NEW YORK – Rudy Giuliani will speak at the sixth anniversary remembrance of the World Trade Center attack, as he has every year, but some relatives of those who died said the solemn ceremony is no place for presidential politics.
The former mayor, whose handling of the disaster catapulted him to international fame, has participated in every ceremony since the attack. Relatives of some of the Sept. 11, 2001, victims said this year is different because he is a declared presidential candidate.
"He's cashing in on 9/11 like it's his own personal tragedy. It's a photo op on a campaign swing for him," said Jimmy Riches, a deputy fire chief whose son was among the 343 firefighters killed.
Sally Regenhard, whose firefighter son was also killed, said she was stunned that the city would ask a presidential candidate to speak there.
"They should have every other single presidential candidate then, because this is outrageous," Regenhard said. "This is going to be seen across the country as a blanket endorsement from us. It's totally inappropriate."
No declared presidential candidate has ever spoken before at the ground zero ceremony; indeed, candidates have typically suspended campaigning on Sept. 11.
Giuliani's senior political adviser, Tony Carbonetti, noted that the former mayor lost friends in the attack and said that his activities that day are not political.
"If you know Rudy Giuliani, he'd be down there paying his respects whether he was invited or not," Carbonetti said. "This is something that happened to him as a person, as a New Yorker, as a mayor and as an American. To say he's politicizing it — he never would do anything like that."
The centerpiece of the annual commemoration is the hours-long reading of the nearly 3,000 victims' names, which pauses for brief readings, musical selections and moments of silence to mark the times the two planes hit and the twin towers collapsed.
Organizers said Giuliani will not be a name reader; he and other elected officials are scheduled to read aloud passages from texts.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who will also speak at the ceremony, said Tuesday it was appropriate for Giuliani to attend because he was there on Sept. 11, 2001, and has participated in every anniversary since.