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First Responders Not Allowed to Attend 9/11 Memorial Service


"the Founding Fathers...would roll over in their graves"

Bonnie Giebfried was a first responder during the September 11 attacks almost 10 years ago. On that day, she was twice entombed in sheared building fragments, and escaped twice. She transported people to safety and set up makeshift triage stations. She watched bodies hit the ground and suffered three asthma attacks.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's decision to not allow first responders to attend this year's memorial ceremony at Ground Zero is a fresh wound for Giebfried.

"If the Founding Fathers ever saw what had happened to us responders, they would roll over in their graves," she told CNN. "Leaving first responders and survivors out of the 10th anniversary is absolutely ludicrous."

Ludicrous in Giebfried's mind, but the Bloomberg office said it makes sense. It said first responders haven't been invited to the past nine ceremonies either. It offered space constraints as its explanation of the exclusion. Attendees are expected to include victim's families and several politicians, including two presidents, according to CNN.

But first responders are saying there's a difference in being not invited to a memorial and not being allowed to attend at all. In the past, first responders say they haven't been formally invited, but they usually were able to participate just by showing up.

One first responder said she's "totally heartbroken" to hear the news.

"I'm crying because it's really a big betrayal on the part of the city, to rob me from my way to pay homage and to find that comfort and healing," she said in a phone interview. "I feel that I have been robbed of my way to pay tribute."

Another one of the roughly 3,000 first responders said the exclusion does little to honor those men and women who responded at one of the country's more dire moments. The Rev. Terry Lee called the news "a rip in the heart."

"I believe attending will help the healing process ... if we go; we can tell our fellow man to get involved, because, 'hey, America takes care of its own,'" Lee said.

But Giebfried and others say that's the exact reason the Bloomberg office doesn't want first responders there - the country  hasn't taken care of its own, she said.

Giebfried told CNN she has suffered from a failing liver and kidneys, a crushed arm, elbow and wrist; post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic fatigue, encroaching lupus and other diseases. All were caused by the dust, debris and other substances to which she was exposed on 9/11. She said allowing first responders at the memorial ceremony would just show how little the country has done for people like her 10 years later.

"It'll bring up the issue that we're basically walking dead, and that we're not being treated."

Others agree. Father Stephen Petrovich came from Ohio hours after the attacks to help remove and bless fragmented bodies and comfort mourning families. He's now in hospice care because of carcinogens he inhaled while helping victims, he said, and he's getting little help.

"I don't think they want us there because of all the problems we've had," Petrovich said. "It's like we've been dropped off the face of the earth."

The World Trade Health Center Program said that the causal links between exposure on September 11 and incidents of cancer were too weak to warrant compensation for cancer treatment. It ruled against pulling funds for this purpose from the $4.2 billion Zagroda Act in July.

A September 11 worker who lost half of his foot because of his rescue efforts, spoke to Fox News about the decision last month. He said he's confident cancer will eventually be covered for 9/11 first responders, in this interview.

Bloomberg spokesman Andrew Brent said the office was working to find another place and time to honor first responders, but Giebfried is still dissatisfied. This exclusion, she said, was nothing more than another annulment of her of the belief that the United States honors and looks after its service members.

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