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Politicians Should Speak at 9/11 Anniversary, Victims' Families Say

By Julie Shapiro | July 16, 2012 11:02am
President Barack Obama reads from the Bible at the 10th anniversary memorial service at the World Trade Center site, Sept. 11, 2011.
President Barack Obama reads from the Bible at the 10th anniversary memorial service at the World Trade Center site, Sept. 11, 2011.
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DNAinfo/Julie Shapiro

LOWER MANHATTAN — Relatives of 9/11 victims are speaking out against the recent decision to bar politicians from speaking this year's 9/11 anniversary ceremony at Ground Zero — saying they should be included in the ceremony as in past years.

In a statement released Monday, a dozen family members said they disagreed with a decision to ban politicians from reading poems and literary selections as a way of comforting the thousands of mourners at the World Trade Center site, as they have done on past anniversaries.

"No one person or group has the right to change this ceremony without consulting all the 9/11 families who are there to mourn and to honor their loved ones," the board members of 9/11 Parents and Families of Firefighters and WTC Victims said in the statement.

"If this decision is not changed, we intend to invite Gov. [Andrew] Cuomo and Gov. [Chris] Christie to speak to our families on the anniversary of 9/11 at WTC after the regular ceremony has concluded."

Joe Daniels, president of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, said last week that he decided not to allow any politicians to speak at the somber anniversary ceremony to ensure that it stays "free of politics."

The decision came amid a public fight over the future of the 8-acre memorial and underground museum, which has pitted Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the memorial foundation's chairman, against Cuomo and Christie, who have called for the National Park Service to take over the space as a way of saving money.

Cuomo and Christie also control the Port Authority, which is locked in a $300 million battle with the memorial foundation over how to pay for cost overruns at the 9/11 Memorial Museum. That fight has frozen construction on the museum since last year, delaying its opening.

On Monday, the group of 9/11 family members — led by retired FDNY Chief Jim Riches, whose firefighter son was killed on 9/11 — accused Daniels of making a politically motivated decision to silence Cuomo and Christie on the anniversary of the attacks.

"No one individual or group should unilaterally make this decision not allowing Gov. Cuomo and Gov. Christie to speak on 9/11," the family members said. "Is it because of their recent support of the Port Authority of NY/NJ against the 9/11 Memorial & Museum's out of control construction costs? We think so."

The 9/11 Memorial reiterated Daniels' comments from last week about keeping the ceremony's focus on the reading of the victims' names, not on politicians, but declined to comment further.

Representatives for Cuomo and Christie did not immediately respond to requests for comment Monday.