigations
with regard to Pearl Harbor, with regard to the shuttle accident. If theres
a car accident, you have an investigation. We have waited 11 months, and
I think it is deplorable that these women and myself have to leave our
children, our homes, and go down to Washington and beg for answers. To
have the right to have answers, we have to beg. And its disgusting.
DONAHUE: Yeah. Its hard to believe that
you had to beg. Now, you have to be well received when you go to Washington.
I mean, people have got to be treating you like an egg.
BREITWEISER: I think we are well received,
but I think there was a definite reticence on behalf of certain individuals
that are fighting this independent investigation. And Im sorry.
There are 3,000 lives lost and three million questions remaining.
DONAHUE: Would you care to name those individuals?
BREITWEISER: No. I mean, I dont
think its too hard to say. I mean, I think that the newspapers
have reported openly that the White House is against it. I understand
that theyre probably embarrassed. But unfortunately, my husband
was murdered by Middle Eastern terrorists at his desk, and I would like
some answers. You have President Bush out there saying that he wants transparency
and accountability on behalf of Fortune 500 CEOs. I would like some transparency
and accountability on behalf of, you know, President Bush and his workers,
who were the individuals that failed my husband and the 3,000 other people
DONAHUE: So you have to say, then, while you
have been accorded all the courtesies we would expect to be extended to
a widow, theres nothing - - you dont see anything substantial
BREITWEISER: No. I think, you know,
the legislation was brought to the House. It passed the House. We were
very pleased with that. Its now sitting in the Senate, and the
Senate needs to do its job. I am sick and tired of people not doing the
right thing. I am sick and tired of having nothing being done since September
This country is not safe. I want to feel safe
in this country. And I think that, to quote Edmund Burke, all that is
needed for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing. And at this
point, the families feel that way. We feel that nothing is being done
to make this country safe.
And you know, its interesting to say,
at this time of year, everyone is asking us, you know, what can we do
to memorialize, what can we do to memorialize. And you know what? An independent
investigation. Lets make sure our husbands, our loved ones did
not die in vain. Lets make sure that all the children that will
now have to grow up with this horror, this devastation in their lives
will have some answers, will be able to make sense of it.
Thats part of the grieving process.
You need to have answers so that you can move on.
DONAHUE: So we see all this action, military
go, go, go, bomb, bomb, bomb...
DONAHUE: ... bang, bang, bang. Thats
the whole thing. And you know, we cant be-I dont think we
want to send somebody to jail for wanting to go out and find whos
responsible for this. But you want an independent investigation on the
events before 9/11. I understand that.
BREITWEISER: I want an independent investigation
into the 24 hours of September 11th. I want to know why certain things
failed. I want to know why my husband was told to return to his desk when
the FAA comes out on Monday with a press conference saying that it was
an excruciating 11 minutes for the controllers to think about that airliner
heading dead center on my husbands building. Eleven minutes on
an express elevator in tower two would have been my husbands life.
DONAHUE: Right. You hope-you prayed that your
husband just vaporized without pain. But you got then a notice of-tell
me that. We only have 20 seconds.
BREITWEISER: In October, I received
my husbands wedding band, which I wear on my finger. And it was
recovered with a part of his finger. And thats all I have, is his
wedding band, which is a miracle. It was recovered from ground zero, and
I recovered a part of his finger.
DONAHUE: Kristen Breitweiser, I thank you very, very