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J Michael Kearney

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A Request for Recognition
by J Michael Kearney   

Last edited: Thursday, May 08, 2003
Posted: Thursday, May 08, 2003

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Acknowledging the names, ranks and units of the uniformed rescue workers, in no way diminishes the other lives lost on 9-11-01.

In the wake of the aftermath of 9-11-01 the families and supporters of those killed in the attacks on the World Trade Center in NYC have become divided over the manner in which the dead are memorialized.

The families of the uniformed rescue workers originally wanted a separate memorial for those who died in the line of duty, while the families of the civilian victims want a single memorial with all the dead listed simply in alphabetical order.

The families and supporters of the uniformed rescue workers have agreed to a compromise in which they’d opt for a single memorial for all those killed that day, but with the various uniformed rescue workers listed together under their service designation (ie. FDNY, NYPD or PAPD) and with their rank and unit following their name. Those opposed say this sets up a “hierarchy of death,” while those who support it claim any memorial that fails to recognize the sacrifices these rescue workers made, above and beyond any call of duty, fails to truly memorialize the spirit of that horrific event.

What follows is my own position on the matter as printed in the Chief Leader (A Civil Service Employees Weekly in New York) on Friday, May 9th.




A Request for Recognition




Everyone killed in the attacks on the World Trade Center on 9-11-01 was an innocent victim, just as all of them are now the honored dead, but just over 400 of those killed that day, the uniformed rescue workers of New York City - died rushing into buildings that everyone else was rushing out of.
The families and supporters of New York’s rescue workers are NOT seeking a separate memorial, but a basic recognition within the Ground Zero memorial that recognizes who they were and where they worked.

The primary rationale for listing all those killed in alphabetical order and without designation of duty is that “All lives are equal and every single loss was devastating.” Often left unspoken is the addendum, “Besides, the people in those professions were merely doing their jobs.”

First, a basic recognition of who these rescue workers were, under their service designation (FDNY, NYPD, PAPD, etc) does not diminish the other lives lost in any way, it merely acknowledges the tremendous mercy, compassion and pan-ultimate bravery “above and beyond any call of duty” that those rescue workers exhibited that day.

Second, those rescue workers were not “merely doing their jobs.” Many of them jumped on crowded Fire Apparatus, after already having been relieved from duty. Others responded from the FDNY Medical Office and other “Light Duty” positions while still recuperating from previous injuries and still others came in from home and raced into the World Trade Center to help out in any way they could. None of these rescue workers had to be there that day, they either accepted assignments and stayed on, and kept moving upward in the face of unprecedented peril, or in many cases, responded on their own without regard or consideration of self.

A memorial that lists all the victims of this terrible attack without acknowledging the rescue workers names, ranks and units under the banner of their service membership, does not serve to “equalize all the sacrifices made that day,” it ignores, trivializes and disdains the exceptional sacrifices made by New York’s uniformed rescue workers that day.

All those who died that day deserve far better than that.

Web Site: J M Kearney.com


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Reviewed by Joel Harding
Good stuff. In the months following 9-11, there was much debate over the meanings of "hero" and "victim". The civilians who perished in the 9-11 attacks were "victims". Theirs was not a concious choice to die that day. Those who were rushing to the rescue, be they cops, firefighters, or medics, were "heroes". Theirs WAS a concious choice to die (or put their life at serious peril) that day. They did it unflinchingly and, to their last breath, did everything they could to fight the inferno and rescue victims. For your department, 9-11 will go down as a great and terrible day. As Churchill once said, "never was so much owed by so many to so few."
Reviewed by Patrick Talty
Dear Michael,
In a brief, simply-worded article you have premised your theme and followed that with a compelling, clearly-stated and convincing argument and conclusion. I unreservedly agree with the statement in the concluding paragraph. By rights, this article should sway all opponents of the plan to acknowledge "the rescue workers' names, ranks and units under the banner of their service membership". Best wishes and regards,
Patrick.
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