MANHATTAN — The president of the new 9/11 Memorial skipped its first ceremony honoring the six victims of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and hit the Rocky Mountain ski slopes instead, DNAinfo has learned.
Joe Daniels, who was picked for the $400,000 a year post by a board headed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, was on a four day skiing trip with his father at a posh Breckenridge, Colorado, resort as hundreds of relatives, friends and others gathered in lower Manhattan on Feb. 26 for a somber remembrance of the victims of the first World Trade Center terrorist attack.
"There are only two days of the year that the president of the memorial should be there and that’s on 9/11 and Feb. 26 — two days that reflect he whole purpose of the 9/11 memorial,” said one official who attended the event on the last Sunday in February.
"It was unfortunate that I could not be there," said Daniels. “I had a personal obligation.”
A ski trip had been an annual affair for him and his 69-year-old father, who lives in New York, but they had not skied together in a couple of years because the younger Daniels suffered a broken hip during an earlier winter sojourn.
“I have one of the best dads in New York,” Daniels said.
“And I knew that other people, some of the best, who worked on the memorial and towers, would be there,” he continued. “It was not for a lack of caring.”
Daniels said he had planned his father-son trip about two months before the ceremony, and that he scheduled it to coincide with the tail end of his family's winter recess vacation to Colorado with his children.
“We try to do these father son trips as often as possible and it was something he and I wanted to restart," he said. “It was an unavoidable thing. I will certainly be there next time.”
Daniels' family left Colorado on Wednesday, Feb. 23, and his father arrived on Thursday.
The following day, as he skied in Colorado, Daniels sent out a prepared 9/11 'Memo Blog" inviting people "to join the 9/11 Memorial in observing a moment of silence Sunday."
His moving message recalled 1993's "brutal attack," and how the victims were "inextricably linked" to those of 9/11.
"We remember them: John DiGiovanni, Robert Kirkpatrick, Stephen A. Knapp, William Macko, Wilfredo Mercado and Monica Rodriguez Smith," Daniels wrote. "They remind us that these events are inextricably linked, and of our sacred obligation to never forget those who were killed."
"Please join me in remembering John, Robert, Stephen, William, Wilfredo, and Monica and sending our heartfelt condolences to their family and friends," he concluded.
Daniels said he returned from his ski trip on Monday, Feb. 27 — the day after hundreds paused at 12:18 p.m. to mark the moment Al Qaeda mastermind Ramzi Yousef detonated a massive bomb beneath the towers, killing the six and injuring 1,000 more.
Several officials who attended the ceremony said Daniels should have been there.
“There are people who are volunteers at the Tribute Center, long before the memorial, who showed up because they felt it is something they should do,” one of them observed. "And they are not getting paid $400,000 like Joe Daniels to give up their time.”
Daniels served as general counsel to the 9/11 Memorial starting in 2005, and later as acting president before he was named president in 2006 by the foundation board, which is chaired by Mayor Bloomberg.
He told "On the Inside" that he was proud of his years of hard work raising millions of dollars for the design and construction of the memorial, and he singled out his efforts to see that the “unborn” who also died in the terror attacks were somehow acknowledged.
Ed Smith, 50, who lost his wife Monica Rodriguez Smith, a secretary, and their unborn son in the 1993 blast, said he appreciated all the years of work that went into the 9/11 Memorial, but “if I ran the memorial, I would have been there.”
"Years ago, I would have been angry," he said, explaining that he takes comfort in the people he met after the tragedy, such as Gil Childers, the federal prosecutor who convicted Yousef and with who he remains friends.
“I appreciate what they have done putting the names on the memorial,” he concluded. “I don’t know Joe Daniels, but I am sure whoever his boss or bosses are will deal with this."