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Sept. 11 Families Want Ceremony at WTC

August 02, 2007

On the next anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, Diane Horning wants to read aloud her dead son's name from the spot where he was killed. City officials say that's a bad idea.

Officials have said ground zero, now undergoing reconstruction, is not safe for the large annual gathering. They plan to move the recitation of victims' names to a nearby plaza.

That has outraged a group of Sept. 11 family organizations who filed a permit request Wednesday to hold the annual event at ground zero. The ceremony has been held at the site every Sept. 11 since 2002.

"This is the place we have. A precedent has been set in letting us touch ground zero," said Horning, whose 26-year-old son, Matthew, was working on the 95th floor of the North Tower when the first plane struck.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said family members will have access to the World Trade Center site that day and will be able to leave flowers in an area along the southern edge, but won't be allowed into the pit and won't be able to hold the ceremony there.

"It's just not safe," Bloomberg said. "Listen, we've had enough tragedy on that site. Our first priority, No. 1, is to make sure that everybody's safe, and nothing's going to get us off that."

He said the rebuilding effort will affect where the commemoration ceremony is held for a few years.

"There isn't a place to do that anymore, unfortunately, and next year there will be even less," Bloomberg said. "The next time you'll be able to have a ceremony on the site is really when we complete the memorial."

Construction on the memorial began last year. It's expected to open in 2009.

Attorney Norman Siegel, who is representing the families, said the groups have been briefed on safety and security issues and that the site would be safe as long as the construction was halted for the day.

Port Authority spokesman Stephen Sigmund said construction would be stopped on the anniversary but the site still will not be suitable.

"We are actively looking at ways to accommodate family members who want to pay their respects on the World Trade Center site on 9/11, but the substantial construction activity and current site conditions will not allow the formal ceremony to be safely conducted on the site," he said.

Last update: 08/02/2007

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