Mary Fetchet – A 9/11 Voice Extraordinaire

 

1280px-fema_-_4267_-_photograph_by_michael_rieger_taken_on_10-10-2001_in_new_york

Prelude to a crusader:  Musical link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6xuVHgz1tJk

Please listen to Dame Shirley Bassey “You’ll Never Walk Alone” (2 min, 24 sec)

Much has been written about 9/11.  Although Ladyjustice is a confident writer after all of these years, even as a homicide survivor,  how does anyone do justice to such an event?  ‘Nearly impossible!  There have been numerous memorials in every state, dedications, fundraisers, media tributes and movies as well as personal gestures from young and old alike.

Amid considerable tears, LJ watched the 10 year anniversary television coverage on a recent Sunday and was witness to the spectacular, well planned and executed Ground Zero Memorial.  This site was indeed awe producing, an environment that was inviting and personally serene as well. Can’t wait to order my ticket and attend before the winter snow flies….

For all of the cynical blog comments noted, including, “F—– it, Move on…” this blogger states unequivocally that you don’t deserve to breathe the same air as the rest of us…  You are self-centered, selfish and totally devoid of compassion!  You will never, ever understand homicide…unless you experience it up close and personal!  But… on to others much more deserving of ink…..

Mary and Frank Fetchet are a couple living in Fairfield County Connecticut (on the doorstep of New York City.)   They happened to have a son Brad, 24 years old, who was working in the World Trade Center Towers on that fateful day. Brad left a reassuring phone message for his mother stating essentially that…”I’m fine… Don’t worry.  We’re in the other tower.  They may even let us out of work early.”

How wrong he was….   Brad’s father, Frank stated that at the time, he felt confident that as his son was “innovative and streetwise” he would probably find his way out. He did not….  He perished with many others.

In Ladyjustice’s opinion, the best account ever that encompasses all aspects of 9/11 with a tremendous amount of information is the former Court TV 2005 documentary called, “On Native Soil.”  This work is an engrossing, touching and shocking journalistic film told from many perspectives.    It provides the viewer a courageous example what homicide survivors are capable of when given the will and determination.  The fact that a small group of surviving families collectively “turned the government tide” and overrode Congress and the wishes of President Bush is truly unprecedented!

The primary force behind this tremendous feat was social worker and mother of Brad Fetchet, Ms.  Mary Fetchet. The “Voices of 9/11” was created by a small group of Fairfield County, Connecticut and New York surviving families after the terrorist bombings and became recognized as the premier organization addressing  the ongoing needs of family members of nearly 3,000 murder victims,  rescue workers, and survivors whose focus is prevention, preparedness and response related to terrorism.

The Critical Time:

The end of 2001 and 2002 was  the critical time in which survivors came together for very important reasons:  to find answers; to hold those responsible accountable; to improve the status quo; to seek comfort and to memorialize their loved ones in a meaningful way.According to detailed information offered in On Native Soil,” the quest for answers was indeed a bumpy road. Congress had oversight of governmental agencies such as the CIA, the FBI and the FAA.  All of these agencies, as well as the Bush and Clinton Administrations “passed the buck,” dropped the ball” and failed miserably!

On June 2, 2002, the families representing 9/11 victims were denied a Federal investigation. The 9/11 families were shocked and appalled to say the least.  As Mary Fetchet put it, “I was naïve enough to believe that people would do the right thing.”  Following the denial, Senators Joe Lieberman (D- CT) and John McCain (R- AZ) introduced a resolution to Congress.  It failed…  After an all night vigil, family members, “faced down” President Bush’s Assistant for Legislative Affairs, Nick Calio.  Calio approached the President and told him despite Washington’s opposition, fearing what would be uncovered, they had no choice but to ‘give in to their demands.” There were 12 public hearings within a 16 month period.  The failures and incompetencies revealed as one views “On Native Soil” were absolutely unbelievable!

The consensus among surviving families was that there was frequent lack of cooperation with Committee member’s questions, stonewalling, and a total lack of responsibility or accountability.  “I’ll have to get back to you on that”;   ”I wasn’t in charge when “X” occurred,” were typical responses.  And one of the few tangible accomplishments three years later when the final report was issued,  included a new government position known as the “Director of National Intelligence.” Next were the tasks of creating legislation from the recommendations and implementing them for the benefit of the masses and future generations.  This is still a work in progress.

