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First responders excluded from 9/11 ceremony

First responders excluded from 9/11 ceremony

Published: 17 August, 2011, 23:24

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TAGS: AnniversaryHealthTerrorismHistory,USACultureWar

They were the first on the scene and now they’re the last ones on the guest list – and that’s if they even get invited. First responders that risked their lives are being told there is no room for them at next month's 9/11 ceremony.

Around 3,000 first responders that were among the earliest to report to New York City's Twin Towers on September 11, 2001 are being excluded from the tenth anniversary ceremony next month due to space constraints. "We're working to find ways to recognize and honor first responders, and other groups, at different places and times," a representative for New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg tells CNN.

Both President Barack Obama and former President George W Bush are expected to attend next month’s ceremony that will honor those that lost their lives during the attacks. First responders, many suffering grave injuries from the catastrophe a decade later, are wondering why no invites were issued their way, however.

"I'm absolutely disgusted,” retired NYPD cop Anthony Flammina tells Fox News. He says that it would be easy to make space for the first responders but instead says that officials are showing “a total disrespect.”

"The best of the best that this country offered 10 years ago are being neglected and denied their rightful place," harps John Feal to CNN. Feal was a first responder himself and has since founded an advocacy group for those that risked their lives that September morning.

Some first responders say the decision to exclude them from the ceremony is only adding insult to injury as they continue to fight for coverage for illnesses obtained during September 11. Last month the National Institute for Occupation Safety and Health decided that first responders suffering from cancer would not be covered under federal aid for 9/11 victims, citing “insufficient evidence” linking the terror attacks to diseases.

At that time, James Zadroga of the 9/11 Health and Compensation Act responded that he was confident that studies“will ultimately provide the scientific evidence” to link the influx in cancer with first responders on the scene at the World Trade Center.


First responders decry exclusion from 9/11 ceremony

August 16, 2011|By Jeff Stein, CNN 
New York City police officers attend last year's September 11 memorial ceremony. First responders are not invited this year.

When debris rained from the sky in lower Manhattan on September 11, 2001, the first responders to the terrorist attack did not turn away. They rushed to the World Trade Center buildings while the world around them crumbled.

Yet now, after all the wreckage has been cleared and the rebuilding has begun, their path is again blocked -- not by flying chunks of smoldering rubble, but by space constraints.

The first responders are not invited to this year's September 11 memorial ceremony at ground zero, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's office confirmed Monday.

It's a painful insult for many of the approximately 3,000 men and women who risked their lives, limbs and lungs on that monumental day, puncturing another hole in a still searing wound.

In a statement, Bloomberg spokesman Andrew Brent said the commemoration ceremony is for the victims' families.

"While we are again focused on accommodating victims' family members, given the space constraints, we're working to find ways to recognize and honor first responders, and other groups, at different places and times," Brent said.

But first responder John Feal, founder of an advocacy group for the police officers, firefighters, civilian volunteers and others who worked at ground zero, assailed Brent's response, saying Bloomberg "lives in his own world."

"The best of the best that this country offered 10 years ago are being neglected and denied their rightful place," Feal said.

Denise Villamia, a first responder who worked at ground zero for several months, cried over the phone as she recalled her "totally heartbroken" reaction to the news that she could not attend the memorial service.

"I'm crying because it's really a big betrayal on the part of the city, to rob me from my way to pay homage and to find that comfort and healing," she said. "I feel that I have been robbed of my way to pay tribute."

In addition to the victims' families, several politicians, including two presidents, are expected to be in attendance. Bloomberg's office would not provide specifics on the ceremony's arrangements, but did note that the first responders have not been invited to the preceding nine memorial services, either.

Yet first responder Morris Faitelewicz, vice president of the Auxiliary Police Supervisors Benevolent Association, called that explanation "nonsense." Faitelewicz said that, while there are not usually formal invitations, first responders have been able to attend all of the previous ceremonies simply by showing up.


Not allowing them to attend this year -- the 10th anniversary of the terror attacks -- is an especially galling affront, he said.

Additionally, many of the first responders see the decision, first reported by the New York Daily News, as evidence of the city's attempt to push to the background their untreated ailments in the official narrative of recovery and renewal.

If the responders attend the memorial service, "the promise 'we'll never forget' becomes a blatantly obvious lie -- a public display that the government didn't do right by us," says Bonnie Giebfried, a first responder.

"It'll bring up the issue that we're basically walking dead, and that we're not being treated."

