Jersey Girls who emerged after 9/11 stay activists

TRENTON, N.J - The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 turned them into widows and the four Jersey Girls, as they became
known, turned themselves into activists.

A decade after the attacks, at least two of them are still trying to make change in public policy. In doing so, they've broadened their focus from post-attack truth-finding, the cause that brought them together nearly 10 years ago.

Lorie Van Auken is now a beekeeper who is pressing the federal Environmental Protection Agency to ban a pesticide that some blame for Colony Collapse Disorder, which has been killing honeybees. Kristen Breitweiser blogs on politics and national security.

Though those are issues tied to 9/11, she doesn't write just about the attacks.

"I think a lot of times when people suffer tragedy or go through something in their own life, they feel compelled to turn it into something better," Breitweiser said. Many of the spouses, parents and children of those killed in the terrorist attacks did that.

They set up foundations to honor the best traits of their lost loved ones. They lobbied for tax breaks for the victims, fair deals from the Victims' Compensation Fund and a burial site at ground zero.

The four stay-at-home moms who lived relatively carefree lives in suburban Monmouth County became some of the most visible faces of the families of the dead and their main cause at the time: pushing the federal government to study the attacks -- whether there was intelligence that could have prevented them, and whether the response once they began was adequate. They were subjects of scores of articles, multiple books -- including a memoir Breitweiser published in 2006 -- and a documentary film, "9/11: Press for Truth."

The fame and the civic engagement, born of tragedy, came fast. "I had a very complacent life: we voted, we paid taxes, we volunteered. That was it," Breitweiser said. "That was the extent of our contribution."

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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