Mary Fetchet:  The Person; the Director and her Accomplishments

       Mary Fetchet, LCSW  

Founding Director – Voices of September 11th

Mary Fetchet is the Founding Director and driving force behind VOICES of September 11th. A professional social worker and former educator, Ms. Fetchet co-founded the 9/11 advocacy organization following the death of her 24-year-old son, Brad, in the attacks on the World Trade Center.  

Ms. Fetchet’s mission: to create an organization that addresses the ongoing needs of families of the nearly 3,000 victims, rescue workers and survivors while promoting awareness for prevention, preparedness and response related to terrorism. Her firsthand experience as a social worker and victims’ advocate has uniquely influenced the evolution of VOICES in creating programs that anticipate the long-term, intergenerational needs of 9/11 families and survivors.  

Headquartered in New Canaan, CT. with a recently opened second office in New Brunswick, N.J., VOICES is a grass roots family advocacy group providing support and navigating complicated political systems for over 11,000 members. The international organization serves as a clearinghouse of information for 9/11-related issues, offers links to related resources and provides an expanding range of services. Programs include: support groups, lectures, Day of Remembrance events and forums as well as outreach to all those affected by the events of September 11th.  

Providing Information, Outreach and Programs

VOICES experienced staff provide information, outreach and programs on the many aspects of post-9/11 life, with a particular focus on helping 9/11 families, survivors, rescue and recovery workers and others affected by fostering resiliency through family-based mental health programs.

In September, 2006 VOICES launched the 9/11 Living Memorial Project, a digital archive commemorating the lives of the nearly 3,000 lost at the Pentagon, Shanksville, PA and the World Trade Center site and documenting the first hand accounts of rescue workers and survivors.

VOICES professional staff has conducted hundreds of workshops throughout the United States and met one-on-one with over 800 families to create a meaningful tribute to their loved ones.

The 9/11 Living Memorial Project has grown to an extensive collection of over 30,000 photographs, written materials and personal keepsakes shared by those impacted that tell a meaningful story that will preserve the stories of 9/11 for future generations.

Ms. Fetchet has achieved significant local and national praise for her advocacy work.  A strong advocate for raising national and local preparedness, Ms. Fetchet campaigned for the creation of the independent 9/11 Commission and continues to promote the implementation of the Commission’s recommendations for government reforms. She has testified before the 9/11 Commission, and before the United States Senate and House of Representatives on five occasions. She has made countless appearances on national television programs, and frequently contributes to print and radio news media.  

Ms. Fetchet has served on a number of advisory boards and organizations including: The Family Steering Committee for the 9/11 Independent Commission, the National Homeland Defense Foundation, the National Traumatic Stress Network, the Coalition of 9/11 Families, the Family Advisory Committee of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC), Columbia’s WTC Evacuation Study as well as the Homeland Security Advisory Council’s Homeland Security Alert System Task Force.  

Ms. Fetchet’s work has brought her substantial recognition that includes being a recipient of the National Justice Award in 2003 and being presented with the ‘Connecticut Hero’ award by Senator Joseph Lieberman in September 2004. She was also named an ABC News Person of the Year in December 2004. Other honors include a 2005 Red Cross Award, a 2005 Rotary Foundation Paul Harris Fellowship, and a 2006 “Connecticut’s Most Uncommon Women” award. A graduate of Columbia University with an M.S. degree,

Ms. Fetchet worked as a clinical social worker at Bridges, an outpatient mental health clinic in Milford, CT. She lives in New Canaan with her husband Frank, and has two surviving sons, Chris, age 22, and Wes, age 29.  

Mary is a tireless advocate for all 9/11 families.  To use a familiar comparison to many readers, she is the “Susan Murphy Milano” representative for surviving families suffering from the most  horrendous terrorist event in history.  She carries the torch for all survivors….   Ladyjustice knows very well that government operates by its own rules,  is steeped in bureaucracy, often for no good reason, other than “tradition,” creates its own problems and is often quite disillusioning to the average person.   [‘Just like the criminal justice system!]    Are we not surprised that it takes sane and reasonable people so long to recover, not only from their tragedies… but by adding insult to injury when forced to deal with the endless frustrations and obstacles encountered by all of these entities?

