Had New York Fire Department Chaplain Father Mychal Judge survived the 9/11 attack, he would have been excluded from this Sunday’s memorial service at ground zero for two reasons: he was a first responder and a member of the clergy.  The arrogance and insensitivity of Mayor Bloomberg’s edict is astounding.  As is typical, politics and politicians seek to divide us all, pitting us against each other only this time it’s based on who suffered the most pain, whose loss was greater, at a time when we should remember that we all suffered great loss on that day.  Loss that brought all of us, not just New Yorkers, not just Americans, but humanity as whole, together in awe of the level of depravity that exists in the world.

Father Mychal Judge, died while giving last rites.

Tell me Mike, how do you decide whose suffering has the greater worth?  I lost an arm; you lost a leg.  I lost an eye; you lost a foot.  I lost my best friend; you lost a fiancé.  I lost a wife, you lost a mother.  And the suffering doesn’t stop there.  It includes the soldier who died last week in Afghanistan as well as the firefighter who last month succumbed to cancer caused by the toxic soup that filled his lungs as he furiously dug through the rubble to find his brothers 10 years ago. How dare you decide that some of us suffered a greater pain than others?

The administration is “focused on accommodating victims’ family members, given the space constraints” and will invite the first responders to another site on another day.   With all due respect, (well, maybe not due Mike,) the only people who do not belong at Sunday’s memorial are the attention whores elbowing each other for space at the podium.  My sincere hope is that first responders by the thousands show up, walk slowly to the front of the stage and turn their backs on you all, standing in stoic silence as they look into the faces of those they would give their lives to protect if they had to.

I’ll be watching the service at home with my wife and children.  It will be important for the kids to understand and learn about the events of a day that happened years ago, something they are far to young to remember but has affected their present and futures.  For me, the images will stir the emotions that I felt during that time, starting with astonishment and disbelief, to sadness, moving to anger eventually ending with pride as Americans stood side by side, all colors, faiths and beliefs, to throw rubble over their shoulders in a desperate attempt to rescue anyone they could.  And I’ll try to make sure that they learn the most important lesson of all. That of self-sacrifice.  It is a rare attribute, certainly possessed by few if any of those who will take the stage on Sunday.   And it is this sprit that Bloomberg has dishonored greatly on the tenth anniversary of 9/11.  I will never forget.

So what will we honor, what will we “remember” at this memorial service?  For me, it’s that there are still those people in the world, young, old, men, women, all colors and faiths who possess the courage to strap on their gear, walk into the conflagration and ascend those stairs to oblivion.

And though we won’t invite them to our memorial service, they’ll do it again without question.

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