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Gary Younge
9/11 victims' last words to be revealed

Families of the victims, who have all had the opportunity to read the transcripts, are split over the release of calls totalling almost 260 hours made on the morning of September 11 2001. Some families are dreading the gratuitous re-publication in the media.

"People are looking for horror stories, not the good things," said Laurie Tietjen, whose brother, Kenneth, died. "A lot of the information there is pretty personal. It doesn't help to have it out there in the public. It's just extremely hurtful to the families."

Leila Negron, who lost her husband, Peter, is reluctant to relive the tragedy. "For me and my children, it's like being slapped in the face with it happening again," she said.

Others believe the move will raise public awareness of what can be done to avoid another tragedy on a similar scale. "I think the public needs to be aware that they are in situations that aren't exactly perfect," said Monica Gabrielle, co-chairwoman of a skyscraper safety group, whose husband died in the attacks.

"This comes from knowledge. There's not much that's private about this. Hopefully, there's a whole host of information there as to what went wrong, what could be done better, what went right."

Other relatives feel there is a conflict; they do not oppose the release but they are eager to keep at a distance from anything they might reveal.

Theresa Riccardelli, who lost her husband, Francis, declined the chance to read the transcripts. "It's not that I don't have an interest. I can't. I know everything my husband did that morning, and that's enough for me. I know the final outcome. My husband didn't get to come home."

Dorothy McLaughlin, whose son George died, acknowledged that the tapes might be disturbing. "But by the other token, I know that a lot of families would like to hear. For myself, I'm not 100% sure. I don't know that Georgie was able to make any calls out."

A state judge has ruled that the transcripts must be released by the close of business today. The judgment came after the New York port authority, whose police fielded the calls on the day, tried to back out of an agreement made with the New York Times last month. The news-paper had begun seeking tapes, transcripts and reports of emergency calls in March last year.

David McCraw, a lawyer for the newspaper, said: "We believe that the transcripts will help to better understand how emergency operations were handled."

The port authority, keen to protect the privacy of the victims' families, has urged the news media to "refrain from publishing gruesome, gratuitous or personal details".

One port authority employee said the transcripts revealed little beyond human tragedy and communication back and forth between police officers. "There's no smoking gun here," he said.

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