We are so proud of you , Mary!

Opportunities….

To view a wonderful video   “Voices of  9/11  A Take Part Short Film,” go to link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9zyuaeiY1aU.

To visit their website and donate: please go to: http://www.voicesofseptember11.org/dev/index.php

To purchase a copy of “On Native Soil,” go to:

http://www.amazon.com/Native-Soil-Kevin-Costner/dp/B000FWHW7C

Respectfully,

Donna R. Gore, M. A.

“Ladyjustice”

Homicide Survivor, Connecticut

 

 

 

 

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Victim Impact Statements: Isn’t it Time for a Little Creativity and Personalization?

Typical Sample [Compliments of crimevictimservicecenter.org – Kennewick, WA]

The crime committed against me by John Doe has hurt me in so many ways that I don’t know where to begin.

My friends and co-workers have mentioned to me that my demeanor and behavior has changed at work and during social activities. I am currently experiencing flashbacks of the event and suffer from nightmares and lack of sleep. I constantly replay the day of the crime over and over in my head. I had to describe the day of the crime to the detective, then to the prosecuting attorney, then to the defense attorney, and to an investigator. Having to repeat the events of the incident over and over again was stressful and tried my patience. It became harder and harder to answer their questions or even tell my story again. I had to miss work, show up to work late, and leave work early due to the stress I was experiencing. I am in counseling because I am stressed, anxious, hypersensitive, and have suicidal thoughts. I wish this had never happened and I want it over as soon as possible, but I know my paranoia will never go away.

This crime has hurt my family too. My mother also suffers from insomnia and anxiety due to the crime. We live in a small town and everyone has heard about the crime. My father almost lost his job because he has had to attend court with me. I can’t escape the questions from friends of the family. Naturally, everyone is concerned for my family and me, but not being able to escape the incident kills me. It is just another constant reminder that John Doe committed a crime against my family and me.

I have friends telling me that they ran into John Doe and that she/he says they’re sorry. I wish she/he would stop communicating to me through our mutual friends. When I hear that people have run into her/him my heart races, I have shortness of breath, and start to feel dizzy.

I’m constantly asking God why? Why me, why my family? What did I do to deserve this?

I’m worried what John Doe might do after she/he gets out. I want her/him to get help because this isn’t the first time this crime has been committed and that she/he’d been sorry. I don’t want John Doe to hurt me or anyone else. I want to be protected from John Doe forever.

_________________END_______________________

My Personal Experience

In 1987, my family’s victim impact statement would not have won the Pulitzer Prize for journalism, but, it was from the heart.  Looking back now, I could have crafted something different if the emotions hadn’t gotten in the way.  And, that is the point.  Having emotions interjected into the narrative and/or verbal presentation is a double-edged sword.

On the one hand, the judge, the attorneys, the defendant and the families need to hear the emotion to understand and to validate the tremendously negative changes in their quality of life and the realities of the situation in terms of the human toll.

On the other hand, emotion can overtake the speaker, especially when in very close proximity to the defendant.  As a survivor, you want your day in court.  It’s your special time to relate just how devastating the entire experience has been.

Currently in Connecticut, Victim Services open approximately 13,000 new cases annually, assist 14,000 with victim impact statements and accompany over 15,000 victims to court.

In 1987, six years after the murder, my mother and I each took turns and related individual impact statements directly to the presiding judge.  Some people choose to “challenge” the defendant to make eye contact in an attempt to “show immediate respect.”  Fat chance!  I certainly didn’t even bother with that request!

Rather,  I was mentally focused on how not to relinquish power to this serial murderer; not to give in to fear of retaliation; not to feel that you must look over your shoulder the rest of your life if you say this or that for fear of triggering a response.  One cannot live life in fear, no matter what has been taken away!  For if you do, the perpetrator has won. He has the power!

Basic Guidelines for Victim Impact Statements

Internet research revealed minimal information or samples of victim impact statements for general public consumption.  There are no standard templates.  However, the most basic of guidelines furnished by the Crime Victim Services Center in Washington State recommend discussion of the following general topics, with a couple of my suggestions thrown in.

