Skip to main content
U.S. Edition

Father recalls son's last words on 9/11

'Don't worry, Dad. If it happens it will be quick'

From Phil Hirschkorn

Peter Hanson, his wife, Sue, and their daughter, Christine, died in the September 11, 2001, attacks.


Do you think Zacarias Moussaoui should get the death penalty?
or View Results



September 11 attacks
Capital Punishment
Zacarias Moussaoui

ALEXANDRIA, Virginia (CNN) -- Jurors at Zacarias Moussaoui's death penalty trial heard wrenching accounts Monday about the 9/11 attacks' youngest victim and the World Trade Center firm that suffered the largest human toll.

One after the other, a diverse parade of government witnesses cried or fought back tears as they testified.

Seven of the 15 government witnesses lost two or more relatives in the trade center attacks. The jury also heard a pair of phone calls from victims trapped inside the towers. (Watch the kinds of scenes jurors viewed of rescue attempts --2:45)

Lee Hanson, 73, described how he watched on television as his son, Peter, 32, daughter-in-law, Sue Kim, 35, and granddaughter, Christine, perished aboard United Airlines Flight 175 as it slammed into the trade center's south tower.

Christine, 2 1/2 years old, was the youngest of the 2,973 victims.

"She was the sweetest little girl," her grandfather recalled. "She was love personified."

Peter had planned to combine a business trip with a family visit to Disneyland and his in-laws, who are Korean immigrants.

He called his father as the hijackings unfolded, describing in a soft voice how a flight attendant had been stabbed, Hanson testified.

When he called a second time, Peter said the hijackers' flying was so bumpy that passengers were vomiting.

"I think they're going to try to crash this plane into a building," the son told his father. " 'Don't worry, Dad. If it happens, it will be quick,' " Hanson quoted his son as saying.

Moments later, as his son whispered, "Oh, my God," into the phone three times, Lee Hanson watched on television as the plane struck the tower and burst into a fireball.

'They took away our dreams'

"They took away our dreams. They took away our future," Hanson testified.

He described how he later went to his son's house to collect toothbrushes and picked hair off brushes so medical examiners could obtain DNA samples to identify remains.

Also on the plane was Ruth Clifford McCourt, 45, whose older brother, Ronald, was her "Irish twin." Born a year apart, they grew up together in Ireland.

"It's a huge void that will never be filled," Ronald Clifford testified.

At the time Flight 175 crashed, Ronald Clifford was at the World Trade Center complex hotel aiding a bystander who had been badly burned by the first crash.

"I had no clue," Clifford said about his sister.

The woman he was helping, Jennieann Maffeo, 40, had been standing in the street waiting for a bus when the first tower was hit. Clifford eventually got her to an ambulance and she was carried to a hospital uptown.

Maffeo's sister, Andrea, testified: "She was bandaged from her neck down to the top of her feet."

Jennieann Maffeo was hospitalized for 41 days and endured 14 surgeries before she died. The sisters, both unmarried, shared in taking care of their elderly parents.

"There's not a day that goes by that's not filled with sadness," Andrea Maffeo told the jury.

Flaming jet fuel

Tax lawyer Harry Waizer was riding the elevator up to his office at Cantor Fitzgerald when the first plane struck. Flaming jet fuel burned his face, legs and arms, and damaged his lungs and throat.

In a raspy voice, Waizer described how other people stared at him as he descended the trade center fire stairwell.

"I could tell from those expressions I was not doing well. I could see jaws dropping," Waizer said.

He later suffered a spinal infection that caused a permanent back injury. "On a good day, discomfort; on a bad day, pain," he said.

Yet Waizer was among the luckier employees of Cantor Fitzgerald, which lost 658 staffers on September 11 -- more than any other company or group of emergency responders.

Two of the Cantor Fitzgerald victims were brothers Tim and John Grazioso, 42 and 41, both married with children.

"I never considered my brothers would ever die," their younger sister, Carol Azzarello, told jurors. "There's no end to it."

Wei Bin Wang, 41, from China, won Ivy League scholarships to study geophysics and earned a doctorate. He also was killed on the job for Cantor.

His wife, Wen Shi, told the jurors that he was a "100 percent husband." The couple had three children. "To this day, all of my kids miss him so much," she said.

911 tapes played

In addition to the witnesses, prosecutors played four minutes of Melissa Doi's recorded 911 phone call as she was trapped on the 83rd floor of the flaming south tower.

"We can't breathe," Doi told the operator. "It's very, very, very hot." Doi, 32, said five others were with her and the lights were out.

"Everyone's having trouble breathing," Doi said. "I don't see any air anymore. All I see is smoke."

The operator urged her to stay calm and advised help was on the way.

"I'm going to die, aren't I?" Doi said. 'I'm going to die."

The day ended with a tape of Kevin Cosgrove, vice president of insurance claims for AON, on the phone with a 911 dispatcher from the smoky 105th floor of the south tower.

"We're getting there," the dispatcher told Cosgrove.

"Doesn't feel like it, man. I got young kids," he replied. "Tell God, blow the wind from the west."

Moments later, as video showed the tower imploding, Cosgrove, 46, could be heard screaming, "Oh, God! Oh!" Then the recording stopped.

Prosecutors next will present testimony and evidence about the hijacking attack on the Pentagon and a fourth hijacked plane that crashed near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

The jury already has decided that Moussaoui, 37, a Frenchman of Moroccan heritage, is eligible for the death penalty because his lies to federal agents after his arrest in August 2001 furthered the conspiracy and contributed to 9/11 deaths.

Story Tools
Click Here to try 4 Free Trial Issues of Time! cover
Top Stories
Get up-to-the minute news from CNN gives you the latest stories and video from the around the world, with in-depth coverage of U.S. news, politics, entertainment, health, crime, tech and more.
Top Stories
Get up-to-the minute news from CNN gives you the latest stories and video from the around the world, with in-depth coverage of U.S. news, politics, entertainment, health, crime, tech and more.

CNN TV E-mail Services CNN Mobile CNNAvantGo Ad Info About Us Preferences
© 2007 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us. Site Map.
Offsite Icon External sites open in new window; not endorsed by
Pipeline Icon Pay service with live and archived video. Learn more
Radio News Icon Download audio news  |  RSS Feed Add RSS headlines