Sept. 11 Families React to Moussaoui Sentence

Family members of Sept. 11 victims have mixed reactions to the sparing of Zacarias Moussaoui's life. Some were shocked and disappointed but while others felt that killing Moussaoui would mean killing someone who didn't play a major role in the attacks.

JOHN YDSTIE, host:

Zacarias Moussaoui will be sentenced to life in prison, later today, for his role in the 9/11 attacks. After a long trial, the jury decided to spare his life. For two months, family members of 9/11 victims watched the trial--some inside the courthouse in Alexandria, Virginia, others watched by close-circuit TV, in special rooms set up for them in Boston, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

During the second phase of the trial, victims' families played an important role, testifying for both the defense and the prosecution. And those divisions remained when they learned about the jury's decision.

NPR's Laura Sullivan reports.

LAURA SULLIVAN reporting:

Robert Alonzo was stunned when he learned Moussaoui was going to live.

Mr. Robert Alonzo (Husband of 9/11 victim): I was pissed. He deserves death. He's a murderer.

SULLIVAN: Alonzo lost his wife in the first tower of the World Trade Center. He often thinks about the last time he talked to her, as the smoke took over her office on the 97th floor.

Mr. ALONZO: I was trying to reassure her, that my (unintelligible) you know, console her, make sure everyone was okay, and to be with somebody. And I told her that, you know, the kids loved her and I loved her, and I was coming down to get her.

SULLIVAN: Yesterday, driving home from school with his two children, Alonzo said he wanted this trial to end differently.

Mr. ALONZO: I want revenge. You know, I want revenge. And I won't get that because these guys hide in the caves and mountains. And today was an opportunity for me to get justice, and it wasn't served.

Ms. CARIE LAMACK (Daughter 9/11 victim): There were a lot of family members who wanted to see Zacarias Moussaoui die. But there are a lot of family members who did not.

SULLIVAN: Carie Lamack lost her mother aboard one of the planes that crashed into the Twin Towers. She said her mother would have wanted Moussaoui to live.

Ms. LAMACK: She would prefer to see someone like this spend their time in jail, and have to think about what he's made the decisions in his life and what he's chosen. Because he was not capable of pulling off these horrific attacks. He's a want-to-be who deserves to rot in jail. And I'm just glad that he got what he deserves today.

SULLIVAN: Day after day, family members lined up for a pass to sit inside the Alexandria courtroom. During the trial, some would cry, others would just stare at Moussaoui. Some said they were looking for answers; they wanted to know how the government might have prevented the attacks. Others said they were there for closure. But even for those pleased with the verdict yesterday, that wasn't easy to find.

Ms. ROSEMARY DILLARD (Wife of 9/11 Victim): There isn't a closure. You know, like a sore--they took the scab off. I feel like it happened yesterday.

SULLIVAN: Rosemary Dillard has spent almost everyday in the courtroom, over the past two months. At first, she wanted Moussaoui to be executed. But yesterday, she suddenly found herself undecided.

Ms. DILLARD: On the way over here, I was trying to decide what outcome do I want? What outcome do I want? And then I just settled in, and it's whatever the jury decided. Those men and women had a very difficult task to complete. And what they've come up with, is all right with me.

SULLIVAN: When this trial began, Zacarias Moussaoui had already pled guilty, and was going to be sentenced to life without parole. Even though the jury rejected the government's appeal for a death sentence, many family members said the trial was still worth it.

Mr. BILL DOYLE (Son Killed on 9/11): I lost my son, Joseph. He worked for Cantor Fitzgerald. He was 25 years old.

SULLIVAN: Bill Doyle is disappointed by the verdict. But he's glad the trial forced the government to reveal information about mistakes they made, leading up to 9/11. He worries now, that the Justice Department will no longer bring those involved in the 9/11 attacks to U.S. courtrooms.

Mr. DOYLE: I just don't want to see our government stop with this one person. There are so many others that were involved with 9/11.

SULLIVAN: As he left the courtroom yesterday, Moussaoui stood up and yelled, America, you lost. Bill Doyle and other family members say, he's wrong. They say the fact that Moussaoui received a fair trial in front of the world, and that 12 Americans spared his life, proves that the opposite is true.

Laura Sullivan, NPR News.

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