First responders excluded from 9/11 memorial

Chaplain of the FDNY's uniform is put on display on the 10 year anniversary of 9/11. Photo courtesy of Associated Press/ Tina Fineberg

The first responders on Sept. 11, 2001 were welcomed as heroes the day of the attacks. Ten years later, New York City turned them away.

Due to space constraints, the first responders were not invited to this year’s Sept. 11 memorial at ground zero, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s office confirmed.

Bloomberg spokesman Andrew Brent said in a statement that the annual memorial was for victims’ families, CNN reported.

Brent said the city is working to honor the first responders and other groups at different times and places.

But current and former first responders are unhappy about being excluded.

“I’m absolutely disgusted,” said retired NYPD officer Anthony Flammia, according to FOX News.

Flammia said the omission was “a total disrespect to the responders … it’s very easy for them to make the space for us.”

In addition to excluding the first responders from this year’s memorial, this service did not specifically include clergy members or prayer.

Senior legal fellow Cathy Ruse of the Family Research Council, a non-profit advocacy group, and New York City councilman Fernando Cabrera delivered a petition with over 62,000 signatures to Bloomberg in an effort to allow first responders and clergy members to attend the memorial on Sept. 8, according to a Family Research Council press release.

“Banning religion from the memorial of this tragedy is, in fact, unnatural for America, and for Americans,” Ruse said in the release. “It’s hollow and strange. It feels like an attempt to scrub the history books of the importance that God and faith played on that day and afterwards, and even to rewrite our long-cherished tradition as a nation of elected officials including clergy and invoking God at every point of crisis.”

Bloomberg’s office said the first responders have not been invited to the nine previous memorial services either.

Morris Faitelewicz, a first responder and vice president of the Auxiliary Police Supervisors Benevolent Association, called that explanation “nonsense,” CNN reported. Faitelewicz said that while there are not usually formal invitations, the first responders have been able to attend all previous memorials by showing up.

Students also expressed strong opinions about the first responders’ exclusion from the service.

Tess Quinlan, a sophomore in the College of Communication, lived in Montclair, N.J., in on Sept. 11, 2001. Her church pastor’s brother, a New York City Fire Department fire chaplain, died in the attacks.

“You have to remember them, because if you don’t, then it totally diminishes everything that they died for,” Quinlan said in a video interview.

Donnie Dwyer, a senior in the College of Communication, witnessed the attacks as a sixth-grader living in New York.

“(We) as a country will strive (to) move on from that and remember all the firemen and all the people that worked there to make a living,” Dwyer said in a video interview.

Anthony Allegretti, a junior in the College of Arts & Sciences, said this was an insult to the first responders.

“That’s the most ridiculous thing you could do to the men who probably saved countless lives,” he said.