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September 21, 2001
Benefits for Sept. 11 Victims in Question
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e of the families of those killed in the World Trade Center attack now stand to receive no more than $30,000 in direct aid, officials of government and private relief efforts tell The New York Times.

Millions in public and private funds are flowing to the relief effort, but large parts of it are committed to unique categories of victims, like firefighters or the children of airline passengers who may have fought with hijackers. For the rest, it may be a very different story, the Times reports.

"We cannot possibly overpay the family of the uniformed services," said Jon Small, the executive director of the Nonprofit Coordinating Committee of New York, a group that helps charitable and social services organizations work together. "But there are other people, those who don't have any other resources, who need to be considered, too."

Because of the dangers of police and fire work, a well-established net of benefits was in place long before Sept. 11 for the families of uniformed workers who die in the line of duty.

A federal program provides a lump sum of $151,635 to the family of each "first responder", firefighter, police officer, or emergency medical worker, who died in the catastrophe. Surviving spouses of New York police officers and firefighters receive a lifetime tax-free pension equal to the last year's earnings, plus health insurance.

Meanwhile, kitchen workers at the WTC's Windows on the World restaurant have only $15,000 life insurance policies. Their families' union health insurance will end in November.

Gerald O'Leary was a chef in the corporate dining room of bond trader Cantor Fitzgerald. He was employed by Forte Food Services, which provided no life insurance. The only communication the O'Leary family has had from Forte has been an envelope with O'Leary's last paycheck, said Patrick McCarthy, the missing man's brother.

No note was included, he told the Times.

Anthony Fusco, a vice president at Forte, told the newspaper that his company did try to reach every family. "We're all heartbroken," Fusco said.

The financial circumstances of the families left by the 5,000 missing people depend to a great extent on their employers, and on the employees' own planning, according to the Times, which noted that many would have been no more prepared for death in a car accident.

At Windows on the World, 79 employees are missing, according to David Emil, the president of the company that ran the restaurant. Emil said business had been slumping before the attack, and his company, which no longer exists, cannot provide additional support.

"If you're a low-skilled worker from Ghana or the Dominican Republic, you're not financially prepared to deal with it, it's a tremendous nightmare," said Emil, who is urging contributions to the Windows of Hope Family Relief Fund, through J. P. Morgan Chase.

Among those in extraordinary situations is the family of Esmerlin Salcedo, one of the 5,000 missing since the attack.

Salcedo, 36, and father of four children, worked as a $10.51-an-hour security guard in the trade center's operation center. On the morning of the attack, he was off but attending a computer class nearby.

When the first plane hit, Salcedo raced from class to the command center on the B-1 level, said a colleague, Roselyn Braud. "He came flying down here, threw his book bag on the ground and started answering phones," Braud told the Times. "People were calling from the elevators, from the floors, pleading with us to get them out."

The terror of the moment overcame Braud, a single mother who insisted on leaving. Salcedo escorted her upstairs. "We linked arms, and he came me up with me," Ms. Braud said. "He told me to 'Run, run for your life,' and that was the last I saw him."

While Salcedo has $80,000 in life insurance from his union, his survivors may not be eligible for worker's compensation benefits; technically, he was off duty.

To view the New York Times article, click here. Registration required.
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