By founding the Pentagon’s Victim and Witness Program, Manhattan-native Karen Loftus has become a beacon of hope and a source of comfort for those affected by the tragedies of 9/11.
The New York Post reports on Loftus’ profound mission to provide a some sense of comfort and relief to those who lost family and friends on 9/11. Perhaps more importantly, she helps victims’ families navigate their way to testify against terrorists at Guantanamo Bay.
“Our goal is when they talk to us, to just listen. These people, they’re special. They went through hell and back,” Loftus said of the Pentagon’s Victim and Witness Program.
The 55-year-old Manhattan native and former Navy captain also personally escorts family members to Cuba for military commission hearings for the 9/11 perpetrators.
“I’m very hands-on with the 9/11 families. I don’t delegate that,” said Loftus, who maintains a modest staff of seven people.
People who use her services are grateful for her help. “She’s an absolute gem,” said Tom Acquaviva of Wayne, N.J., whose 29-year-old son Paul was at work at Cantor Fitzgerald, the financial firm hardest hit by the World Trade Center attacks.
“She understands your sorrow and your grief,” Acquaviva added. He was among victims’ relatives who went to Guantanamo for the most recent round of hearings involving 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed, and will be going back next month.
“It’s a bureaucratic job but she’s not just a bureaucrat,” said Acquaviva. "Let me put it to you this way: All bureaucrats should be like her.”
Loftus, who didn’t lose anyone close to her in the attacks, was assigned to compile an oral history immediately following the 9/11 attacks in 2001. Soon after that, she moved in to the position of founder of the Pentagon’s Victim and Witness Program.
“I spent the next six months trying to help them recover documents,” she recalled. From there, Loftus developed what she calls a special attachment to those directly affected by 9/11.
“I don’t know why I particularly like it,” she said. “It is depressing at times. You can’t interview too many people because you absorb their grief.”
Loftus continues to help families navigate through their grief and find some solace in counseling them on the criminal hearings the accused are facing for their 9/11 crimes.