Eau Claire woman who lost father in 9/11 attacks fights for victims’ compensation legislation

Angela Mistrulli looks at pictures of her father, Joseph, who died in the 9/11 attacks.
Angela Mistrulli looks at pictures of her father, Joseph, who died in the 9/11 attacks.(Max Cotton)
Published: Sep. 9, 2022 at 8:16 PM CDT
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - Angela Mistrulli lives in Eau Claire but she grew up in New York. Her father, Joseph, was working in a restaurant on the 107th floor of the North Tower of the World Trade Center when terrorists attacked the building on Sept. 11, 2001. He never made it out of the building. She still lives with that pain nearly 21 years later but she also has a mission, trying to get what she feels she and other spouses and children of 9/11 victims deserve.

“He was a wonderful man. Very loving, caring man. He was not a man of many words but his actions were what mattered and he showed up whenever you needed him to,” Mistrulli said about her father.

She was a teenager when he died. Now she’s a mom with three kids.

“It took me a long time to come to reality with the fact that he was gone,” Mistrulli said. “I did not want to entertain that reality because that reality was a world that I just didn’t want to be in.”

In the nearly 21 years since she entered that reality, Mistrulli’s world has turned to a new cause. She is hoping to receive payment from the Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund (VSST). It pays families of people who died in terrorist attacks.

She said it’s a place for victims to be able to go with their court-awarded judgments and receive equal and fair compensation.

There was only one problem for Mistrulli and many other 9/11 victims’ spouses and kids. They participated in the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund (VCF), which awarded money to families in the years following the attack.

“They were barred because of a non-economical award payment that was received in the VCF,” she said.

Though Congress recently allowed them to start collecting their judgments form the VSST, a Government Accountability Office report from 2021 said they should get catch-up payments for the years they weren’t eligible for the VSST.

Mistrulli said to get that money, they need Congress to fund it, which is estimated to cost about $2.7 billion according to the report.

“There are many ways that this can be done,” she said. “We just need Congress to be open-minded and get this done.”

That’s what Mistrulli and other 9/11 families are hoping for. They want the same compensation as families who weren’t part of the original VCF.

“Because the brothers and sisters did not receive the non-economic award $100,000 from the VCF fund, they were able to receive in upwards of $1.5 million from the USVSST fund,” she said.

“It’s astounding to me and it’s very hurtful and kind of degrading that my life changed drastically with the loss of my dad. And to not be included in this major fund that had siblings of those that lost and parents of those that lost is mind-blowing,” said Julie Henneberry.

She lives in Milwaukee now but grew up in New York City. Her was a New York City firefighter who died on 9/11.

While both Henneberry and Mistrulli agree, no amount of money will make up for what they lost, it will help the continue to heal from that day.

“Just having funds to be able to deal with this and unpack the grief would be great because a part of it is we do feel like we’ve been left out for years and years and year,” Henneberry said.

No matter what Congress does, however, or how much money they’re paid, it won’t come close to replacing what they lost.

“It will never bring my father back. It will never have him there to walk me down the aisle. It will never have him there for his first grandchildren, for Christmases, for birthdays,” Mistrulli said.

There is proposed legislation with bi-partisan support to fund the VSST catch-up payments. Rep. Ron Kind, D-Wis., is one of the bill’s co-sponsors.