J. Bruce Eagleson died on 9/11 in the South Tower. He had plenty of time to get out of the building, but he was in charge of the World Trade Center's Westfield America Shopping Mall, on the ground floor, and he wanted to make sure all his company's employees were out of the building before he abandoned ship. The last report of Bruce's activities and whereabouts was communicated to his wife by a Westfield co-worker, who said she saw Bruce going up the stairs inside the South Tower as the co-worker was doing her best to go down the same staircase. She asked Bruce why he wasn't getting out of the building and he simply said, "I've got to get some two-way radios." As Bruce's widow later said, why would he need to be getting two-way radios unless he were trying to save people?"
Bruce was married to Gail Petrus Eagleson and before 9/11 they lived with their three sons in Middlefield, CT. Gail was a public elementary school teacher.
After Bruce's death, Gail sought legal help from Debbie Shapiro, a lawyer whom I have known personally and professionally for more than 35 years. Debbie called me and asked if I could meet with Gail at her home because some lawyers Gail never heard of wanted to meet with her to "sign her up" to represent Bruce's estate in a legal claim for his wrongful death resulting from the WTC attack.
I knew nothing about how such claims should be handled. Nobody did, anywhere, because this was a once-in-a-blue moon tragedy with legal implications as yet undefined when I first met with Gail at her home, with Debbie Shapiro.
To make the legal story short, I gradually became expert in the intricacies of the Federal Fund for the Compensation of 9/11 Victims. And my law firm agreed to handle the case not on our usual contingency fee for such cases of 33 per cent, but rather on a reduced hourly fee basis. Bruce's Australian employer, Westfield Corporation, agreed in negotiations with me to pay the legal fees for Gail, but, again, on a reduced hourly fee basis. I negotiated the deal with Westfield's CEO , their Sydney, Australia home-office general counsel, their local Connecticut legal counsel, and other professionals the company brought in to deal with Bruce's case, and me as the estate's legal counsel.
The important part of this story, however, is Bruce Eagleson. He was truly a Real American Hero. I will stop now and let Bruce's lovely widow, Gail, tell the rest of the story. Here is a link to a Middletown Patch series of three videotaped interview with Gail, in which she tells what happened, in her own words.
Here's the link to the interview videotapes. You may need to copy and paste it into your browser to see it.
What really tugged at my heartstrings when I read the Patch article was this quote from Gail Eagleson:
And here's the full text of the Middletown Patch article: