Saturday, August 20, 2011

Mayor Bloomberg and the First Responders

This week, as I was surfing around the news sites, I read that Mayor Bloomberg announced that the 9/11 First Responders were not invited to the 10th anniversary ceremony at Ground Zero. In my opinion, this is just... wrong.

9/11 changed our world forever. Life in the United States was totally different before the events of that day. Before 9/11 we were safe. Terrorist attacks were something that happened in other countries. Northern Ireland. The Middle East. Even prior attacks like the Oklahoma City bombing and the earlier attempt on the World Trade Center seemed like isolated events. They weren't part of our world.

After 9/11, we will never feel safe again.

I have always felt that September 11th should be a national holiday, a day of mourning, prayer, and commemoration. We mourn not only those who died, but the passing of more innocent times. After ten years, memories fade. There are children who never knew a time when you passed through airport security without having to take off your shoes, allowed to carry water bottles through the gates, and weren't limited to a quart Baggie of liquids. We need to remember.

And, while the towers were burning and civilians were streaming out of lower Manhattan, who was heading into the disaster, rushing up stairwells to bring people out, and sacrificing their lives? New York's Bravest and New York's Finest. It was chaos. No one knew what was happening, communications were scrambled, the immensity of it was overwhelming. But these men and women did their job as best they could and suffered the consequences.





And they stayed there for days, weeks, months afterwards, searching through the wreckage, first for survivors, and later for victims.







They honored the dead.









And they honored their country.







The reason Mayor Bloomberg gave was that there just isn't enough room at the site to include everyone. The families of the victims have to be given priority. But, as so many have pointed out, the firefighters and police were family to their brothers and sisters who died that day.

There were 343 firefighters and 72 police officers who died. I remember watching the funerals for so many of these during the following weeks on television. And at every one there was a huge contingent of their fellow first responders.

Certainly Mayor Bloomberg, who figured out a way to stay in office by changing the law on term limits, something even Rudy Giuliani, who showed what leadership in a crisis looks like, refused to do, can figure out a way to make the heroes of 9/11 a part of this anniversary?

They say that the majority of firefighters will be at the firefighters memorial on Riverside Drive. Wouldn't it be possible for the firefighters and police to have a procession through Ground Zero on their way to this location that would be part of the ceremony? Wouldn't it be possible to have a representative contingent remain onsite for the full ceremony?

On this tenth anniversary of the worst terrorist attack the United States has ever known, we need to respect and honor those who gave so much in its aftermath.

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