9/11's youngest victim would be 20 now, and there's optimism for a trial at last

Christine Lee Hanson was the youngest victim of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. If the bright and playful toddler were alive today, she would be turning 20 later this month.

Eighteen years after the attacks that killed nearly 3,000 Americans, Christine's grandparents, Eunice and Lee Hanson, have fought for justice. After a recent 9/11 case update for the families in New York City, Eunice expressed optimism a that trial date might bet set at last for the five Al Qaeda suspects.

"I admire this prosecution team. They're working very hard. Very devoted," Eunice said.

On 9/11, an entire generation of the Hanson family was killed. Eunice and Lee Hanson lost their granddaughter Christine, her father and their son Peter, as well as Peter's wife, Sue Kim. They were heading to California to visit relatives and see Disneyland when their flight, United Airlines Flight 175, was hijacked and slammed into the World Trade Center. Christine's beloved Peter Rabbit was subsequently donated to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum by her grandparents.

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Christine Lee Hanson was the youngest victim of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. If the bright and playful toddler were alive today, she would be turning 20 later this month.  

Christine Lee Hanson was the youngest victim of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. If the bright and playful toddler were alive today, she would be turning 20 later this month.   (Eunice Hanson)

But like so many of the parents who lost adult children on Sept. 11, Lee Hanson always worried he would not live long enough to see a trial of the Al Qaeda suspects held at Guantanamo Bay. In 2011, then 77-year-old Lee predicted he would die before his family saw justice, telling Fox News: "We look pretty weak in that we can't bring these people to trial."

Speaking of the self-described 9/11 architect Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who has spent more than a decade in a Guantanamo Bay prison cell, Hanson added: "How much damage do you have to do? How many people do you have to kill? And how many heads do you have to cut off before people say you're gonna be brought to justice?"

Fox News had the only camera crew on site when the 9/11 families recently met with U.S. defense officials behind closed doors at a New York City hotel. For the first time, Eunice Hanson went alone, after Lee died late last year.

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"My husband just died in November," Eunice explained on the recent winter day. "And he said all along that he'll never live to see the end of this trial. And that's just how I felt and it all came" to pass.

Medically retired New York City firefighter Robert Reeg, who was severely injured on 9/11, told Fox, "It's been years and years of this and feeling like I've been emotionally waterboarded by the defense.

Christine Lee Hanson’s Peter Rabbit, donated to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum

Christine Lee Hanson’s Peter Rabbit, donated to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum (Jin Lee)

Almost two decades after Al Qaeda terrorists struck so savagely, none of the five 9/11 suspects have been tried at Guantanamo Bay. The 9/11 military trial has stalled over a number of issues, including the Al Qaeda suspects detention in the CIA secret prisons where they were subjected to the enhanced interrogation program that critics call torture.

In November 2009, then-Attorney General Eric Holder said the five suspects would be tried in a New York City federal court. After fierce opposition, Holder reversed the decision and sent the case back to Guantanamo. That reversal is still upsetting for at least one 9/11 family member, who broke down in tears during our interview.

"If we got them into federal court right here in New York, this whole thing would be over in six months." Valerie Lucznikowska said. "See ... it's still emotional for all of us. it's still there. bring it to an end."

The private meeting with the families lasted several hours. Although a trial date was not announced, Reeg and Hanson emerged hopeful.

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"I thought the meeting went well, was very well attended," Reeg said. "The prosecutor group I thought, they were terrific. Very caring and sensitive to everybody's feelings. They told us they're moving closer to a date..."

Jamie Hargrave said: "Sounds like the new judge is going to move things along

"They've cleared most of the docket. They don't expect It to go on another five years and have more pretty mild pretrial motions, so they should get that sorted out, meaning get the trial next year. So we'll see. We're hopeful."

Hargrave added: "People are dying now with no resolution; you know, their family members are dying with no resolution. Victims are dying. People who are trying to really push for this to get this done are dying now."

Eunice, who now uses a cane, said her thoughts are always with her late husband, and with her family on Flight 175.

"There'll be justice for my kids. My kids were on the airplane,"  Eunice said.

Some of the families told Fox they believe every president, including New Yorker Donald Trump, has a special responsibility to see a trial through.

Lee Hanson, who never saw justice in his lifetime, was recently laid to rest in Connecticut alongside Peter, Sue Kim and Christine.

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Fox News reached out to the Defense Department Office of Military Commissions for a statement on the 9/11 case status.

Fox Report Weekend with Jon Scott airs Saturdays at 7 p.m. and Sundays at 6 p.m.