Despite the passage in December of the $4.2 billion Zagroda Act, which provides medical treatment and compensation to responders, many first responders told CNN that the government has failed to address their health needs.

Giebfried has suffered from a failing liver and kidneys, a crushed arm, elbow and wrist; post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic fatigue, encroaching lupus and other diseases. All were caused by the dust, debris and other substances to which she was exposed on 9/11, she said.

On that day, Giebfried, an emergency medical technician at the time, was twice entombed in sheared building fragments, and twice escaped.

She and her partner, Jennifer Beckham, transported people to safety and set up makeshift triage stations. She watched bodies hit the ground and explode "like a bouncing ball," and suffered three asthma attacks through a harrowing day of devastation.

Giebfried said her ongoing medical travails have disabused her of the belief that the United States honors and looks after its service members. Being excluded from the memorial proceedings was yet another confirmation of this, she said.

"If the Founding Fathers ever saw what had happened to us responders, they would roll over in their graves," she said. "Leaving first responders and survivors out of the 10th anniversary is absolutely ludicrous."

Her frustrations were echoed by others.

Father Stephen Petrovich, who drove to ground zero from Huron, Ohio, hours after the terrorists struck, spent weeks at the site removing and blessing the remains of shattered bodies. While there, he says, he inhaled carcinogens that damaged his lungs, and is now in hospice care.

"I don't think they want us there because of all the problems we've had," Petrovich said. "It's like we've been dropped off the face of the earth."

In July, the World Trade Center Health Program, which administers funds from the Zagroda Act, ruled that first responders would not receive compensation for cancer treatment because there is no established causal link between the incidence of cancer and exposure to the site on September 11, citing a dearth of "published scientific and medical findings."

A first responder who also spent months at ground zero, the Rev. Terry Lee called not being invited back for the ceremony "a rip in the heart."

Lee said the country should honor those who responded at its most dire hour of need to encourage others to respond to crises.

"I believe attending will help the healing process ... if we go; we can tell our fellow man to get involved, because, 'hey, America takes care of its own.'"


The Call Blog: Politicians In, First Responders Out At 9/11 Ceremony 


Have something to tell us at The Call? Drop us a line at thecall@ny1.comand we'll post it to our blog.


When it comes to the 9/11 ceremony, I think Mayor Bloomberg got it right. Politicians should have a limited role on the anniversary. Very limited. No speeches. No stumping. In fact, I'll take it one step further. How about no politicians at all? I don't need to hear Mayor Bloomberg reading poetry. I don't need to see George W. Bush lay a wreath. Don't invite any politicians, and no New Yorker will complain. Trust me.

With the tenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks just over three weeks away, Mayor Bloomberg is defending plans to commemorate the solemn occasion. Bloomberg addressed reports that Governor Cuomo and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie were looking for a more active role in the ceremony. Bloomberg said, "We've tried very hard every year to keep the focus away from politics and politicians, and on families, where it belongs."

That focus is not sitting well with many first responders. Firefighters, police officers and rescue workers are not invited to the ceremony on 9/11/11. Citing limited space at the World Trade Center site, the Mayor said, "This is for the families, the first day. After that, we are planning something for first responders to say thank you." What do you say?

What role should politicians play in the upcoming tenth anniversary? Should first responders be invited to the World Trade Center site? What would you like to see during the ceremony?

Send your thoughts using the link above.


Families of those who died should have all the homage due to them on this most solemn anniversary, let's keep the rancor and petty politics out of it. As for politician's they should have no role other than being there to show their respects.

Bay Ridge

How dare they, this is not about politics but remembering those who died that day. I say it is for families and first responders and if bloomy is so hell bent on being in the spotlight how about they cut the ribbon for the memorial when it opens to the public the following day? they need to stop being so self serving and think about the people who voted them into office for a change!

Forest Hills



Hi John and all at NY1,

There goes foot-in-his mouth Bloomberg again! How about the firefighters' and first responders' families? How about all of them who died?

Now Cathy Black was simply a dumb choice for Schools Chancellor; threatening the jobs of the firefighters and over 6000 teachers was manipulative; closing so many of the senior centers is mean, thoughtless and stupid. But this is just about the worst I've ever seen.

Purely disgusted!
Liz in Sunnyside

This is a time to celebrate the lives of those lost, and let the families reaffirm they will never be forgotten. As I look at the economy I can only say one thing about politicians: stay FAR AWAY!

