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Donna Marsh O'Connor

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Give Us Our Day in Federal Court

Posted: 03/08/2013 9:15 am

Today we are told the United States has custody of Osama bin Laden's son-in-law, that he is in a New York City prison and that he will be tried here, close to where most of the nearly 3,000 people died on 9/11/2001.

9/11 families have been down this road before. We have been told that those accused of the murder of our loved ones will be, once and in front of and for all, tried for the crimes in open, transparent, federal courts. We have been told that we have the opportunity to face those accused of taking from our lives a piece of us. And, despite the fact that federal courts have an almost 300 to 1 success ratio over military tribunals, the trials of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his alleged co-conspirators are being held at Guantanamo Bay, outside of the view of most 9/11 families.

And this because of the outcry -- we cannot maintain the safety of New Yorkers if these trials are held here.

We live, or once we lived, in a nation of laws. Of each of our American rights, the right to habeas corpus, the right to face one's accusers, the right to be tried in full view of the citizenry is of the utmost importance. It is the right that means we are civilized and that we are ethical. It is the right that acknowledges our commitment to one another.

For those of us who are not among the guilty, but those to whom the accused did harm, we, too, have been protected by our system of justice. It is by virtue of this system that we are granted justice rather than vengeance, that we preserve our way of life rather than pretending our way of life is located simply in our contemporary conveniences.

Look around at our nation with a critical eye. Hate abounds. Fear abounds. In a myriad of ways we are making unwise choices, most of them motivated by our fears -- of losing our wealth, of losing our homes, of losing our lives to those who hate us from afar. And despite the fact that we focus on our fears, we are powerless to curtail any of the violence.

No one person, no nation can ever be safe in a world that is filled with potential danger. It always was. It always will be. But our laws were not built on our fears; they were built despite those fears.

This American way of life is not dead. It is sleeping.

As a 9/11 family member who paid dearly when my daughter went to work, I am hoping that this time, in my home city, the rule of law prevails. I hope this time, my fellow Americans give me and other 9/11 families our day in court.

 

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