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Memorial service fails to honor heroes

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Sept. 11, marked the 10-year anniversary of the worst foreign attack on U.S. soil.  When the most significant 9/11 memorial service took place on the hallowed grounds of Ground Zero, the most visible group involved in the attacks on 9/11 wasn’t in attendance.  In fact, they weren’t even invited. 

First responders raise American flag at Ground Zero, Sept. 11, 2001. Photo courtesy of the Associated Press.

They were New York City’s first responders, an elite group of common superheroes doing their every day jobs.

Ten years ago, when the World Trade Center towers stood burning, they were running toward the smoke and flames while everyone around them was running away.  3,000 of these brave men and women responded with no hesitation to do what they had been trained to do, and when the dust settled after the most horrific day in this nation’s history, 411 of them perished. Their lives were lost in the attempt to let others live. 

First responders received no invitation to the memorial service at Ground Zero. According to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, there wasn’t enough room.  Bloomberg’s spokesman told the press that the service was for the families of the victims, but that first responders would receive their own ceremony on a later date. 

Bloomberg, you must be out of your mind.  To say that the service was just for victims’ families, and to not invite first responders is ridiculous.  He should spend a shift in a New York City firehouse or take a ride-along with a police officer who defends the very city Bloomberg is in charge of. Maybe then he’d learn the true meaning of “family.”

A family is defined as, “1: a group of individuals living under one roof and usually under one head; 3: a group of people united by certain convictions or a common affiliation; 4: a group of things related by common characteristics,” according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary.

If Merriam-Webster is correct, first responders more than qualify as a family.  In many cases, firemen, police officers, paramedics and EMTs spend more time with their coworkers than with their actual families.  They celebrate Christmas and birthdays together.  They are often just outside the delivery room when a fellow first responder’s wife gives birth. 

These are the men and women who risked everything in the face of danger. They are the ones who were in the towers as they crumbled, the ones who still suffer from the effects of 9/11, and just as other victims’ families are, first responders are reminded of their losses every day.

New York City’s first responders had every right, if not more, to be at the Ground Zero memorial service.  Their loss was tremendous. Four hundred eleven brothers and sisters were lost. That’s 411 less birthdays, 411 less Christmas gifts each year and 411 less chances to make new memories.

The memorial service should have been used to honor all of those affected by the attacks on Sept. 11.  It should have honored those people who have to deal with the pain and suffering every day.  It should have honored New York City first responders, because even those who didn’t lose their life, they lost a part of themselves.