September 11, 2001 began like most days for me. I was eating breakfast at the Office of Emergency Management Office at 7 World Trade Center when suddenly the powerflickered out for a few seconds. The world had just changed forever.
Shortly thereafter I found myself scrambling to my car, exchanging shirt and tie for boots, helmet, and a Mayor’s Office jacket. I had served in the New York Fire Department for 15 years. Most of my closest friends were the colleagues—brothers, as I called them—who served in the FDNY with me.
There’s something about risking your life everyday, running into burning buildings together to save others, that tends to bring you close to people. Most of my brothers died that morning. It was only because of the strong steel beams that were put in place by American workers after the first World Trade Center attack in 1993 that my life was spared.
Over the last 10 years, I have dedicated my life to preserving the memory of those I—and we, as a nation—lost that day, and to fighting for policies that promote American security. I fought, alongside Debra Burlingame and the families of the victims, against the Obama administration’s horribly foolish attempt to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his cohorts in a civilian court in lower Manhattan. And for the past year I have fought, alongside the American Center for Law and Justice, to stop the incredibly insensitive, incendiary and provocative 15-story Ground Zero Mosque project.
All of these experiences have crystallized for me a particular irony about this day, which is that, as the nation stops to remember the horror of September 11, 2001, we seem to nonetheless be in danger of betraying that oft repeated promise: “Never Forget.”
We have a President who somehow thinks that Sept. 11 has become a day to memorialize community service, and his administration’s recently released “Empowering Local Partners to Prevent Violent Extremism in the United States,” does not even mention the word “terrorism.”
Common sense is giving way to political correctness, as groups like the New York Civil Liberties Union accuse Americans and the NYPD of anti-Muslim sentiment and behavior. The Transportation Security Agency has made a mockery of security in the skies by subjecting children and elderly people to the same random scrutiny as those who fit the highest risk profiles.
Even here in New York City, where elected officials should be most attuned to terrorism risks, the importance of Ground Zero’s sanctity, and the need to honor those most affected, many politicians and bureaucrats seem to be in denial. The Wall Street Journal recently published a report that firefighters who worked at the World Trade Center site are almost 20 percent more likely to have cancer than those who did not. I visit a doctor twice a year to monitor spots on my lungs that developed after exposure to the Ground Zero air. It is a price that all first responders have paid, and will continue to pay, for the rest of our lives
Yet, the Bloomberg administration, which has consistently expressed frustration with the 9/11 commemorations, does not think that first responders are worthy of attending the 10th year memorial ceremony.
Bloomberg’s behind-the-scenes fatigue with the 9/11 families and first-responders manifested itself publicly last summer with the Mayor’s adamant public support for the Ground Zero Mosque and his reprimand that, we, the opponents of it, should be “ashamed of themselves.”
Finally, the Ground Zero Memorial has been a reminder of the politicization and sanitation of 9/11. Rather than serving as a faithful tribute to what truly occurred that day—war on America launched by Islamist terrorists—it has become a whitewashed meditation plaza.
Today, we don’t remember just another tragedy or a natural disaster. We ought not to commemorate piety to the state or glorify public service. Today, we remember thousands of Americans who were murdered in a fiery ball of horror by ideological terrorists who want to impose their way of life on us, and the war that was declared on the rest of America. We remember these evil acts because we must—our future security depends on it—and we should have no illusions about what the memory means. In honor of my 343 dead brothers, as well as the dead police officers and other innocent victims, I certainly will not.
Timothy Brown is a retired NYC firefighter and owner of the theBravest.com. He is also featured in the documentaries Sacrificed Survivors and the highly acclaimed Rebirth.
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