Unhappy with plan, 9/11 families threaten to hold own ceremony


NEW YORK (AP) – Relatives of Sept. 11 victims are threatening to hold their own anniversary ceremony to commemorate the attacks unless city and state officials reverse their decision to move the event out of ground zero.

“As America watches the memorial service on Sept. 11, 2007, we are sure that they will agree that this event should take place at the real and sacred location,” 11 leaders of Sept. 11 family groups wrote in a letter released Saturday. They also questioned how thousands of mourners would be able to fit into Zuccotti Park, southeast of ground zero. The park covers about three-quarters of an acre.

Gov. Eliot Spitzer and Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a letter recently to victims’ families that the ceremony would take place at the park because of the expanding rebuilding work at the trade center site.

The letter by the relatives, sent to the mayor’s and governor’s offices, proposes the use of a smaller space including a construction ramp and haul road for the ceremony. The letter gives a deadline of Tuesday for city and state officials to respond. After that, the groups say they will apply for a permit to hold their own ceremony at ground zero.

“We really want to work with the mayor’s office. We really don’t want to do a separate ceremony, but we will if we have to,” said Dennis McKeon, who heads Where to Turn, Put it Above Ground.

A mayoral spokesman declined to comment on the letter Saturday. A message left with the governor’s office was not immediately returned.

Thousands have gathered in past ceremonies on the western edge of the site, in front of the World Financial Center, to read the names of New York City’s victims in the 2001 attack.

Construction on tunnels leading from the proposed transit hub has begun in that area. A renewed search for the remains of Sept. 11 victims, which began last year on the western service road, has also extended to an area just in front of the World Financial Center.

Bloomberg and Spitzer have said police officers, firefighters and emergency technicians who responded to the 2001 attack will read the names of the New York City victims this year. Siblings, parents and children of the victims have read the names in past ceremonies.

As in past years, the plan calls for mourners to go silent and bells to toll four times during the ceremony, to mark the times that each of two hijacked jetliners crashed into each twin tower, and the times that each tower collapsed.

Two blue beams of light will shine in the night sky at sundown on Sept. 11.

AP-ES-07-28-07 1858EDT