Putting a price on loss

Jane Pollicino lost her husband Steve in the September 11 attacks.

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MARK AUSTIN THOMAS: Today, as it has done every September 11, Cantor Fitzgerald will host a memorial service in New York City's Central Park. The brokerage lost more employees in the World Trade Center attacks than any other company. 658 people. Since then, Cantor has donated a quarter of its profits to help family members who were left to cope, not only with the grief, but in many cases the loss of income. Most families also applied to the 9/11 Victim's Compensation Fund. The fund set up by Congress awarded an average $2 million to families of 9/11 victims. Jane Pollicino lost her husband Steve.


JANE POLLICINO: At the time of 9/11 we were married for 23 years. My wedding anniversary is April 1. Only Steve could've gotten away with getting married on April 1. But it was available and why not? He always had like a why-not attitude. He was always making even the most mundane things an adventure.

Even his daily ride from here to the train station he made into an adventure. So he got this Jeep that he liked, and you know to me, that Jeep, if I had to take an inanimate object and say, this is Steve, that's the Jeep. And uh, I just couldn't get rid of it. And I won't.

As far as the Victim's Compensation Fund is concerned, it was really the only game in town, so to speak. Certainly we had the right to sue people, and there would be some litigation, but it would take forever. If I was concerned and I am, I still am, with my family, this was what I needed to do.

This was the file that my lawyer gave me, the folder. And it's just I look at this and I get like a sick feeling in my stomach, of things that I did. We were answering questions like 'how much time did your husband spend shaving in the morning, showering, grooming?' So that those minutes of the day were subtracted from his quality time with family. Crazy stuff like that.

The fund actually expected to, and they did, award younger children more than older children. 'Cause the older children had more time with the parent. They were trying really to put a value on how much time he spent with us and what we would be missing, hour-to-hour and minute-to-minute, literally.

In the mornings I would sit at the computer, crying your eyes out trying to figure out how're you gonna present your husband in a way that's gonna you know factor into a dollars and cents thing.

Basically, what was awarded to us was what my husband would've made had he continued at his job, things staying the way they were. To me, that was fair.

I haven't gotten in that mindset that I have money to spend. And yes, maybe I can be a little bit more relaxed with my spending. But if you're gonna decide you're gonna do something, you second guess it. You know, well, maybe I shouldn't, or what is gonna seem like? What are they gonna think?

The whole fund I feel is misunderstood. We didn't just get handed this money. I think people just think it was a gift from them to make us feel better. Far from the truth, far from it. People need to know that as a result of signing up for the Victims' Comp Fund, we gave up our rights to sue.

People call it blood money. You know, well, yeah, I guess it was. We were kind of shut up by it. And if I didn't have to, like I said, take care of my kids, I would've loved to have been able to try to, you know, take on a crusade and hold somebody, a ton of people accountable.

THOMAS: Marketplace's Amy Scott produced our story. In Los Angeles, I'm Mark Austin Thomas, thanks for listening.

About the author

Amy Scott is Marketplace’s education correspondent covering the K-12 and higher education beats, as well as general business and economic stories.

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