9/11 memorial must give proper recognition for fallen NYC fire fighters
The IAFF recognizes the efforts of the Uniformed Firefighters Association (UFA) of Greater New York Local 94 for its determination and perseverance to gain proper recognition for the sacrifice of New York City fire fighters and other first responders who perished at the World Trade Center site on September 11, 2001.
"On September 11, 2001, 343 New York fire fighters sacrificed their lives so others could live," says IAFF General President Harold Schaitberger. "Over the past nearly eight years, the IAFF and our New York locals have advocated strenuously for our members who gave so much that day and in the months that followed during the rescue and recovery operation. Of particular note is the UFA's advocacy for achieving an appropriate memorial that recognizes the sacrifice of our brave fire fighters who died that day."
In 2005, Local 94 launched a highly publicized campaign to halt an inappropriate use of the sacred ground at the World Trade Center site where 343 New York City fire fighters died while effectuating the largest rescue operation on American soil. 25,000 people were saved.
The UFA protested that special interests had taken control of planning for the site, making a memorial to victims secondary to a planed performing arts center. Through the efforts of the UFA and members of Congress, and with the support of the IAFF, this injustice was halted. Over the next 16 months, the UFA continued a spirited debated with the governor, mayor, groups representing 2,979 victims, as well as the architect of the World Trade Center Memorial -- all of whom suggested that fire fighters and police officers deserved no special recognition for their sacrifice.
Many, including the architect, New York's governor, the mayor of New York City and other groups, argued victims names should only be inscribed in random fashion, with no differentiation for first responders. IAFF locals in New York City and unions representing New York police advocated that first responders must be recognized as they operated on September 11, 2001, together with their units.
After 16 months of very public debate, an agreement was reached on December 13, 2006. At the time, UFA President Steve Cassidy told The New York Times: "It is fitting that those who perished that day will be listed together with their brothers who they went into battle with."
The final plan agreed to and announced by the governor and mayor will list first responders together with their units, while all other victims will be listed randomly. This will include those who perished in the Twin Towers that day, victims from Flight 11, Flight 175, Flight 93 which crashed in Pennsylvania, Flight 77 which crashed into the Pentagon and those killed in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
To quote a New York Post editorial from December 18, 2006: "The decision to single out 9/11 rescuers for special recognition at the World Trade Center memorial marks one of the few things officials have gotten right at Ground Zero. The original design for 'Reflecting Absence' - Michael Arad's tribute to those who died there that day - would have added one more outrage: lumping fire fighters, police and other rescue workers together with office workers and visitors. That would have obscured a key difference between the two groups; the rescuers didn't get caught in the catastrophe by happenstance, as did civilians. They rushed to the scene voluntarily, and died trying to save others. That's an enormous distinction, one that deserves to be noted for posterity - even if only to show future generations the way America honors its heroes."
"Without the aggressive advocacy of the UFA, especially in 2005 and 2006, not only would we have a performing arts center on this sacred ground, but the names of fire fighters and police on the memorial would be indistinguishable from those of civilians who died on 9/11," says Schaitberger.
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