Relatives of Sept. 11 victims
tell German court of their loss
Kin of 5 confront accused plotter in terror trial
January 31, 2003
By Daniel Rubin, Knight Ridder
HAMBURG -- Maureen Fanning was not afraid to face
the man accused of helping to plot the terrorist attack that
killed her husband.
"I was afraid of not coming here," the
registered nurse from Long Island, N.Y., told a German court
She packed her husband's New York City
firefighter's jacket, decorated with three medals for valor, and
she brought a photograph of his white battalion chief's helmet.
Rescue workers found Jack Fanning's helmet last March 19, near
the lobby of the World Trade Center's south tower. That's where
he was last seen on Sept. 11, ushering people out of the burning
The charred helmet is the only evidence that has
been found of Jack Fanning, who was 54 when he died.
Fanning's widow and the relatives of four other
victims of the Sept. 11 attacks came to this German port city to
confront Mounir el Motassadeq, the first man to stand trial for
plotting the suicide hijackings. For three months, German
prosecutors have argued before a panel of five judges that
Motassadeq, 28, is an Al Qaeda member and an accessory to the
murder of thousands in New York, Washington, and western
German law allows survivors to serve as
coplaintiffs to the prosecution in murder cases. And so
yesterday, Motassadeq sat in the high-security courtroom and
listened to Fanning, 46, tell how she had to use pictures of her
husband and a smoking building to explain to her 13-year-old son,
one of two who have autism, that her husband was dead.
"The boys have very little in their lives. They
can't read or write. They have no friends to ring the doorbell.
They had Jack to walk in the door and smile at them, something
special," she said. "That was stolen from them on 9/11."
Motassadeq listened as Joan Molinaro described
what life has been like since her son Carl, also a firefighter,
was killed. He died in the Trade Center's north tower, after
sprinting up more than 11 floors with 70 pounds of equipment on
She wanted the court to know how it feels to watch
the footage of that day over and over.
"When I watch it, and I always do, I lean toward
the TV and in my heart and in my mind I scream, 'Carl, run! Run!
This time you'll make it out....He never comes out."
The translator had to pause to collect himself
when the Staten Island woman described what it is like "knowing
I will never hear my son say, 'Mommy, I love you' again."
Motassadeq listened to Michael Low imagine the
last seconds of his impish, poetry-writing daughter, Sara -- a
flight attendant on the first plane to hit the World Trade
Motassadeq saw Deena Burnett, whose husband, Tom,
was among the passengers who took back United Airlines Flight 93,
which crashed in a Pennsylvania field, hold up a picture of her
three young daughters. The girls, she said, stuff their crayon
drawings into helium balloons and release them into the air,
hoping that their father can see them.
Burnett described the cellphone calls her husband
made from Flight 93 over Pennsylvania.
At 9:27 that morning he called, and she asked if
he was OK.
"No I'm not," he replied. "I am in an airplane
that's been hijacked." He told her that the hijackers had knifed
a passenger and that she should call the authorities. Then he
At 9:34 he called back. The hijackers were in the
cockpit. The stabbed passenger was dead. When she told him what
had happened at the World Trade Center, he began asking
questions, "gathering information to help solve the problem on
His courage calmed her. "I tried to assist him by
watching TV," she said.
When he called again at 9:45, she told him that
another plane had struck the Pentagon. "He then told me he was
putting a plan together to take back the airplane," she said,
"and he told me not to worry."
She last heard from her husband at 9:54.
"He told me they were waiting until they were
over a rural area," she said. "I pleaded with him to be
passive. He yelled into the phone, 'No dear -- not if they're
going to crash the plane. We are going to do something."
Four minutes later, she told the court, Tom
Burnett, a 6-foot-2-inch, 205-pound former football player, and a
group of passengers stormed the cockpit.
At 10:08, Flight 93 crashed into the ground near Shanksville, Pa.
This story ran on page A14 of the Boston Globe on 1/31/2003.
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