First responders and survivors from 9/11 have been excluded from this year’s memorial commemoration at Ground Zero, on the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks.
The somber event at the World Trade Center will exclusively welcome family members of the victims of the attacks.
Invitations from the 9/11 Memorial & Museum were sent to relatives of the fallen as usual, but mentioned that ‘the ceremony will be exclusively for 9/11 family members.’
The letters state that the invitations will serve as the ‘credential for admittance to the ceremony on the memorial plaza’, according to the New York Post.
Organizers have insisted this is the same policy as in previous years, but families have called for first responders to be allowed to attend on the milestone anniversary.
Others have claimed that first responders were welcomed, until last years event was cancelled due the coronavirus pandemic, the Post reports.
The commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the attacks on September 11 will omit first responders and survivors as the event at Ground Zero will be held exclusively for family members of the fallen
While first responders and survivors were never formally invited to the event they were supposedly let in without passes every year but will not this year due to the pandemic
The solemn gathering honoring the milestone anniversary at the World Trade Center site will lead the country in remembering the horrific events of September 11, 2001
The annual reading of the 2,983 names of the victims at Ground Zero has become the main event of the sobering tribute to the devastation normally attended by family members, survivors, first responders, sitting presidents, and politicians.
This year will welcome back the reading of the names of the victims by family members in-person after the pandemic caused the 2020 event to stream a past recording of the reading online.
Along with the in-person reading , the ceremony will observe six moments of silence coinciding with the time each of the World Trade Center towers was struck and fell, the times corresponding to the attack on the Pentagon and the crash of Flight 93.
Alice M. Greenwald, President and CEO of the 9/11 Memorial & Museum, insisted the policy of only inviting family to the ceremony was the same as every other year.
She said in a statement: ‘There has been no change from previous years: the annual commemoration has always been focused on those who were killed in the attacks, and their family members are invited to attend with any guests they’d like to bring along.
‘Once a year, every year, for four hours family members and their guests have an opportunity to come to the 9/11 Memorial plaza and mourn together.’
But many people affected by the devastation 20 years ago are speaking out against the policy, and say survivors and hero first responders should also be allowed to attend.
Jim Riches, a retired firefighter himself, lost his firefighter son Jimmy in the attacks on the Twin Towers.
He has attended every 9/11 ceremony since that dark day and claims that first-responders have been regularly admitted to the event in previous years without passes.
‘They turn a blind eye and let them in,’ he told the New York Post. ‘I know some in full uniform have gotten in and also seen others turned away.
The reading of the 2,983 names of the victims by family members at Ground Zero serves as the focus for the annual somber commemoration
The annual event began on September 11, 2002 honoring those killed in the 9/11 attacks and in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing
Sally Regenhard, who lost her firefighter son Christian on September 11, 2001 believes the event should welcome more than family members.
She said ‘I think that 9/11 happened to a lot of people, and we can’t forget the survivors. It didn’t happen exclusively to people who were massacred on that day. It profoundly affected other people, who were physically or emotionally injured.’
‘People in the uniformed services consider the people they work with as brothers and sisters — they’re a family. They should make an effort to have every single first responder who would like to attend, go. It should be open to all of them, especially those who answered the call of duty on 9/11,’ Regenhard said.
Tim Frolich was rescued by two Port Authority police officers and a firefighter when his foot was crushed while escaping the rubble from the South Tower’s collapse. He believes first responders, like those who saved him, should be invited to the annual ceremony.
‘They’re the people we turned to in a moment of sheer chaos to help us,’ the Fuji Bank employee told the Post.
Frank Siller, CEO of the Tunnel to Towers Foundation, who lost his firefighter brother, Stephen agrees that first-responders and survivors should not be turned away. ‘Just because it’s 20 years later doesn’t mean you’re completely healed,’ he said. ‘They want to pay their respects and honor their heroes. I think they should be allowed down there.’
