Justice for 9/11 families at last: The Saudis must be held to account

By Terry Strada

Hearing politicians tell us they will “never forget” the nearly 3,000 Americans murdered on Sept. 11, 2001 in the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil does not bring the 9/11 families and survivors any closer to justice. It is an important phrase that we hear year after year, and it forever memorializes our loved ones lost — like Tom, my husband and father of my three children who perished in the North Tower in lower Manhattan on that fateful day.

Thankfully, an esteemed bipartisan group of legislators in Congress recently lived up to the saying during the conclusion of the 117th Congress. Working into the wee hours of the night to include an expanded version of the bipartisan Fairness for 9/11 Families Act (the Menendez-Cotton amendment) in the 2023 omnibus bill signed into law by President Biden, Sen. Chuck Schumer proved his commitment to the 9/11 community’s quest for fairness and justice by forcing the amendment to a vote. With a 93-4 victory in the Senate, all victims of state-funded terrorism will benefit from the new law. As a 9/11 widow and mother of three children, I am particularly grateful for everyone who worked round the clock to achieve this overwhelming support.

A special thanks is due to Sen. Bob Menendez and his staff who worked tirelessly with 9/11 families for several years, as well as Sens. John Cornyn and Chuck Grassley on this issue.

The Fairness for 9/11 Families Act fixes a mistake that excluded some 9/11 victims and their families from receiving compensation from the United States Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund (USVSST). For these families who were left in the cold by this unintended error, the passage of this legislation will help them in the long wake of tragedy caused by the 9/11 attacks.

The passage of this legislation — and the push by our champions in Congress — reminds us that we are not alone in our push for justice and accountability for the 9/11 attacks. We are grateful that our elected officials are not just saying “never forget.” They are living it out in the halls of Congress.

Still, the road to justice and accountability is long and there is so much work left to be done. Every person, every organization, and every foreign government that participated in any way associated with the attacks must be held responsible for true justice and accountability to be achieved.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is one of these responsible parties. It played an instrumental role in the 9/11 attacks and, for more than 20 years, our 9/11 community has tried to help expose their complicity. To his credit, Biden did issue an Executive Order in 2021 that resulted in the public disclosure of thousands of documents on an ongoing basis which contained conclusive evidence that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, its officials, state-run charities, banks, and citizen-agents of its government provided the essential material and financial support for the 9/11 hijackers.

As a new Congress begins, the 9/11 community’s fight for justice and accountability continues. While we are grateful that leaders in both parties were able to set partisanship aside to pass the Fairness for 9/11 Families Act, we continue to need our country’s leaders to insist that individuals and institutions in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia take responsibility for the pain and suffering inflicted on us and Saudi Arabia to be held accountable for funding Al Qaeda and enabling Al Qaeda to flourish on its dime.

It takes hard work, courage and a strong moral compass to stand up against the Kingdom and their stable of high-priced lawyers and lobbyists that work day in and day out to bolster the Kingdom’s reputation. 9/11 victims’ family members and survivors have both and many of our elected officials in Congress have shown to have it too; however, we have been in the fight for accountability and justice for far too long. Twenty one years is too long to wait for our government to help us get the truth and full transparency about the murder of our loved ones. Despite these obstacles, we will remain steadfast in our fight to hold the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia responsible for their role in the murder of our loved ones.

In order to achieve the justice we deserve and close this painful chapter of our lives, we need President Biden to ensure our U.S. intelligence agencies comply with his executive order, by fully cooperating with court-ordered subpoenas and finally release all government documents that have been kept secret from the American people. Then maybe we can believe them next time they tell us they will “never forget.”