"It's hard enough dealing with the loss of my son," said Gadiel, referring to James, 23, who worked on the 103rd floor of the World Trade Center. "If I hear FDNY reports about the suffering of people on the 101st, 102nd, 103rd floors, to relive what he and his fellow workers were going through -- I doubt I'd have the strength."
By Friday, 470 family members of lost fire department personnel had asked for the FDNY dispatches, EMS log, and transcripts of oral histories by more than 500, said FDNY spokeswoman Virginia Lam.
Even some who requested the CDs may leave them untouched, at least for the moment.
Listening to emergency dispatches and picking through thousands of pages of disturbing transcripts "is something I can't get myself to do just yet," said Diane Horning, who lost her son Matthew, 26. She compares it to her copy of "102 Minutes," the sometimes-graphic book that recounts the Twin Towers' final minutes: She just can't bring herself to pick it up. "And I have four text messages on my son's pager that I have not yet read," Horning said. "Someday I'll be able to read these things. But not right now."
Susan Rosenblum, who lost her son Joshua, 28, has no plans to even request the CDs, which FDNY ships to interested family members without charge.
"My son was on the 104th floor of the first tower hit. There was no way he was going to survive," Rosenblum said. "Whatever comes from the FDNY, EMS or whomever, it's not going to impact my life."
Rosenblum, of Coral Springs, Fla., suspected that families whose loved ones had a chance to escape may feel differently.
She told of Ingrid Jaffe of nearby Weston, Fla., who spoke to her daughter Michelle Goldstein, after the first plane hit. Goldstein, 31, worked in the second tower, still untouched as they spoke. Jaffe said, "Baby, get out of there!" but Goldstein replied, "No, no, they told us to stay. ... "
Jaffe, however, won't be requesting the CDs.
"What are they going to tell me that I don't know?" Jaffe said. "The whole thing was bungled in a horrible way. I wouldn't learn anything more." And just listening, perhaps to directives that turned out to be deadly, "would be too painful."
Also, "I'm not interested in hearing their excuses."
Bill Doyle, who lost his son, Joey, 25, sent in his request for the CDs. "I'd like to know about certain communications" as well as "if there was confusion, what the efforts were," he said. "People feel like they don't know all the details. It hasn't all come out yet."
Jack Lynch, who lost his firefighter son Michael, 30, said he'll probably request the CDs. "What can be learned? I have no idea, but it may answer some questions. At this point, we just don't know," he said.
Like Gadiel, Sally Regenhard, who lost her son Christian, 28, a probationary firefighter, intervened in the suit. She'll listen to the CDs in a lawyer's office.
She wonders, "What is in those documents that the city fought tooth and nail for the last four years to suppress? I want to know!"
On a personal level, "My goal is to find out what happened to my son: Where was he sent? Who was in charge of him? What was his assignment? What time was he sent into those buildings? What building was he sent into?"
To steel herself for the CD review, Regenhard said through tears, "I'll pray to my son, a Marine, a person of extraordinary strength." She'll bring the hand-crafted rosary her son, an artist, made for her as well as his pre-FDNY artist's ponytail, which he'd saved. Such precious items, she said, infuse her with a kind of son-to-mother energy; "I'm not strong," Regenhard said. "He's with me."
"But you know what's harder? Living without my son for the rest of my life," Regenhard said. "Nothing could be more painful than knowing my son met a brutal and wrongful and needless death."