U.S. to com­mem­o­rate 9/11 as af­ter­math ex­tends, evolves

New recog­ni­tion this year for ground zero first re­spon­ders

Albuquerque Journal - - FRONT PAGE - BY JEN­NIFER PELTZ

NEW YORK — Amer­i­cans are com­mem­o­rat­ing 9/11 with mourn­ful cer­e­monies, vol­un­teer­ing, ap­peals to “never for­get” and ris­ing at­ten­tion to the ter­ror at­tacks’ ex­tended toll on re­spon­ders.

In Al­bu­querque, Mayor Tim Keller and other city lead­ers will join Al­bu­querque Fire Res­cue in the an­nual fire­fighter stair climb to mark the an­niver­sary. Keller and Gov. Michelle Lu­jan Gr­isham will then speak at a public cer­e­mony com­mem­o­rat­ing vic­tims and sur­vivors at noon on Civic Plaza.

A crowd of vic­tims’ rel­a­tives is ex­pected at ground zero in New York City on Wed­nes­day, while Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump is sched­uled to join an ob­ser­vance at the Pen­tagon. Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence is to speak at the third at­tack site, near Shanksvill­e, Penn­syl­va­nia.

Eigh­teen years af­ter the dead­li­est ter­ror­ist at­tack on Amer­i­can soil, the na­tion is still grap­pling with the af­ter­math at ground

zero, in Con­gress and be­yond. The at­tacks’ af­ter­math is vis­i­ble from air­port se­cu­rity check­points to Afghanista­n. A rocket ex­ploded at the U.S. Em­bassy as the an­niver­sary be­gan in Afghanista­n, where a post-9/11 in­va­sion has be­come Amer­ica’s long­est war.

“Peo­ple say, ‘Why do you stand here, year af­ter year?’” Chun­dera Epps, a sis­ter of Sept. 11 vic­tim Christo­pher Epps, said at last year’s cer­e­mony at the World Trade Cen­ter. “Be­cause sol­diers are still dy­ing for our free­dom. First re­spon­ders are still dy­ing and be­ing ill.”

“We can’t for­get. Life won’t let us for­get,” she said.

The an­niver­sary cer­e­monies cen­ter on re­mem­ber­ing the nearly 3,000 peo­ple killed when hi­jacked planes rammed into the trade cen­ter, the Pen­tagon and a field near Shanksvill­e on Sept. 11, 2001. All those vic­tims’ names are read aloud at the ground zero cer­e­mony, where mo­ments of si­lence and tolling bells mark the mo­ments when the air­craft crashed and the trade cen­ter’s twin tow­ers fell.

But there has been grow­ing aware­ness in re­cent years of the suf­fer­ing of an­other group of peo­ple tied to the tragedy: fire­fight­ers, po­lice of­fi­cers and oth­ers who died or fell ill af­ter ex­po­sure to the wreck­age and the toxic chem­i­cals un­leashed in it.

While re­search con­tin­ues into whether those ill­nesses are tied to 9/11 toxic chem­i­cals, a vic­tims com­pen­sa­tion fund for peo­ple with po­ten­tially Sept. 11-re­lated health prob­lems has awarded more than $5.5 bil­lion. More than 51,000 peo­ple have ap­plied.

Af­ter years of leg­isla­tive grid­lock, dwin­dling money in the fund and fer­vent ac­tivism by ail­ing first re­spon­ders and their ad­vo­cates, Con­gress this sum­mer made sure the fund won’t run dry. Trump, a Re­pub­li­can and a New Yorker who was in the city on 9/11, signed the mea­sure in July.

The sick gained new recog­ni­tion this year at the memorial plaza at ground zero, where the new 9/11 Memorial Glade was ded­i­cated this spring.

The tribute fea­tures six large stacks of gran­ite in­laid with sal­vaged trade cen­ter steel, with a ded­i­ca­tion “to those whose ac­tions in our time of need led to their in­jury, sick­ness, and death.” No one is named specif­i­cally.

Some 9/11 memo­ri­als else­where al­ready in­cluded sick­ened res­cue, re­cov­ery and cleanup work­ers, and there is a re­mem­brance wall en­tirely fo­cused on them in Nescon­set on Long Is­land. But those who fell ill or were in­jured, and their fam­i­lies, say hav­ing a tribute at ground zero car­ries spe­cial sig­nif­i­cance.

Mean­while, the Pen­tagon said Mon­day that its 9/11 memorial will close next week for elec­tri­cal and light­ing work. The project, ex­pected to take un­til late May, in­cludes re­pairs to light­ing glitches in the shal­low re­flect­ing pools un­der the memorial benches.

Sept. 11 is known not only as a day for re­mem­brance and pa­tri­o­tism, but also as a day of ser­vice. Peo­ple around the coun­try con­tinue to vol­un­teer at food banks, schools, home­build­ing projects, park cleanups and other char­i­ta­ble en­deav­ors on and near the an­niver­sary.

MARK LENNIHAN/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Norma Molina of San An­to­nio, Texas, leaves flow­ers at the Septem­ber 11 Memorial on Mon­day in New York. Her boyfriend, Robert Ed­ward Evans, a fire­fighter mem­ber of En­gine 33, was killed in the north tower on 9/11.

JUSTIN TANG/ THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Sheeba Macpa, widow of Capt. Lu­tie Macpa of Pond In­let Fire Depart­ment in Nu­navut, holds his hel­met at a ser­vice at the Cana­dian Fire­fight­ers Memorial in Ot­tawa on Sun­day.

MARK LENNIHAN/ASSOCIATED PRESS

The north pool of the Septem­ber 11 Memorial on Mon­day in New York. Wed­nes­day marks the 18th an­niver­sary of the 9/11 ter­ror­ist at­tacks on the U.S.

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