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Friday, January 19, 2007

Another 9/11 tragedy

Jonathan Player for The New York Times
Patricia Bingley with pictures of her son, Kevin
Dennis, and her twin grandchildren, Elliott, left, and Ryan.

Parents of 9/11 Victims Torn From Grandchildren

Published: January 19, 2007

OYSTER BAY, N.Y. — Five years after their father was killed at the World Trade Center, two little girls, ages 7 and 5, sat crying in a car parked at the curb of their grandparents’ home here one December day, refusing to go inside for a court-ordered visit. It was a painful family tableau rooted in a hundred tangled details, but one overriding and uncontested reality: 9/11.

Sometime after the death of Peter V. Genco, a Cantor Fitzgerald bond trader, in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the relationship between the girls’ mother and their late father’s parents went sour. The grandparents, Barbara and Victor Genco, obtained a court order in 2003 allowing them to see the children — under supervision, and for exactly four hours, once each month. In legal documents, the mother accused her in-laws of abuse and neglect, including drinking in front of them.

And on that Sunday afternoon in December, as described by the grandparents, the girls had apparently had enough of the whole business.

“We had hoped to be a part of their lives and a link to their father,” Barbara Genco, 69, said in an interview. “We imagined taking them with us to Europe, to Disney World. But it is too painful to see how the children have changed toward us.”

This sad tale is not entirely uncommon among families torn by the terrorist attacks. There is no official registry of such separations. One 9/11 family advocate said he had encountered more than 100 conflicts in which aging parents of a World Trade Center victim, desperate to remain connected to the children of their lost offspring, had found themselves in bitter struggles with a surviving spouse who would rather they did not. A mediator who helped negotiate settlements among 9/11 families in the early years after the attacks said 1 in 10 of his cases involved estranged grandparents.

A few have been to court, where recent laws give grandparents some leverage. Many other grandparents have not. Some have been wise and circumspect in efforts to mend relations with their deceased child’s widow or widower. Some have not.

“Sometimes, the spouse is remarried and just doesn’t have time for Grandma and Grandpa anymore,” said Bill Doyle, who lost his son, Joseph, at the World Trade Center and maintains an e-mail registry of several thousand surviving relatives for the Coalition of 9/11 Families.

“Sometimes, the spouse and the grandparents had differences about whether to bury or cremate the remains, or about where remains should end up,” Mr. Doyle added. “Or sometimes, there is money at stake. Or the people just never liked each other and it comes to blows over the kids. It can get so ugly, it’s beyond belief.”

posted by Steve @ 12:30:00 AM

12:30:00 AM

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