1)  How the perpetrator’s criminal behavior has effected the victim(s) physically, emotionally and financially;

2)  Discuss any concerns regarding personal safety and security;

3)  “Provide suggestions for a resolution that is fair, that will give the offender the opportunity to take responsibility for actions that caused loss or harm.”

[Surely you jest if you are talking about felony charges. Taking responsibility – What’s that?  And, how do you spell pre-determined plea bargain?? ]

Other factors to contemplate when composing your impact statement

1)  How have your feelings changed about life in general, your lifestyle; your ability to relate to others, your ability to cope and need for support or counseling?

2)  If you have sustained physical injuries, what were they and how long did they last? Are they continuing? How have your injuries impacted your ability to perform everyday tasks and recreational activities?

The “Aftermath” Questions

What about your ability to:

1)  Maintain your general health;

2)   Eat, sleep, concentrate;

3)  Have other ailments “appeared out of the blue?”

4)  Have your relationships with family members, co-workers and “society in general” changed?

5)  Are you unable to trust others now?

6)  Do you feel a sense of intimacy with your significant other?

7)  What changes have occurred with your employer? Are they flexible in allowing you to attend court appearances, counseling and medical appointments?

8)  What is your financial status currently?

9)  Are you able to be productive?

10) Do you have hope for the future?

The above list is certainly not all inclusive, but rather covers the general landscape.

From The National Center for Victims of Crime

In addition, results of the National Center for Victims of Crime’s public opinion poll also revealed that 55% of Americans feel that sentences handed down to criminals by the court are too lenient.

Perhaps this is why seven out of 10 Americans believe that it is very important for the judicial system to provide victims and their families with “…an opportunity to make a statement prior to the sentencing of the offender about how the crime has affected them.”

In essence, for the court to impose fair and just sentences, it is critical that information be provided to the sentencing and paroling authorities on the emotional, financial and physical impact of crime – information that only victims can accurately define and provide through the use of victim impact statements.

Clearly the criminal justice system is ready, as is the American public, for the permanent infusion of victim impact statements into the justice process. We must now make the use of victim impact statements functional and consistent within the criminal justice system.

Comprehensive guidelines, protocol and model victim impact statement instruments must be drafted that address the needs of both the justice system and the victim. Victims must be systematically and consistently made aware of their right to submit victim impact statements and the statement’s application within the system. To accomplish this goal, each criminal justice agency that has contact with crime victims must have comprehensive agency guidelines and protocol that outline the roles and responsibilities of each staff member in the notification, distribution, collection and application of the victim impact statements.

Making a Case for Specialized Victim Impact Statements

Approximately a year ago, I had a “brainstorming” idea to offer a service to future victims of crime regarding the creation of individually tailored victim impact statements for the following reasons:

1)  Not everyone is a wordsmith nor are they able to express their thoughts and feelings in writing  (even before the crime occurred)

2)  The emotional impact of the experience including recounting the events, facing the defendant and his supporters, the finality of the process; the outcome of the verdict; the absence of their loved one. can incapacitate a victim and not allow him or her to complete their presentation.  [ Of course there are options such as mailing letters to the judge, allowing another relative or the prosecutor to read, etc. However, it is sometimes  a poor substitute and the impact may not be experienced in the same way]

3)  If the victim is capable of sharing his/her private thoughts and feelings with an Advocate who is also a skilled writer, the burden is lessened.  If such a writer were to create a series of questions specifically designed to elicit information to portray the deceased person in a way that honors them and is meaningful to the family… How Wonderful!

4)  The possibility of a videotaped presentation or a video memorial tribute could go a long way in helping the judge to understand the enormity of their loss.

Currently no specific companies specializing in videotaped victim impact statements could be located via internet search.  What a shame.

The problem, and the beauty of this idea, is that people are not “one size fits all” and therefore victim impact statements should not be mass produced as in a “sausage factory.” They are too personal and too important.

The words potentially have the power to alter sentencing!

But, who would provide the service? Who would fund it? Who would keep track of the data comparing customized statements to those that are essentially “fill in the blank” essays? Could this idea come to fruition?  Why not?

Heed the advice of the National Center for Victims of Crime.  Do not let victim impact statements become an afterthought!

I welcome input concerning this idea. Until then, Thorence Brey features a series of videotaped Victim Impact Statements for your viewing interest at:

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xkikdy_victim-impact-statements-thorance-brey_news