9/11 first responders left out of 10th-anniversary event

Click for more images of the 9/11 Memorial at Ground Zero
Click for more images of the 9/11 Memorial at Ground Zero

President Obama will be there. So will former president George W. Bush and former New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani. And, of course, the current mayor, Michael Bloomberg, will attend.

But Sept. 11 first responders, the emergency workers who helped with the rescue and recovery efforts 10 years ago, will be denied entry to the 9/11 National Memorial on the 10th anniversary of the attacks.

The 90,000 or so firefighters, police officers, and civilian volunteers who rushed toward the burning twin towers are not invited to the ceremonies on Sept. 11.

Mayor Bloomberg confirmed that the day would be reserved for victims' families. "Family members only will be allowed to walk onto the plaza, look at their loved ones' names, look down into the voids," he said, referring to the reflecting pools in the footprints of the two towers. Bloomberg added, "The first day, it's reserved for those family members who lost somebody on 9/11."

[ Photos: See more of the 9/11 Memorial at Ground Zero ]

And, in fact, first responders have never been officially invited to the events. But that doesn't make it right, says John Feal, founder of an advocacy group for first responders, many of whom are now battling cancer and other diseases. Feal, a first responder himself, told CNN, "The best of the best that this country offered 10 years ago are being neglected and denied their rightful place."

In fact, as construction of the 9/11 National Memorial continues, passes are required for those who wish to visit the site. The passes, which are free, are for a specified date and time.

When the online reservation system opened, the 5,000 passes for the opening date to the public, Sept. 12, were snapped up within an hour. Since then, the memorial foundation has made more slots available.

Photo courtesy of Seth Wenig/AP

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