What Is Life Worth?: The Unprecedented Effort to Compensate the Victims of 9/11

Overview

Just days after September 11, 2001, Kenneth Feinberg was appointed to administer the federal 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, a unique, unprecedented fund established by Congress to compensate families who lost a loved one on 9/11 and survivors who were physically injured in the attacks. Those who participated in the Fund were required to waive their right to sue the airlines involved in the attacks, as well as other potentially responsible entities. When the program was launched, many families criticized it as a ...

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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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Overview

Just days after September 11, 2001, Kenneth Feinberg was appointed to administer the federal 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, a unique, unprecedented fund established by Congress to compensate families who lost a loved one on 9/11 and survivors who were physically injured in the attacks. Those who participated in the Fund were required to waive their right to sue the airlines involved in the attacks, as well as other potentially responsible entities. When the program was launched, many families criticized it as a brazen, tight-fisted attempt to protect the airlines from lawsuits. The Fund was also attacked as attempting to put insulting dollar values on the lives of lost loved ones. The families were in pain. And they were angry.

Over the course of the next three years, Feinberg spent almost all of his time meeting with the families, convincing them of the generosity and compassion of the program, and calculating appropriate awards for each and every claim. The Fund proved to be a dramatic success with over 97% of eligible families participating. It also provided important lessons for Feinberg, who became the filter, the arbitrator, and the target of family suffering. Feinberg learned about the enduring power of family grief, love, fear, faith, frustration, and courage. Most importantly, he learned that no check, no matter how large, could make the families and victims of 9/11 whole again.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Kenneth Feinberg was given the world's most painful task. As head of the September 11th Compensation Fund, he was asked, in the interest of fairness, to calculate the dollar values of each of the 2,976 lives lost in the World Trade Center attacks. Day after day, he attempted to establish the most equitable equations of human suffering and loss. This experience changed him forever; What Life Is Worth is the story of that experience.
William Grimes
In What Is Life Worth? Mr. Feinberg offers a valuable first-person account of the 9/11 compensation fund and its workings. He makes clear, for the first time, exactly how peculiar the law governing the fund was, and the enormous difficulties, ethical and practical, that resulted from its ambiguous language and hastily written guidelines.
— The New York Times
John Farmer
What is life worth? Feinberg found the answer not in actuarial tables or projected incomes but in the almost limitless capacity of people to love: "Love was often all that survivors could cling to -- a life preserver -- in their effort to get through each day. They had been left behind, but they had been left behind with powerful reserves of love." The Sept. 11 fund began as an airline bailout, but it ended as a vehicle for expressing love. That transfiguration was Feinberg's great professional and, we suspect, personal achievement; we come away feeling that the process of determining what life is worth transformed not just the fund but its special master, too.
— The Washington Post
Washington Post 8/24/05
"... some times eloquent, at others oddly detached, at all times painfully honest... a rewarding read but not an easy one."
Publishers Weekly
When Feinberg writes that "[t]he cacophony of arguments validated my original preference: to refuse to evaluate individual suffering" midway through this frank memoir, the reader already trusts him enough to know that he is not being crass or unfeeling: he is being honest. By then, Feinberg, a lawyer who has been on two presidential commissions and has done Agent Orange litigation, has established his judicious forthrightness and his dedication to "the success of the fund"-getting as many families as possible to opt in to the trust, which he headed and which was established to award cash to the 9/11 victims, rather than sue the government. The problem: how, and how much? Feinberg's willingness to put himself into the book makes what could have been an alternately dry and self-serving case study crackle with care, frustration, intellectual energy and good writing. Feinberg and his team ran through every argument and counterargument for compensation and its various possible permutations, and he presents the debate, and his ultimate conclusions as head of the 9/11 fund, with an earned conviction and clarity, even on stat-heavy pages. With its combination of a strong personality, undeniably compelling subject matter and a great title, this understated, passionate trek into the dismal terrain is likely to be a major surprise bestseller. Anything but macabre, it ends up, in its own way, celebrating life. (June 13) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781586484514
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs
  • Publication date: 8/28/2006
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 299,574
  • Product dimensions: 5.08 (w) x 8.12 (h) x 0.71 (d)

Meet the Author

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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Table of Contents

1 The experience of a lifetime 1
2 Shouldering the load 31
3 From theory to reality 65
4 The families speak 93
5 Struggling with the incomprehensible 119
6 Solomon's choices 151
7 Looking back 163
8 Looking ahead : lessons for the future 177
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 27, 2010

    Thoughtful insight

    This book is very straight forward and takes you through the process used in determining what the victim's of 9/11 would receive for compensation. I wasn't all that familiar with this fund, and Mr Feinberg details it out very clearly. What an enormous job!

    I remember Mr Feinberg being the target of much criticism at the time, and this book definitely gives you a look into the anguish he faced in deciding on the payments. While the book is almost too factual and data based, it does give you a good insight into how this all played out.

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