New York Memorial Service Postponed

  Citing a growing rift with the city and fire department over staffing at the World Trade Center site, the Memorial Service for the 343 fallen firefighters and paramedics in New York scheduled for Nov. 18 was called off Wednesday by the...

Schaitberger said the fellow firefighters nationwide who had made plans to attend the memorial would have to deal with the situation noting most airlines would probably be willing to reschedule tickets and hotels would honor a cancellation 48 hours prior to arrival. "Our members will stand by the wishes and needs of the people here."

Many hotels in the immediate downtown area around Madison Square Garden have been sold out since the announcement of the Memorial Service about two weeks ago.

On forums at and in discussions elsewhere, firefighters were encouraging some of those with reservations to keep their plans to come to New York -- to attend funeral and memorial services for the fallen FDNY members that may be scheduled during the four-day period of Nov. 16-19.

Ron Siarnicki, Director of the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation said, "the NFFF understands the concern the memorial service planners have for the families of the New York City fallen firefighters."

"We are committed to ensure those heroes are never forgotten and that the survivors receive the support and assistance they need," Siarnicki said. "The Foundation stands ready to assist the memorial service planners once the new date has been established."

From the IAFF Statement:

"How can we ask our widows, our fire fighters and their families to show respect for the mayor and the fire commissioner," UFOA President Peter Gorman said, "when they are arresting our union leaders and fire fighters in small groups each day to maximize their smear campaign in the media?" Schaitberger said.

"The fire fighters of FDNY, the widows of our fallen brothers, and thousands of civilians expect the bodies of the fallen fire fighters, police officers, and civilians to be removed from that site in a dignified manner, not dumped with debris in a Staten Island landfill," Schaitberger said.

"This is absolutely unacceptable and it would be hypocritical for us to stand at a memorial service with a mayor and a fire commissioner who are robbing the families of our fallen fire fighters and other victims of their dignity," Schaitberger continued.

"Our members are still grieving," UFA President Kevin Gallagher said. "Our people were traumatized once on Sept. 11 and they have been re-traumatized in the last few days. In the memory of our fallen brothers and in honor of their grieving families, we must postpone the Memorial service."

The decision came after meetings between IAFF President Schaitberger, IAFF Secretary-Treasurer Vincent Bollon, UFA President Gallagher, and UFOA President Peter Gorman. They cited widespread resentment among widows and New York fire fighters about the city’s arbitrary decision to reduce by 75 percent the number of fire fighters working at the World Trade Center site, preventing them from recovering the bodies of their fallen brothers and other victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack, and the overreaction by the police commissioner to a fire fighter rally last Friday that resulted in unwarranted arrests.

"The service we had planned in partnership with the City and the Fire Department of New York was meant to be a healing and unifying event," Schaitberger said. "It was meant to recognize and celebrate the heroism, service and sacrifice of our New York fire fighters and their families. Sadly, we believe that the city and FDNY’s draconian actions over the last week have proven that no partnership exists. They have made it impossible for the healing process to begin."

Fire fighters in New York are still mourning the loss of 343 of their brothers -- an unprecedented loss for a department and a profession that faces danger on a daily basis.

The bodies of more than 240 firefighters, dozens of police officers, and thousands of civilian victims have yet to be recovered. Late last week, despite repeated pleas from both the UFA and the UFOA, Giuliani drastically scaled back the on-site operations by fire fighters to recover bodies at the World Trade Center site, turning it into a "scoop-and-dump" operation. Under the new plan, the rubble is shipped directly to the Fresh Kills landfill. To the horror of fire fighters and families alike, at least one victim’s torso has already been hauled to the dump on Staten Island.