On May 20, 9/11 Family leader Bill Doyle passed away. In the 16 years since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, there was no more influential advocate among the many family members of the victims. Bill leaves an enduring legacy, having done more in the 16 years after September 11 than most did in their whole lifetimes.
Bill and his late wife Camille were the Staten Island parents of Joey Doyle who was killed in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Joey was only 25 years old. Almost immediately after the attacks, Bill started working with other 9/11 family members and began gathering names for an email support list. Bill’s email list eventually included at least one individual from nearly every one of the almost 3,000 victims of the most horrific terrorist attack in U.S. history.
Bill claimed that his list was so large that the U.S. government asked him to send out its messages to the families. The government also had to step in when AOL initially believed having a list so large was spam and they had to get assurance that Bill was not, in fact, sending out spam. By having such a large database, Bill quickly became the most influential 9/11 family member.
Bill had the personal cell phones of congressmen, senators, presidential candidates, and other officials. His emails calling for action, sometimes from himself and sometimes that he sent on behalf of others, were the impetus behind the creation of the 9/11 Commission. He was also instrumental in the disestablishment of the so called International Freedom Center at the World Trade Center site and the launching of the Motley Rice class action lawsuit against Saudi Arabia. Bill’s accomplishments and interventions on behalf of individual 9/11 family members, and groups such as Tuesday’s Children, are too numerous to name.
In 2004 Bill organized hundreds of care packages, sent from 9/11 family members, to be delivered to Iraqi children and American soldiers serving in that country. His email list was 9/11 family member centered but the one exception he would make was for emailing information that would benefit Veterans.
Bill’s reach went to the highest levels. In the summer of 2005, Bill and other 9/11 family members, rescue workers, and survivors, met with then businessman Donald Trump at Trump Tower about obtaining 9/11 family support for a joint effort to rebuild the World Trade Center, almost exactly as it was, and to have an above ground memorial at the World Trade Center site. The idea did not come to pass but, as Bill and now President Trump both remarked to me years later, it would have been a good thing. Such was the length of Bill’s reach.
In his later years, Bill moved to Florida with his wife Camille. He took care of her until her passing and remained involved; less visible but still involved.
Bill also confronted President Obama over his delay in fulfilling his promise to release the then classified 28 pages regarding “specific potential sources of foreign support for the September 11 hijackers” which referred to Saudi Arabia. Bill told Obama, “I am not going away.”
Bill’s final two victories were the release of the 28 pages and the passage of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA); a law that represented the first and only veto override of the Obama administration and allows family members of U.S. terrorist victims, killed on U.S. soil, to bring suit against foreign nations if there is reason to believe that nation may have financed such an attack.
Bill and I did not always agree, especially on some of the outlandish theories regarding the September 11 attacks, but he always had time and was a treasure trove of information. Bill was universally respected and regardless of any other suspicion he had, he never lost sight of whom the terrorists were, where they came from, and what ideology they represented: radical Islam.
Bill’s death illustrates another case of 9/11, in some measure of the public mind, fading into history. September 11 was a very parent centric event, meaning that many of the individuals that were killed were not old. Many widows have remarried and/or continued raising their children. Brothers and sisters remember but often have their own families too. Hence, most of the family leaders and advocates were, and remain, parents. Like Bill, they will join their children someday.
More individuals like Bill, who will speak for the victims so that such an attack never happens again, and that the war is taken to those who perpetuated it, are needed.