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A life dedicated to justice

Dominic Puopolo's mother died on September 11 aboard American Airlines flight 11. Since then, Dominic has dedicated his life to obtaining justice for all the families that lost loved ones on 9/11.  Read an essay from Dominic Puopolo.
Dominic Puopolo looks out over the World Trade Center site.
Dominic Puopolo looks out over the World Trade Center site.NBC News

Dominic Puopolo's mother died on September 11 aboard American Airlines flight 11. Since then, Dominic has dedicated his life to obtaining justice for all the families that lost loved ones on 9/11. Believing that his presence could help sway a tribunal of three German judges to convict Mounir El Motassadeq, the only person convicted for the 9/11 hijackings, Dominic moved to Hamburg and lived there for a little over a year. Motassadeq is currently out on bail in Germany, his last conviction overturned for lack of evidence. Read an essay from Dominic Puopolo below:

The tremendous pain I feel daily varies, but there is never a full day that passes by that I have relief from the losses of that horrible day in September 2001. The loss of my innocent mother who was a beautiful, wonderful, talented woman was particularly hard for me because she was a giver in life and not a taker.

My beloved mother, Sonia Morales Puopolo, was tortured and killed on Sept. 11, 2001 while onboard American Airlines Flight 11 Seat 3J. Her words and advice were just a blueprint on how to live life, and were given with the true love only a parent can give their child. They were meant to prepare me for what lay ahead in life, after her death.

We were a changed family forever after that moment. In the first months, I did not really know what to do, but as other families started to organize in order to take their pain, anger, and losses and turn them around, I thought of what I could do to make a difference.

This promise was made in an email to family and friends from Logan Airport’s American Airlines Admirals club: I wrote that someday and somehow I would afford her justice. I knew, we, as a nation, would respond without hesitation militarily to hunt down the evil soulless cowards who took my mother and the thousands of other innocent Americans who were killed.

My plans to participate in finding justice became a reality. I watched three terrorist cases very carefully: Moussaoui, Mzoudi, and Motassadeq. I had decided to attend only the opening days of the Motassadeq trial for three days at the request of several of co-plaintiffs legal counsel, who told me bluntly the case was a difficult one to prove and they needed American co-plaintiffs to be more proactive.

Three days after trial I decided I did not think we would win. As hard as the German federal prosecutors worked on these cases, they were not willing to risk everything they had, as only a real family member would.

The terrorist retrial, which commenced one day after my mother would have turned 64, started last August 2004. I decided to move to Hamburg, Germany where the final planning and logistical support of the 9/11 attacks was executed by what we now know where fanatical jihadists.

This trial took me to a city which became my new home, while assisting in the prosecution of Motassadeq. This man provided operational and logistical support critical for the success of the 9/11 attacks. Motassadeq signed the will of the man he introduced to others cell members in Hamburg as “our pilot" at least a year before the attacks.

This man I refer to Mohammed Atta specifically piloted and slammed my mother’s plane into the World Trade Center killing all onboard instantly. The group of 19 hijackers and their co-conspirators left behind in Hamburg are not infamous but are all cowards; they are not martyrs, yet simple homicidal maniacs consumed with the lust of imposing their willpower over our American democratic principals and ideas.

We now find ourselves in a war where everybody does their own small part to contribute as a team of one, united by a freedom we choose to die for to protect rather than live differently.

As we approach the final two months of trial in Hamburg, Germany, and as our nation prepares to celebrate Independence Day, I prepare to leave our homeland once again and travel overseas. I will shortly join members of the German Federal Court, German federal prosecutors, and 9/11 family members co-plaintiffs counsel in London for a deposition of the only man to have interviewed Ramzi Binalshibh and Khalid Shaikh Mohammed.

The Germans have sought to depose him for the three previous 9/11 trials held in Hamburg and failed, so this is considered an important chance to help the court decide Motassadeq’s guilt in the coming months. The witness, Yosri Fouda, an Al Jazeera reporter, is in fear of his life because he thinks al-Qaida operatives believe his interview of Ramzi Binalshibh and Khalid Shaikh Mohammed led to the former’s capture.

The only thoughts floating through my mind recently, other than closing arguments and the deposition, is the nexus between the Hamburg cell defendant -- who allegedly co-conspired with the man I seek to have convicted -- and the loss this past seven days of 25 more American servicemen.

I do think of their families and can only say to them without hesitation that their loss is mourned deeply by myself. I know the feeling of having a loved one torn out of my life over war, which we did not start nor provoke. My heart aches for each and every soldier’s family who has died since 9/11. My mother was given no mercy during her final minutes of life, nor should our enemy.

The defendant I have faced sitting across from me in trial for 10 months and his co-conspirators care nothing of human life, not only American lives, but even their fellow Muslim brothers who dare dissent against their solution on how we should live our lives.

The terrorists are terrified of the burgeoning freedoms slowly forming in Iraq and Afghanistan. Therefore, the escalation of attacks most recently are desperate acts now succeeding only, in using terror perpetrated in Iraq once again against Americans at home. We must try very hard to not allow this fear to grip us, and continue to work hard at developing stronger defenses of our homeland.

Once the trial is over, five German justices will deliver a verdict which I will learn to live with, no matter what the result. I will return, God willing, to our wonderful country, a man forever changed from the pure evil I have seen and heard, but with the peace of knowing I saw an injustice and tried my best to rectify it.

I simply am a member of team, compromised of millions of honorable Americans, moved to protect our country and seek justice against our enemy. Those lost that horrible day all carried rich and wonderful legacies, but were denied the peaceful right to return home to their families. Unprovoked violence will never advance one sides cause, nor will it ever solve real or perceived injustices in this world. This happens through us trying our best to respect and embrace each others differences, rather than change them to suit our own selfish needs.

Godspeed to all still in harm’s way on behalf of the murder of my mother Sonia Morales Puopolo and the 3,000 other innocent Americans lost on September 11. My prayers are with you, along with those who, despite political affiliation or positions on matters regarding the war and how it is being fought, support your daily efforts without question and are eternally grateful for your sacrifice.