Jersey Girls

Generic five years how safe are we september 11 CBS/AP

For Lorie Van Auken, Mindy Kleinberg and Patty Casazza, Sept. 11 still happens every single day.

"I can't believe that my kids are five years older. And that my husband's been gone for five years," says Van Auken, choking up. "Five years is a long time to not see someone."

"I wake up with that every morning. It's the same feeling, whether it's an anniversary or not," Casazza says.

Asked what the feeling is, Casazza says, "It's despair and hope and sorrow."

"And hope?" CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric asks.

"You have to have hope. We have children. You want something better for them," Casazza replies.

When their husbands, John, Kenneth and Alan, died in the World Trade Center, they left behind six children who are still dealing with that loss.

Mindy Kleinberg's 7-year-old son tries to stay connected to his father by visiting a skate park dedicated to his memory.

"They had built a skate park in the town and they had dedicated it to my husband. And he has felt very strongly that it's disrespectful if we don't go there a lot. And he is talking more and more about how it feels for him not to have a father," Mindy Kleinberg explains. "You know, he tells me time and time, 'I didn't really know him.' And when he says it, it's heartbreaking."

But Lorie, Mindy and Patty aren't just single moms and grieving widows. Just a few months after Sept. 11, they teamed up with fellow widow Kristen Breitweiser. They became self-taught, some say self-appointed, experts on 9/11 and began to push hard for an investigation.

They were dubbed the "Jersey Girls" and joined forces with other 9/11 families to fight a White House reluctant to mount an investigation. They finally wore Washington down.

"Tom Kean, who was head of the 9/11 commission, said 'I doubt very much we would be in existence without them,' meaning without you all. Why was it so important for you to make sure that commission was created in the first place?" Couric asks Van Auken.

"We had questions that were not being answered. We knew we were still at risk. We knew that we couldn't make changes without an accurate and truthful look back at what had gone wrong," she replies.

On the first day of hearings, Mindy testified.

After 15 months of grueling testimony, the commission's final report came out with 41 urgent recommendations. These included distributing homeland security funds based on risk, making major improvements in airline passenger screening and securing nuclear materials. But two years later, the commission's chairman says some of the most important recommendations have not been fully implemented.
  • Daniel Schorn

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