Politicians Barred from Speaking at 9/11 Anniversary Ceremony

By Julie Shapiro on July 11, 2012 3:38pm 

The South Tower reflecting pool, with what will be the National September 11 Museum in the background.
The South Tower reflecting pool, with what will be the National September 11 Museum in the background.
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DNAinfo/Olivia Scheck

LOWER MANHATTAN — No politicians will be allowed to speak at the 9/11 anniversary commemoration at Ground Zero this fall, in a departure from previous years, the foundation that runs the ceremony announced Wednesday.

"This year, the reading of the names by family members will be the exclusive focus of the program," wrote Joe Daniels, president of the National September 11 Memorial and Museum, in a letter to 9/11 family members Wednesday.

Daniels later added in a statement, "The National September 11 Memorial is focused on honoring the victims and their families in a way free of politics, and this ensures that continues."

During previous anniversary ceremonies, Mayor Michael Bloomberg made brief introductory remarks, while politicians including President Barack Obama, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie read lines of poetry or literary selections about mourning and resilience.

But on the 11th anniversary this fall, none of those politicians will be allowed to speak, Daniels said.

The decision comes amid a public battle over the future of the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, which has pitted Bloomberg, who chairs the memorial's foundation, against Cuomo and Christie, who want the federal government to take over the sacred 8-acre space.

Construction on the underground 9/11 Museum has halted amid a $300 million fight between the memorial foundation, run by Bloomberg, and the Port Authority, run by Cuomo and Christie. The two governors also joined some 9/11 family members recently in asking the National Park Service to take over the memorial and museum from the nonprofit foundation that currently runs it.

But in a statement, a spokesman for Cuomo did not dispute the decision to exclude politicians from making remarks at this year's ceremony.

"The decision is the memorial's to make, and we are supportive of it," the spokesman said.

Also on Wednesday, Daniels announced that the reading of the names of all the nearly 3,000 victims of the 9/11 attacks and the 1993 World Trade Center bombing will continue this year as it has in the past.

Bloomberg had said last year that the memorial foundation was considering scrapping the name reading following the 10th anniversary, a possibility many 9/11 family members opposed.

Family members of 9/11 victims who want to participate in the name reading must contact the city at 212-442-8953 by Aug. 3. The readers will be selected via lottery.

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