By Shawn Boburg The Record
A tropical storm approaching Cuba has postponed a Wayne couple’s chance to stand face-to-face with the men accused of murdering their son and thousands of others on 9/11.
On Wednesday afternoon, the U.S. military cancelled pretrial hearings scheduled to start Thursday in Guantanamo Bay, and officials were arranging flights off the island for Tom and Josephine Acquaviva of Wayne, and seven other family members of 9/11 victims.
The Acquavivas, who had been chosen through a lottery to witness the proceedings, said before the trip they were looking forward to seeing the five men accused of planning and carrying out the attacks that killed their 29-year-old son, Paul Acquaviva of Glen Rock. But the approach of Tropical Storm Isaac forced the cancellation of five days of hearings before they ever began.
The military planned to evacuate about 200 people, including legal teams and journalists, who traveled to the remote base in southeast corner of the island, a Pentagon spokesman said. Whether the same families will be able to return to the rescheduled hearings is yet to be determined, said David Oten, a spokesman at the U.S. Department of Defense. He said the priority was to get the families off the island as soon as Thursday. The families are housed in temporary trailers and tents, he said.
The storm is expected to hit the island by Saturday, he said.
The judge in the case, Army Col. James Pohl, issued an order postponing the hearings until further notice due to a “concern for the safety and welfare of all personnel.”
The Navy placed the base, which has about 6,000 personnel in all, on an alert Wednesday due to the approach of Tropical Storm Isaac, which was expected to bring winds of nearly 60 mph (100 kph) within 72 hours. Officials warned military and civilian personnel to prepare emergency shelters and secure loose objects that could become projectiles in heavy wind.
A prison spokesman, Navy Capt. Robert Durand, says all 168 prisoners will be in buildings that can sustain hurricane-force winds and that the military has plans in place to provide shelter for all troops and civilians.