Bay Ridge, NY

I don't understand the logic. Weren't first responders killed by OBL too? What does that have to do with 'politics'? Don't they also have 'families'? Is the Mayor distinguishing between people who worked in certain jobs at the WTC? Do stockbrokers' families get better seats than the families of the busboys who worked and died at Windows of the World? The families of firefighters & cops don't matter because he doesn't like their politics? This is in itself a political move and it's nauseating.

Sheepshead Bay

As we prepare to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the United States, it is totally incomprehensible to exclude all of those brave first responders who worked day and night for months at the World Trade Center following the attack. How could these decent, brave, caring people be not invited to this solemn commemoration? They certainly deserve to be there on September 11th,2010. All of the big politicians from our region will be there,as well as President Obama and former president George W. Bush. All of our first responders deserve unequivocal recognition by this city and country on September 11th. The politicians were not the ones who came to Ground Zero and labored for months;the first responders did. Let us show our undying gratitude and also honor them, along with all of the 3,000 people who perished in the worst terrorist attack on U. S. soil since the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor.

Fresh Meadows, NY

Hi John,

Who is this Bloomberg kidding? What low profile is he talking about. Do you really think that he would share the spotlight with the two governor's. If he could get rid of Giuliani he would in a minute.

In a sense he would love to do much of this behind closed doors and then he won't have to reveal anything going on about that whole area. They in no way at all should have built anything down there. All they needed was a memorial but he had to satisfy his cronies. I remember a few years ago they wanted all of the names of the people from the holocaust. That has nothing to do with 9/11 and as it is they aren't even going to invite the first responders to the ceremony.

Bloomberg wanted to do away with the flower pool and the reading of the names. He wishes all of this would go away. But he will milk the lime light for as long as he can without sharing it with anyone else. All they want from us is more money to take care of all their projects and not ever want to answer what they are doing with our money. Now we find out that we have to pay for the 9/11 memorial. How much more can all of us keep paying?

Thank You John,

I think first responders should be there along with family members and survivors. I think it would be nice to see a person who was brought to safety, see the fireman, policeman, etc who saved him/her to say thanks publicly. These first responders, many who weren't even in the area or were off that day, ran to help, because that is the nature of their job. They risked their lives to save others. So many of them didn't make it out. 

Keep the politician's out. We don't need to see them. This day belongs to the families, survivors, & rescuers. 

Arden Heights Staten Island

I feel that politicians should not be involved it should be about the lives that were lost and the first responders that risked their own lives..remembrance of America unified ...

Eduardo from ridgewood queens

Let all Politicians be present, and say absolutely NOTHING. This is about families and the first responders, and there were many people lost from NJ also. No talking from Politicians, we can hear from them at a later date!

Dee - Huguenot

First Responders should absolutely be allowed to attend the september 11th memorial. They risked their lives to go into those buildings to help people. They, more than anyone, have to live with the trauma of september 11th everyday. They were there. To exclude them from this ceremony is terrible, hurtful, and incredibly unappreciative and does not represent the thoughts of the people of NYC. This shouldn't even be a question.

And very little to no politicians.

Thanks for giving us a voice.


God Bless Our Losses and first responses.


No way should first responders not be allowed to participate in the ceremony. In fact, the anniversary should not only be about what we lost in lives to citizens, but to those who were there as first responders who lost their lives also. What balance is it to the thinking that the lives of city workers who lost their lives in 9/11 should not be recognized by those city workers who follow them in the line of duty?


The 1st Responders should most certainly be welcome there on September 11th 2011, as they were in 2001, before even any politician is included. The only politicians who should be there to speak should be Guilliani and the gov of NY who was in office at the time of The Great Tragedy. Bloomberg is a... I'm working on not insulting people, so I'll refrain.

La Monica in East Harlem

Playing politics resulted in the WTC still not being rebuilt after 10 years. The 10th anniversary of 9/11 should be a call for UNITY. I work in the immigrant community and the fear and hatred of immigrants post 9/11 is something that needs to end.

Evan- Forest Hills

No politicians should be involved! The politicians are only going to turn it in to a political event. They need to stop this petty bickering now The day should only be about the families, the survivors, & the FIRST RESPONDERS who put their lives on the line for us everyday!

Julie, the Bronx

My name is kimberly from queens and I feel that politicians should really not involved it should be about the lives that were lost and us uniting to make their memory live on.and for first responders they should be there

The nerve of Bloombug..politics should put this aside for once..The first responders and the family should attend..Poor first responders, poor families.


