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Interview with Stephen Push

Aired September 11, 2002 - 06:39   ET


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Right now, we're going to go to the Pentagon. Wolf Blitzer is standing by to walk us through what can be expected there later today, particularly as we all live under the specter of a heightened state of alert.
Good morning -- Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Paula.

This is going to be an emotional day for millions of people around the country, indeed, around the world, but especially here at the Pentagon.

I am joined now by a special guest, Stephen Push. Stephen Push, his wife, Lisa Raines, was killed aboard American Airlines Flight 77, as it crashed into the Pentagon exactly one year ago.

First of all, Stephen, once again, our condolences to you.

STEPHEN PUSH, 9/11 FAMILIES ASSN.: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: But briefly tell us, how are you coping today?

PUSH: I'm just trying to keep busy. I am working with families of September 11. This is a work day for me. And I'm just trying to keep myself distracted from my grief.

BLITZER: You were married for 21 years to Lisa.

PUSH: Yes, we were.

BLITZER: And obviously, that day will always be etched in your mind. You never get over that. But when you say a working day, what does that mean today is a working day for you?

PUSH: Well, I'll be doing a series of interviews with television and newspaper and radio reporters from around the world. In fact, I'll be -- this afternoon, I'll be doing a live interview for Abu Dhabi TV, which will be broadcast throughout the Arab world.

BLITZER: And what are you trying to do? What's your goal right now a year later?

PUSH: My goal is to see that other families don't have to go through what we're going through, to do whatever I can to change public policies so that we are more secure and less likely to suffer from terrorist attacks in the future. BLITZER: So, how do you do that as a single individual, even though you have put together a lot of the victims' families as part of this group that you're involved with?

PUSH: Yes, we have a thousand -- support from thousands of family members of the victims. And what we're trying to do -- the most important priority right now is to get the federal government to form an independent commission to do a thorough study of everything that went wrong that led up to the September 11 attacks, so that we can correct the problems in intelligence, border control and aviation security, to try to prevent this from happening again.

BLITZER: And you don't think the federal government is looking back and trying to do that?

PUSH: No. Unfortunately, the Bush administration has been resistant to the idea of doing an independent investigation. But we do have support in Congress. We got an amendment passed in the House last month. And now, we're working with the Senate, and we're hoping the Senate will pass something soon.

BLITZER: And the federal government's September 11 Victims Compensation Fund, they have begun handing out checks, and sometimes very, very large checks. That's obviously something that you welcome.

PUSH: Yes. The checks have been, as predicted, about $1.3 million on average, although it varies widely from family to family. And even though we had some problems with regulations that were instituted for the fund, it seems that the special master is being fair in how he is applying those regulations.

BLITZER: Kenneth Feinberg is the special master.

Stephen Push, once again, our deepest condolences to you and to your entire family. On this very, very sad, emotional day, you're moving forward.

PUSH: Thank you very much.

BLITZER: Thanks for joining us.

And we'll be here all day, Paula and Aaron. In about three hours or so, they'll be having the first of two ceremonies here at the Pentagon. The president will be delivering a major address, his aides say, here at the Pentagon. He'll be delivering one, of course, later this evening in New York City as well. We'll hear from the secretary of defense. We'll hear from the chairman of the Joint Chiefs.

We'll also hear from the people who were most directly involved when American Airlines Flight 77 smashed into this wall right behind me. It has been dramatically rebuilt at the cost of hundreds of millions of dollars over the past nearly one year -- Paula, Aaron.

ZAHN: It broke every deadline, I guess, in the rebuilding process. Before we let you go, Wolf, just a quick thought on how people there are responding to this new alert that was issued yesterday: orange.

BLITZER: Well, these are here at the Pentagon military personnel, civilians, as well as active duty, and there will be about 12,000 of them here. At any one time at the Pentagon, about 24,000 people work in this huge, huge building on these acres of land just outside of Washington, D.C.

And there are Avengers surface-to-air missile batteries that are now loaded, they're armed, they're ready to deal with all of this -- with a potential terror threat.

So, people are alert. People are nervous. This is a jittery nation on this first anniversary of 9/11 -- Paula.

ZAHN: Wolf, we'll see you little bit later on. Thanks so much.




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