Fire Prevention & Protection, Firefighting

9/11 Memorial Plans Raise Concerns

By Glenn Corbett

There are seveal concerns and issues with the planned 9/11 memorial at Ground Zero that firefighters and the general public should be aware of.

Prohibition o
f Inclusion of Rank Designation for Uniformed Personnel on the 9/11 Memorial

The ranks of uniformed personnel, including firefighters and military personnel, will NOT be included with their names on the memorial. The victims’ names will be placed around two waterfalls which outline the location of the twin towers. but will not include their rank. For example, Peter Ganci will not have “Chief of Department” placed under his name.  Ray Downey will not have Deputy Chief next to his name. The only reason given for this was to avoid having a “hierarchy of death” on the memorial.

Despite protests by members of the uniformed services, the request to place the ranks on the memorial have been ignored.  A letter from civilian group leaders supporting the placement of ranks on the memorial has been ignored as well.
Lack of Consultation with 9/11 Families on Human Remains

Current plans are to put the nearly 10,000 unidentified human remains behind a “memorial wall” within the paid admission museum while displaying a sign on that wall indicating the location of the remains. This will be a “programmatic element” of the museum. According to international protocols and museum professionals, it is unethical, unorthodox, and improper to place human remains in a museum without consulting with and receiving the consent of all affected individuals, in this case the families of those lost at the World Trade Center on 9/11.

In the years following 9/11, many family members envisioned the return of the unidentified remains to ground zero, where they would be entombed at ground level, in a type of “Tomb of the Unknowns” similar to the one at Arlington National Cemetery. That was acceptable to many family members.

Today, this vision has become distorted. Most family members are aghast to learn that these remains will be located 70 feet below ground, inside the paid admission museum. This fact has been largely undisclosed to the families. This cloak of secrecy has ensured that the victims’ families will have no opportunity for consultation. Many families find this deeply offensive and troubling.

Here is a Web site dedicated to this issue:

Portrayal vs. the Portrayal of the Terrorists

As it stands now, the photographs of the 9/11 victims (including those lost at the Pentagon and at Shanksville, Pennsylvania) will be placed in a “memorial exhibition” within the museum. These small photographs will be placed on a wall in a corridor as high as 12 feet above floor level! This “river of faces” deindividualizes the victims, cramming them all together into a giant mosaic. It will be impossible to read the names of the victims and see the photos placed high above the floor. To add insult to injury, if visitors want to learn anything about a particular victim, they will have to look them up in one of THREE adjacent computer kiosks for the nearly 3,000 victims! View the “cattle corridor” of victim photographs here (note how few visitors are shown in the image):

Contrast the victim portrayal with those of the terrorists. The terrorists will be provided with their own corridor, with their Federal Bureau of Investigation photographs placed at human height (not 12 feet off the floor!) along with printed martyrdom quotes and the like. Artifacts, including a visa of one of the terrorists, will be placed with the photos. Read this Reuters article from last September:

No one is objecting to naming the terrorists in the museum, but it should not be done at the expense of the victims. The victim photographs should be placed at human height, be spread out over a much larger area, and have a printed biographical account without having to use a computer. Visitors should not be made to work and fight to see and learn about the victims. The names of the terrorists should be mentioned in the portion of the museum dedicated to the 9/11 investigation. This is supposed to be a MEMORIAL museum. The terrorists should not be memorialized while the victims are trivialized

One American Flag

Unbelievable as it may seem, the current plan is to have ONE single solitary American flag at the site of the worst attack on American soil.  See it here

Why aren’t there more American flags on this sacred ground?  There should be as many flags as there are trees!


We urge firefighters and members of the general public to make their voices heard regarding the planned 9/11 memorial. Below is a sample e-mail that you may copy and paste to these suggested contacts:

[email protected]
[email protected]


Dear Mr. Daniels and Ms. Greenwald,

As a patriotic American firefighter, I was greatly disturbed to learn about many problems at the World Trade Center 9/11 Memorial and Museum. I am particularly concerned about the following:

  • The prohibition of the placement of the ranks of personnel next to their names on the memorial. 
  • The lack of consultation with all 9/11 family members relative to the final disposition of the unidentified human remains and their proposed placement in the museum. 
  • The jamming of victim photographs 12 feet high in a corridor while providing for the terrorists eye-level photos, martyrdom quotes, and artifacts. 
  • The placement of a single, solitary American flag on the plaza at the site of the worst attack on American soil.

I call on you both to immediately correct these problems. I call on you both to include the ranks of all uniformed personnel on the memorial along with their names, to consult with all 9/11 family members about their desires for the unidentified human remains, to spread out the victims’ photographs over a much larger area and to provide biographical text and personal artifacts next to each photo, to remove the area dedicated to the terrorists’ photos and martyrdom quotes and to simply place their names in the area of the museum dedicated to the 9/11 investigation, and to provide a ring of American flags around the entire sacred site.

An American Firefighter


Glenn Corbett, PE, is the former assistant chief of the Waldwick (NJ) Fire Department, an assistant professor of fire science at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City, and a technical editor for Fire Engineering. He recently served on the Federal Advisory Committee of the National Construction Safety Team and is a member of the Fire Code Advisory Council for New Jersey. He is the coauthor of the late Francis L. Brannigan’s Building Construction for the Fire Service, 4th Edition, editor of the upcoming Fire Engineering’s Handbook for Firefighter I and II, and an FDIC Executive Advisory Board member.