New York's first responders were given an unusual warning this week, a first since the Sept. 11 terror attacks: skip this year's in-person anniversary events.
In a letter addressed to members of the FDNY, Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro cautioned against the department's members attending anniversary events this year as the coronavirus pandemic continues to threaten the safety of everyone, especially retired members and families of 9/11 victims that are at a greater risk due to health and age.
"From a health and safety perspective, the FDNY strongly recommends that our members forego participating in 9/11 gatherings and events this year," Nigro said. "However, the Department respects our traditions and will authorize certain events if currently accepted protective conditions can be adhered to."
The commissioner outlined guidelines required for FDNY members sponsoring memorial events at or nearby FDNY facilties:
- Indoor gatherings at any FDNY facility are strictly prohibited. All events/gatherings at these locations must be held outdoors.
- As per current New York State regulations, all outdoor gatherings are limited to 50 persons maximum.
- Face coverings are mandatory and shall be worn by all those in attendance.
- Social-distancing of at least 6 feet between participants must be maintained.
- An adequate supply of hand sanitizer must be provided for all those in attendance.
- All events must be pre-approved by the Borough Commander/ Bureau Head and are limited to two hours maximum.
"This year, September 11 is particularly more poignant due to the extreme challenges we faced in the spring, and continue to confront today, with the COVID-19 pandemic. In the greatest tradition of the FDNY, our members responded to both 9/11 and the COVID-19 pandemic with selfless courage and relentless dedication," Nigro said.
"At the same time, we must balance that with our obligation to keep our current and former members, and their families, healthy and safe from the ever-looming threat of the COVID-19 virus," he added.
The commissioner's August 17 address comes less than one month before the 19th anniversary of the deadly terror attacks. Previously scheduled annual events have caught attention and pushback for changes made to address pandemic concerns.
The Tribute in Light display was momentarily canceled after organizers at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum said coronavirus safety concerns for workers setting up the display were too great. Gov. Cuomo has since promised the support of state health personnel to supervise the safety of the tribute.