What Is Life Worth?: The Inside Story of the 9/11 Fund and Its Effort to Compensate the Victims of September 11th

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PublicAffairs, Jun 14, 2005 - History - 213 pages
Just eleven days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, as the country reeled in shock, Congress created the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. It was a unique, unprecedented commitment to compensate families who lost a loved one on 9/11 and survivors who were physically injured. In its haste, Congress provided very few guidelines as to how the funds should be distributed and set no limit on the size of awards. Instead it gave a single individual nearly unlimited discretion to manage the program. And so, when Attorney General John Ashcroft appointed Kenneth Feinberg to administer the fund, he was asking Feinberg to do the impossible: calculate the dollar value of over 5,500 dead and injured in the worst peacetime disaster in U.S. history.
The launching of the fund set off a firestorm of emotions. Some called it a brazen, tight-fisted attempt to protect the airlines from lawsuits. Families, angry and in pain, also attacked the program as attempting to put insulting dollar values on the lives of lost loved ones. What is Life Worth? is Kenneth Feinberg's personal account of the struggle to compensate grieving families for catastrophic loss. For three years Feinberg spent almost all of his time meeting with the 9/11 families, convincing them of the generosity and compassion of the program, and calculating appropriate awards for each and every claim.
Ultimately, the fund proved to be a dramatic success with 97 percent of eligible families participating. But it was the most harrowing experience of Feinberg's professional life. He had to tell the families of firefighters that they would receive less public money than the families of stockbrokers. He had to determine exactly who would receive the money. Could the spouse of a 9/11 victim file a claim over the objection of a victim's parents? What about fiances and same sex partners? The only person empowered to answer the questions was Kenneth Feinberg. He became the filter, the arbitrator, and the target of family suffering. He learned that no amount of money could make the families and victims of 9/11 whole again. And most importantly, he learned about the enduring power of family, love, faith, and courage.

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User Review  - SomeGuyInVirginia - LibraryThing

I’ve met Mr. Feinberg a few times, casually and briefly, and although my favorable impression of him didn’t influence those I formed of his book while reading it, that impression did remove the sting ... Read full review


The Experience of a Lifetime i
Shouldering the Load
From Theory to Reality
The Families Speak
Struggling With the Incomprehensible
Solomons Choices
Looking Back
Lessons for the Future

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About the author (2005)

Kenneth R. Feinberg, one of the nation's leading lawyers, has been front and center in some of the most complex public legal disputes of the past three decades: Agent Orange, asbestos, the closing of the Shoreham Nuclear Plant, and now, 9/11. A former prosecutor and member of two Presidential Commissions, he is also adjunct Professor of Law at Georgetown University, the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia University, and New York University.

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