US President George W. Bush (C) with First Lady Laura Bush bow their heads on September 11, 2006, during a moment of silence at a ceremony with New York City First Responders
Mourners attend the first World Trade Center memorial service at Ground Zero on September 11, 2002
It is traditional for the president to attend one of the memorial services on 9/11, and Biden attended last year when he was a candidate for the presidency.
But a group 1,800 family members of Americans who died in the attacks wrote to President Biden this month urging him not to visit any memorials to the incident until he agrees to declassify government information on the role of Saudi Arabia.
The families and people directly impacted by the attacks are demanding Biden uphold a campaign statement to err on the side of putting out government information – and say they won’t support him visiting Ground Zero to mark the 20th anniversary of the attacks.
‘Twenty years later, there is simply no reason – unmerited claims of “national security” or otherwise – to keep this information secret,’ the letter signed by 1,800 family members and others said.
‘We understand President Biden’s desire to mark the solemn occasion of the 20th anniversary at Ground Zero. However, we cannot in good faith, and with veneration to those lost, sick, and injured, welcome the president to our hallowed grounds until he fulfills his commitment,’ they wrote.
Brett Eagleson, who’s father Bruce Eagleson was killed in the attack on the World Trade Center, helped gather the signatures.
He told DailyMail.com: ‘We look forward to President Biden ending this 20 year nightmare. If he does so, he will be a true hero not only for the 9/11 community but for all Americans for standing up for what’s right and just and having the courage to do what his predecessors would not.’
The White House said Friday that Biden ‘remains committed to that pledge he made during the campaign,’ Press Secretary Jen Psaki said.
She said the administration has had multiple meetings with family members over their document requests, but said any steps on the matter would be undertaken by the Justice Department.
The signatories point to Biden’s nuanced commitment in a 2020 letter to the families, who have also brought litigation against the government of Saudi Arabia seeking compensation.
‘I intend to be a President for all Americans, and will hear all of their voices. The 9/11 Families are right to seek full truth and accountability,’ Biden told them.
‘I will direct my Attorney General to personally examine the merits of all cases where the invocation of privilege is recommended, and to err on the side of disclosure in cases where, as here, the events in question occurred two decades or longer ago,’ he said.
Brett Eagleson, who’s father Bruce Eagleson was killed in the attack on the World Trade Center, helped organize the letter
‘We cannot in good faith, and with veneration to those lost, sick, and injured, welcome the president to our hallowed grounds until he fulfills his commitment,’ Brett Eagleson and other family members wrote
The signers note Biden’s desire to ‘mark the solemn occasion at Ground Zero’
Biden issued a nuanced commitment in writing on release of Sept. 11th information
Biden said the Trump Administration had invoked state secrets to prevent the release of information, and said he would adhere to prior Obama Administration standards, where privilege, if invoked, ‘should be narrowly tailored––that is, used only to the extent necessary to protect against the risk of significant harm to national security.’
‘Further, it states that the privilege may not be invoked in order to prevent embarrassment to a person or organization,’ Biden wrote.
The families accuse the government of concealing information that has emerged since the Sept. 11th Commission issued its report.
‘Since the conclusion of the 9/11 Commission in 2004 much investigative evidence has been uncovered implicating Saudi government officials in supporting the attacks,’ they write. ‘Through multiple administrations, the Department of Justice and the FBI have actively sought to keep this information secret and prevent the American people from learning the full truth about the 9/11 attacks.’
The 9/11 Commission looked at Saudi Arabia’s role, but did not issue a finding of direct government support – although the largely Saudi hijackers had financial backing from numerous saudis, including Osama Bin Laden.
‘The Commission staff found no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or as individual senior officials knowingly support or supported al Qaeda; however, a lack of awareness of the problem and a failure to conduct oversight over institutions created an environment in which such activity has flourished,’ according to the report.
In February, Biden’s administration released the 2018 report on the murder of journalist and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.
US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Jill Biden, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo attend the 19th September 11 commemoration ceremony at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in New York, September 11, 2020.