BROOKLYN — Retired FDNY Deputy Chief, James Riches, lost his oldest son, Jimmy, in the Twin Towers collapse, the day before Jimmy’s 30th birthday.
Jimmy Riches was one of the first responders to reach the North Tower, after the 9/11 terror attacks.
More than 15 years later, Riches is hoping a new administration in the White House will finally allow a lawsuit against Saudi Arabia to move forward swiftly in the courts.
“The Obama and Bush administrations have done nothing but fight the 9/11 families for 15 years,” Riches said recently, outside his Brooklyn home. “The United States government took the side of the Saudis over the 9/11 families.”
Last fall, then-President Obama vetoed the JASTA law that was passed by the House and Senate. JASTA stands for “Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act.”
There was evidence in formerly classified papers, from the 9/11 Commission report, that high-ranking Saudi officials gave money to support two, Saudi-born hijackers living in San Diego. “Handlers” connected to the Saudi government were helping the future hijackers financially during an 18-month period.
When President Obama vetoed the law, he said it would damage a president’s ability to conduct foreign policy. He expressed concern it would open the door to other countries to sue the United States. But the House and Senate didn’t buy the argument and overrode President Obama’s veto, the first time that happened during the eight years Barack Obama spent in the White House.
“We worked on it for four years,” said Terry Strada said of the law, at her home in New Vernon, New Jersey. “”It’s any nation that’s knowingly financing a terrorist organization. I believe it goes very high.”
Strada, a mother of three who gave birth to her youngest child four days before September 11th, 2001, lost her husband, Tom — who was working in the offices of Cantor Fitzgerald.
Tom Strada was able to make one, last phone call to her, after the jet hit his tower.
“He said he was going to the stairwell to try and get out but, as we found out later, there were no stairwells left.”
Strada was a leading voice in the fight to get JASTA pushed through Congress. She was upset when a couple of Republican Senators talked of adding an amendment to the law, in the closing days of the Obama Administration.
So was James Riches.
“The lobbyists are there,” Riches fumed. “Saudi Arabia doesn’t want this to come out.”
“At least 100,000 pages are still not de-classified,” Terry Strada said.
One of the prominent law firms preparing a suit against Saudi Arabia is Kreindler and Kreindler in New York.
Jim Kreindler is leading the charge, and he has good experience in these matters.
Kreindler represented families who sued Libya, in the years after Pan Am Flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland on its way to New York in December 1988.
It was several days before Christmas, and 35 students from Syracuse University were among the dead.
A top-level Libyan intelligence agent had planted the bomb in a suitcase.
The Libyan government later paid out $2.7 billion to the grieving families of those killed. The payouts started in 2003, and each family ultimately received $10 million.
Kreindler explained the reasons why the United States was inclined to protect Saudi Arabia, noting the monarchy had been a U.S. ally against Iran for many years and also had oil reserves the U.S. valued.
So, why would high-ranking officials connected to the Saudi royal family finance 9/11? Kreindler said Saudi Arabia feared its monarchy would be vulnerable, after the Shah of Iran was ousted in 1979.
“And the royal family in Saudi Arabia said , ‘Wow! We could be next. We have to accommodate the fundamentalists,’” Kreindler said. “To get the support of the mullahs, it was necessary to support bin Laden and Al Qaeda…and what are called the “charities” were agencies, arms of the Saudi government, funding Al Qaeda and setting up training camps. They were, you know, playing both sides of the game: Being an ally, while working with Al Qaeda to attack the United States.”
Nelly Braginsky is now 80 years old and lost her only child, 38-year-old Alex, in the 9/11 attacks. Alexander Braginsky was a financial executive with Reuters and was hosting a business breakfast on the 106th floor of Tower One at 8:30 a.m. in the morning on 9/11….breakfast at Windows on the World.
“He was jumping, I know my son,” Braginsky — an immigrant from the Ukraine — said in her distinctive accent.
She said her son would never wait for the flames and smoke to engulf him.
His wallet was found a day after the terror attacks on the street, with no fire damage.
It was marked Item Number One, and Nelly Braginsky donated it to the September 11th National Museum.
“They give me one bone,” Braginsky said, gesturing to her wrist. “This is what I bury.”