The Washington Post

Stephen Push was shocked when the first e-mails arrived. The senders had seen him on television talking about his wife, who died in the Sept. 11 attack on the Pentagon, and the federal plan to compensate families of the victims.

“We feel your grief, really,” one e-mailer wrote. “I”m just wondering if we have to feel your greed too?”

“If $1.6 million is not enough for you, I hope you rot in hell,” another wrote.

How far the families of Sept. 11 have fallen. From their pedestals as the collateral casualties of the worst episode of mass murder in the United States, the objects of sympathy and the recipients of donations from millions of heartsick countrymen, they have toppled to become the object of scorn to many.

This backlash comes after many of the families criticized proposed rules for a federal victim compensation fund passed by Congress 10 days after hijacked planes crashed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and in a field in Pennsylvania. The fund, which promised compensation to anyone physically injured or the relatives of anyone killed, as long as the recipients waived their right to sue, was approved as part of a $15 billion airline bailout.

But some families argue that the federal plan, which is separate from the $1.5 billion in aid raised by private charities, could leave some of them with nothing or next to it.

And that”s where things began to heat up.

Families of September 11 Inc., a group co-founded by Push, who lives in Great Falls, Va., has received dozens of nasty responses to its criticism, he said as have other victims” groups after their leaders spoke out against the fund”s rules. The harsh sentiments are also reflected in some of the more than 8,000 public comments posted on the website of the Department of Justice, which is administering the fund.

“The perception has gone from us generating all this sympathy to a situation where people think we are as greedy as a pack of wolves,” said Anthony Gardner, chairman of the WTC United Family Group, based in New York.

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