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Letters tell 9/11 families of 911 calls

YOUR E-MAIL ALERTS

New York

NEW YORK (CNN) -- The mayor's office is sending letters this weekend to the families of 24 victims of the 9/11 attacks, informing them of unreleased recordings of 911 calls made by their loved ones.

One recipient called the letters "totally crass."

"I had one family member call me today, she was hysterical. She actually fainted," said Bill Doyle, whose son died after two planes crashed into the WTC towers. "She opened it up in an elevator and she couldn't believe it, because she never heard from her husband that morning, but apparently he called 911."

Doyle called the letters notifying families this week "totally crass" and shocking to families. (Watch how a lawsuit led to release of tapes -- 2:24)

He sent an e-mail to victims' families Saturday.

"We are sending this e-mail to you because we do not want you to be blindsided by the information, and we want you to be able to choose where and when you read the information and with whom," Doyle's e-mail to families said.

Jonathan Greenspun, commissioner of the Mayor's Community Assistance Unit, in a written statement responding to Doyle's complaint, said his office had intended to send an e-mail to WTC support groups Friday to give them advance notice but a "miscommunication" delayed the warning until Saturday.

Families of those heard on the 911 calls can request a CD with the unedited recording, Greenspun said.

As part of a court decision last year, it will be left to those next of kin to decide whether the New York Fire Department recordings will be made public.

Letters began arriving by special delivery Friday, sent by New York officials to the families offering them copies of the calls and informing them of their right to keep them private or make them public.

Edited versions of the calls, including only the voices of the 911 operators and dispatchers, will be released to the news media this week by the New York Fire Department, Greenspun said.

The New York Court of Appeals last year ruled that the final words of a private citizen calling 911 were protected by privacy rights that could only be waived by next of kin.

The court's decision in a suit filed by the New York Times and the families of nine firefighters who died also resulted in last summer's release of emergency radio recordings and 12,000 pages of oral histories taken in the weeks after the attacks.

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