I'd only like to see Mayor Bloomberg attend the 9-11 Memorial event if he announces then and there that he'll donate part of his vast fortune that he made during his three terms as NY's Mayor to finish building the World Trade Center. If he doesn't plan to do that, he should give his spot to a first responder.

Ann in Riverdale

The sooner Bloomberg is gone the better. His fifteen minutes of fame is soon over and I can't wait. Go away already!

The Village

Politicians are welcome as long as the only thing they read is the list of names of the victims of 911. The rest of their speeches can be done at a different time.


Napoleon Bloomberg should sit down and button his lips.

Upper East Side

Hi John

That first responders are not invited to the ceremony is disgraceful. The politicians are not the ones that experienced the first-hand horrors. Not only should first responders be present --- they should be seated up front with family members who lost loved ones. I was talking with a retired NYC Motorcycle Police Officer today at the Blood Bank and he expressed his total dismay over this decision. It is time to put egos aside and DO THE RIGHT THING!!!

Rita, Bayside

It's unfortunate that it appears that September 11th 2001 will always be some sort of political stage for whoever wants to beat their drum. Enough with allowing any politicians to "run the show". It's just plain gruesome.

Peace, Nick
Hell's K.

Close Church Street or West Broadway and Set up giant TVs up by Canal Street.

Canal Street was the center for photos, candles, and remembrances.

Vistiors and residents will be very disappointed not being told ahead of time they cannot visit the site.

IT IS NOT FAIR TO US to be excluded. It is like a sacred day.

You could set up a special area for FIRST RESPONDERS so they are not excluded.

Batter Park would be another good spot to view the ceremonies on giant TV's

LES 10002

attn please, it is hard to believe that the people who took a big hit on 9-11, are being asked to stay away i believe the fire dep lost close to 325 men, i do not know how many of the responders police officers etc, were lost. i worked to have the site preserved as a shrine, with many religious centers to be built on it. I know who worked to ensure that the site would continue to be a money center, i know when it comes to money and people where this man lies.


There is only so much space. Check out the list and see who should get cut...



Op-Ed: First responders not invited to 9/11 ceremony in NYC 


New York - Almost 10 years ago two planes flew into the World Trade Towers on September 11, 2001. Those first on the scene were the police, paramedics and fire fighters. They are now told not to come a 10th anniversary event.
New York City officials have deemed that there isn't enough room to allow for the men and women who were first to run to the rescue at Ground Zero for the 10th anniversary of 9/11.
The families of the victims will be invited as will some high ranking politicians including President Barack Obama and former president George W. Bush. Rudy Giulaini, the mayor of New York City at the time of the attack, will also be there.
The city though does not have enough room for the estimated 91,000 police, firefighters and emergency workers that dug through the rubble to save who they could that day. They are to be invited back another day for a commemorative ceremony according to city officials.
There is no doubt that the first priority at the event be for those whose loved ones were lost. And there lays the rub. Every first responder at the scene lost someone they cared about that day. The brotherhood of police, firefighters and EMS workers were mourning the loss of life of many, yet their loss is not being accounted for.
Uncoverage.net quotes David Jacobs, a man who volunteered at the site to sift debris.
“To have a separate service on another day has no significance, no meaning,” said Jacobs of Queens, who volunteered at the site and who lost a childhood friend, a city firefighter, in the attacks.
“For many of us, we gave a lot at that site,” he said.
It's true that first responders have never been invited to the ceremonies in the past but this year is special. Ten years have passed since that fateful day. The ones who raced to the scene are to be given a special day but it has yet to be set.
By saying the families of victims of that day are being invited but denying the first responders a place at the ceremony is saying that their brotherhood is not as important. They all lost so many as whole units ran into the burning towers never to return.
It's true that first responders face danger every day. It's part of the job to put one's self in the line of fire to protect others. To fight death at every turn is what heroes do.
On that day the city lost 343 New York City Fire Department firefighters, including one FDNY Fire Chaplain, Franciscan Fr. Mychal Judge, 23 New York City Police Department officers, and 37 Port Authority Police Department officers.
About 2,000 first responders were injured during the attacks.
Their families will be invited to the event but not their extended family whom they faced life and death with on a daily basis.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.comLike • 81 people liked this article

504 recommendations. 

