EMT professionals, police officers, and firefighters rushed to the twin towers and arrived at the Pentagon ready to take on the massive destruction on 9/11/01. They were not invited. They were not asked if they could do it. They weren't offered much in the after-math, either. Despite the lack of invitation, first responders still showed up 10 years ago and saved thousands of lives, risked their own -- many sacrificing their own -- and spent countless hours searching debris with the desperate hope that they would retrieve one more survivor.
On September 11th, 2001, my youngest uncle, Gerard Dewan, was killed along with 342 other New York City firefighters including 10 other members from his house (Ladder 3 & Battalion 6). He was on duty that fateful day and we knew there was no chance of him shirking away from his responsibilities to people of New York. We never heard from him again. It took over 2 ½ years to collect, identify and bury all of his remains. Many of his comrades are still missing.
It has been decided that these first responders- including the surviving members of my uncle’s ladder- are not invited to the 10th anniversary ceremony because there is no room for them. An estimated 91,000 first responders showed up that day and faced arguably one of the most tragic days in U.S. History. Many, like my Uncle Gerard, sacrificed their lives in order to save thousands. And now, the FDNY has released a report revealing that first responders exposed to the toxins at Ground Zero are 19% more likely to have developed cancer in the years following the attacks than their non-exposed colleagues.
It is completely disrespectful to neglect these remarkable men and women from the ceremony. They deserve recognition and honor and America should remember their service and those men and women who responded that day but did not get to go home to the comfort of their families to reflect on the tragedy.