June 22, 2021
Kristen Breitweiser is the wife of Ronald Breitweiser, who died at the age of 39 on Sept. 11. Ronald Breitweiser worked at Fiduciary Trust International, WTC Tower Two – the South Tower.
Kristen and Ronald Breitweiser’s home town was Middletown Township, New Jersey. Kristen Breitweiser was a co-chair of September 11th Advocates. In 2006 Kristen Breitweiser published her stirring memoir, Wake-Up Call: The Political Education of a 9/11 Widow. In it she told the story of her shift from being a suburban wife and mother of an infant daughter, to becoming an advocate for the creation of what became the 9/11 Commission. Thinking of Ron Breitweiser, she reflects “I’d never met anyone as upbeat and energetic as Ron. I was touched by his kindness and entranced by his brilliant smile…. When I think of Ron on my doorstep in those ripped jeans and rumpled blue shirt, something still moves in my heart. Ron had spent a lifetime waiting to be cherished. He was sweet and vulnerable but also confident and assured. He never called me Kristen. He only called me Sweets. “Oh, you will marry me,” he said from day one, square one. I wasn’t so sure. He said he’d convince me. And he did.”
She banded together with three other widows from New Jersey the press nicknamed ‘the Jersey Girls:’ Patty Casazza, Mindy Kleinberg and Lorie Van Auken. In June 2002, the New York Times reported on their advocacy with DC politicians in an article titled “Trade Center Widows Lobby for Independent Inquiry.” “It’s not about politics,” says…Kristen Breitweiser, as she sits in the office of Tim Roemer (D-IN), a member of the House Intelligence Committee. “It’s about doing the right thing. It’s about the safety of the nation.”
Ronald Breitweiser called Kristen on the morning of September 11th from his South Tower office. “Sweets, I’m okay. I’m okay. Don’t worry…It’s not my building.” He told her to watch the TV news and added “They are jumping out of the windows. Right across from me…Sweets, I’m safe…But I have to go.” As the phone call ended abruptly, Kristen was horrified as she saw the South Tower explode.
On September 18, 2002, Breitweiser gave testimony before the Joint 9/11 Inquiry (Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence). Her testimony challenged the reluctance of the Bush administration to avoid an inquiry into the attacks out of concern it would damage “national security.” Breitweiser said “Our intelligence agencies suffered an utter collapse in their duties and responsibilities leading up to and on September 11th. But their negligence does not stand alone. Agencies like the Port Authority, the City of NY, the FAA, the INS, the Secret Service, NORAD, the Air Force, and the airlines also failed our nation that morning. Perhaps…one singular agency’s failures do not eclipse another’s. And it goes without saying that the examination of the intelligence agencies by this Committee does not detract, discount or dismantle the need for a more thorough examination of all these culpable parties…. An independent blue-ribbon panel would provide a comprehensive, unbiased and definitive report that the devastation of September 11th demands. Soon after the attacks, President Bush stated that there would come a time to look back and examine our nation’s failures, but that such an undertaking was inappropriate while the nation was still in shock. I would respectfully suggest to President Bush and to our Congress that now, a full year later, it is time to look back and investigate our failures as a nation. A hallmark of democratic government is a willingness to admit to, analyze and learn from mistakes…. The families of the victims of September 11thhave waited long enough. We need to have answers. We need to have accountability.”
Kristen was one of the members of the Family Steering Committee for the 9/11 Independent Commission. She later gave a statement before the U.S. Senate Governmental Affairs Committee Hearing on August 17, 2004. However, unlike her bombshell testimony of September 2002, her statement in August 2004 was vetted by government staff. There was to be no explosive testimony that was off-message for the press to report.
On September 7, 2003, a docudrama was aired titled DC 9/11: Time of Crisis. Salon.com quoted Kristen Breitweiser, who was critical of the ‘film.’ She called it “a mind-numbingly boring, revisionist, two-hour-long wish list of how 9/11 might have gone if we had real leaders in the current administration.” She adds: “It is understandable that so little time is actually devoted to the president’s true actions on the morning of 9/11. Because to show the entire 23 minutes from 9:03 to 9:25 a.m., when President Bush, in reality, remained seated and listening to ‘second grade story-hour’ while people like my husband were burning alive inside the World Trade Center towers, would run counter to Karl Rove’s art direction and grand vision.” Breitweiser questions numerous aspects of the film: “Miscellaneous things that surprised me included the fact that the film perpetuates the big fat lie that Air Force One was a target. Forgive me, but I thought the White House admitted at the end of September 2001 that Air Force One was never a target, that no code words were spoken and that it was all a lie. So what gives?… Not surprisingly, there is no mention of accountability. Not once does anyone say, ‘How the hell did this happen? Heads will roll!’ I was hoping that, at least behind closed doors, there were words like, ‘Look, we really screwed up! Let’s make sure we find out what went wrong and that it never happens again!’ Nope, no such luck.”
Brietweiser signed numerous statements to the press released by September 11th Advocates through 2005, but into 2006 she refrained from signing onto the group’s statements to the press. For over a decade until 2017, Breitweiser became a frequent contributor to the Huffington Post, providing columns related to ongoing political developments impacting America in a post-9/11 world.
Statement of Kristen Breitweiser to the Joint 9/11 Inquiry, September 18, 2002.
Testimony of Kristen Breitweiser before the U.S. Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, August 17, 2004
Kristen Breitweiser, Wake-Up Call: The Political Education of a 9/11 Widow, (Hachette Book Group, Inc., 2006).
Kristen Breitweiser online archive of articles in the Huffington Post