Autumn Sliwka As Denis Leary said "NYC firefighters not invited to 10th anniv of 9/11 at Ground Zero. They werent invited on that day in 2001 either. They just showed up."
18 · ·Reply · Thursday at 9:46am



Michael Swannick · Sergeant at Triborough Bridge & Tunnel AuthorityI’m Not Invited To Ground Zero On 9/11. I strapped a gun on my hip and a badge on my chest. and I’m not invited to ground zero on 9/11. ...See More
3 · ·Reply · Yesterday at 8:03am



Quack Pack - Its a disgrace.. IM sorry that everyone lost family members but they were not down there trying to save others risking their lives and they were not there cleaning up and searching for months afterwards... THOSE people deserve to be first! They lost people too and risked their lives to try to save the lives of so many others!
3 · ·Reply · Friday at 4:21pm


Rhoni A Petra Horton · Works at Drop In Secretarial ServiceIt doesn't seem that long ago probably because its still a clear and present danger.
·Reply · Friday at 5:58pm



Chris Cullenanother bad decision by men in suits, how dare they.
3 · · Reply · Friday at 1:39pm


Michael Flanagan - The only memorial we in the emergency services ask for from our political leaders is to look after our families after we give up our lives for people we will never meet. They should be providing and safeguarding our widows and orphans benefits. While we are alive, they could show their support by providing decent wages and benefits. However, we live in a time when we are constantly being beat down by our politicians in a systemic, structured, and organized attack. Now these politicians will gather to show how much they care, and tell us there is no room for us. We ask not for monuments, but for a living monument, one of kept promises. Actions are louder than words...
4 · ·Reply · Friday at 1:57pm


Chris Cullenhere here, same systemic, structured and orginised attacke here as well!...they simply know we are dedacated to the job and wont stand by and let someone die if we can do something, i dont know the answer but there has to be one!
2 · ·Reply · Friday at 2:07pm


Mary Rita Donegan FlanaganI, for one, think it is a total disgrace the way our politicians treat not only our police, paramedics, and firefighters but also their families. These men and women sacrifice everything, including their personal lives, and only ask for their widows and orphans to be helped in the time of need. They don't want to hear empty promises; they want to see those promises made by politicians be kept.
·Reply · Yesterday at 1:53pm



Bruce Van Dyk · Hudson Valley Community CollegeThen its not much of a ceremony is it?
3 · ·Reply · Thursday at 7:39pm



Paul Christensen · Owner at Old heights tavernwould rather have firemen there, then some stupid presidents! where were all these presidents when the FDNY was rushing in?
2 · ·Reply · Thursday at 1:22pm


Kjel Franchimust agree on this
· Reply · Thursday at 1:40pm


Christine Hooker · University of Central FloridaAgree
1 · ·Reply · Thursday at 3:26pm


Jay Rodabaugh · Horseheads, New YorkOf course they aren't invited. It will be a political platform. To bad they didn't fly about 10 planes into the House and Senate. There would have been no big loss there.
2 · ·Reply · Thursday at 5:52pm



Jacqui HaggertyAbsolutely shameful.
2 · ·Reply · Thursday at 11:00am



John Ray - The suits can stay at home and give up their attendance. I don't recall any politician onsite trying to help, give your spots up to those who did.
1 · ·Reply · 2 hours ago



Michelle Johanyak-CopenUnbelievable........its a smack in the face but our govt is pretty good at doing that to all of us.
1 · ·Reply · Thursday at 10:44am



Monty LavinShame on NYC officials. NYC policemen, firefighters, and EMS are not invited to the 10th anniversary of 9/11 at Ground Zero..... They weren't invited on that day in 2001 either. They just showed up. PLEASE REPOST
·Reply · 35 minutes ago



Audrey Thrasher · Schweinfurt, GermanyHow awful that it is more important to have high officials and the president then the people who made a difference that day. When the event was planed they knew the number of people affected by that day. So why on earth could they have not accounted a big enough space and seats for everyone of them. Such a disgrace to the men and women in uniform that served that day and lost people too.
·Reply · 16 minutes ago



John RayI agree, just "SHOW UP!"
· Reply · 2 hours ago




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Comment by Shallel Octavia on August 30, 2011 at 9:24pm

I hope there's a fire! No First Responders allowed! 


Shallel (Way past his Bullshit level.) 



Comment by Shallel Octavia on August 21, 2011 at 8:45pm
I don't have to tell you friends how disgusting and repulsive I find this, especially when there will be "Perps Aplenty™" at the 10th Memorial. PLEASE be careful, all who have the courage and ability to protest at the site and spread the truth this year. I think they will be gunning for you.

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