9/11 first responders denied at memorial service

Firefighters arrive on the scene after the collapse of the first World Trade Center tower on Sept. 11, 2001.

Anthony Flammia wants to place his feet firmly on the World Trade Center
memorial plaza this Sunday, a place where 10 years ago he stood,
directing people to safety away from the burning towers before they
fell.

But this Sept. 11, the now-retired NYPD officer will not be let
inside the plaza gates. The majority of first responders who risked
their lives on Sept. 11 will watch the memorial service from across the
street, in Zuccotti Park.

“To basically shut out the responders overall for that day, the most important day in history, is absurd,” Flammia said.

According
to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, because many 9/11 victims’ family members
want to attend on Sunday, they will be given first priority inside the
plaza. Ceremony organizers face space constraints for the first time, so
only a limited number of survivors and first responders will be
invited.

“There just isn’t enough space,” Bloomberg said  yesterday,
defending his decision. “If you have to pick one group, for one day — it
just has to be the families.”

But Flammia, 48, who now suffers from
breathing and lung problems along with post-traumatic stress disorder,
said the city should create a special spot for responders inside the
plaza. 

“We were the ones who did the work. We were the ones who
responded. We were the ones who put the city back into place,” he said.
“It makes it seem like [we’re] barred.”

Russell Mercer, whose
firefighter son, Scott, 32, died in the south tower, said it was a
disgrace that firefighters are not allowed where he will be, as a family
member.

“How could you possibly kick these people under the bus?”
he said. “What these men did, you should be giving them first row down
there.”

2,200 outraged

Jack Dewan Jr., 32, a
Baltimore firefighter, is one of 2,200 people who signed a petition
asking Bloomberg to allow first responders into the ceremony. Because
Dewan’s uncle, Gerard Dewan, a member of FDNY Ladder 3, died during the
attacks, Dewan was invited inside the ceremony. But he is refusing to
attend until all the other firefighters in his uncle’s ladder company
can, too. “If my uncle hadn’t gotten killed, we wouldn’t be allowed,” he
said. “All the guys he worked with, that survived and are sick, they’re
not allowed to go.”


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