Volume 20 Issue 13 | August. 10 - 16, 2007

Talking Point

What Mayor Mike and family ‘leaders’ have in common

By Michael Burke

The family groups are right: Michael Bloomberg does not give a hoot about commemorating 9/11. He thinks it’s time, already, for all of us to put it behind us – something he was prepared to do in February of ’02. However, the families’ group leaders are wrong; descending to bedrock should not be the focus of commemorating 9/11.

I have felt the “emotional ties” while standing on bedrock as an editorial in this paper recently described it. That, however, is not what commemorating 9/11 should be about — my grief. It should not be about me or other family members. That should not be what we bequeath to future generations.

Commemorating 9/11 should not be about the nation’s pain and grief. It should not be about “the absence in our lives caused by these deaths” as memorial architect Michael Arad said. It should not only offer what the memorial jury called “a special place of mourning.”
It should be about people like my brother, F.D.N.Y. Capt. William F. Burke, Jr. of Eng. Co. 21 and what he did that day.

It should be about all those “deaths.” It should be about 9/11.

Ground zero is not 9/11. It wasn’t there 9/11. Nobody died on that ground. They were killed in the buildings, on the planes, on the plaza. The site is not sacred because remains were found on bedrock. It is sacred only because of how and why those 2,749 innocents were murdered. Ground zero is our response, both physical and emotional to the attacks. It is not our grief and our solace that should be the focus of our commemorations.

By focusing on our grief we distract from and diminish 9/11.

The irony is that Michael Bloomberg wants a memorial dedicated to us because he doesn’t want it to be about 9/11. The memorial does not even acknowledge the attacks. Replacing the evidence of the attacks at the site essentially denies that they occurred. Future generations visiting the place where the World Trade Center stood will see nothing of the attacks. How long will it be before the truths of 9/11 are forgotten?

Forgetting the truth is fine by Michael Bloomberg.

By demanding the commemoration of 9/11 revolve around bedrock, the families are essentially accomplishing the same thing.

Grief fades. When the last loved one and last witness to 9/11 becomes dust like those who perished 9/11, so goes the grief. It is our duty, however, to ensure that the history of that day — an attack upon America and civilization — lives forever. That is how the memory of our lost loved ones is best preserved.

That is what the families should have been fighting for and what they should have always been protesting. That is what the fight over the International Freedom Center was all about: protecting the historical integrity of the site. For the memory of those killed, for our sake and for future generations.

To avoid inflicting severe emotional trauma and distinguishing amongst victims, the government has posted large signs at ground zero describing all as “The Heroes of Sept. 11,” thus sanitizing the attacks and effectively diminishing the meaning of their deaths. Honest and sincere visitors to the site, looking for a genuine depiction of what they witnessed on their televisions, must depend upon the universally-vilified vendors.

We have a “Timeline of 9/11” at ground zero that includes no mention of terrorism, hijackings or terrorists. The planes “went off course” and “hit” the towers. There is not a single depiction or even mention of the attacks.

The world saw the F.D.N.Y. go in; it honored and was inspired by their selfless heroism and sacrifice. That acronym has become, for America, a synonym of courage and selflessness. Bloomberg, however, has deemed it offensive and in a truly Orwellian, Soviet Union kind of move, has banned it from the site.

What we have then, at the W.T.C. site of all places, where democracy and egalitarianism were attacked, is a handful of self-appointed wise folks controlling what the rest of us know in order to dictate what we should think and feel.

Though Bloomberg wants to institute “congestion pricing” in Lower Manhattan, he is also introducing additional traffic Downtown by extending Greenwich and Fulton Sts. through the site right where the Koenig “Sphere” stood and survived the attacks. So because of the slavish devotion to bedrock, we will have the absurd situation of visitors to the site being directed underground to visit bedrock while traffic sits above their heads where the W.T.C. stood and where those innocents perished.

This is what the family leaders should be protesting. The commemoration of 9/11 has been reduced to petty politics as usual. But the family “leaders” are not innocent in that regard.

It was humility that distinguished the victims from the terrorists; it was humility that guided the magnificent response, first by the office workers and the first responders, then in the days and weeks following by all of us; so full of wisdom and courage. It is humility that we should feel before 9/11. In order to do justice by our loved ones’ memories, it is that humility we need to find again.

Michael Burke’s brother, an F.D.N.Y. captain, was killed Sept. 11, 2001.

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