Vriezen: New York ceremony neglects first responders

Claire Vriezen

For most of those in our generation, we have a very distinct memory of where we were and what we were doing on Sept. 11, 2001. I was home at the time, but was soon at a family friend’s house with my parents, watching the twin towers burn.

For the coming years, the events of 9/11 would still be on the minds of everyone each fall. A decade has passed since that fateful day. This Sunday, across the nation, families and communities will join together and commemorate our nation’s tragedy.

9/11 will always be a day of remembrance for Americans. For those born after the attack, it isn’t a life event for them, but rather an historical one, yet one that still has shaped their lives.

The ceremony to be held in New York City has caused some stirring, though. The memorial service planned to honor the victims of the attacks has left out an important and crucial group in the story of 9/11 — the first responders.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has said the first responders were not invited to the ceremony due to space constraints. I cannot even fathom how this decision by the mayor has emotionally impacted all the brave men and women that spent that day fighting to save the lives of those in the towers, or how this decision impacts those who lost their fellow responders in the rubble. The mayor has said the ceremony is going to be “focused on accommodating victims’ family members,” but his promise to honor the first responders at a later date sounds hollow.

The victims of the attacks are certainly the focus of the memorial service. They are the ones who were attacked, brutally and unprovoked. They were the ones who went to work on a normal day, only to be faced with the reality of terrorists.

But to exclude the firemen, the police officers, the paramedics and the emergency responders who worked to pull survivors from the building, help the wounded and control the chaos is to forget to honor those who willingly went into the towers after the attack. They knew they could lose their lives that day, and yet in they went.  

The 10-year anniversary of Sept. 11 shouldn’t be a day of mourning. It should be a day of remembrance. We have had a decade to mourn, though for some the wounds still run deep. But the following days, weeks and months after 9/11 were not only a time of shock and horror but a time of bonding and unity. The nation gathered up its people and held them all together in the arms of tragedy.

On this day of remembrance, we must remember all that perished. To me, a ceremony that neglects to invite the men and women that answered the cries of those in the towers disrespects their sacrifice.