NEW YORK – The city marked the six-month anniversary of the World Trade Center (WTC) attack March 11 with prayers, memorial meetings and the opening of a memorial to those who died. Protests were also a part of the day’s events, which were organized to help New Yorkers recover from one of the greatest human tragedies the country has experienced.

Over 500 WTC victims’ families gathered at Battery Park for a ceremony dedicating a temporary memorial – a 45,000-pound steel and bronze sculpture, “The Sphere” by Fritz Koenig that had stood in the WTC Plaza.

In the evening two towers of light were lit in lower Manhattan as a month-long display of remembrance of the victims that can be seen from as far as New Jersey, Brooklyn and Staten Island.

“If they want to put their monuments here that’s fine, but they should put something back here and not leave it empty,” Ronnie Hatch, a laborer at Ground Zero, told the World. “If we could put back something where people could work, it would be better for N.Y.”

Workers at and around Ground Zero stopped work to mark the times the planes struck the two towers. Fisher Mongo, a construction worker from Queens, told the World, “It [Sept. 11] was a wake up call. It brought out a lot of positiveness in the people around New York.”

Bob Levine from Syracuse, N.Y., an inspector at Ground Zero, said, “I do the work permits, monitor the air and make sure everyone is safe down in what was building six U.S. Customs. We are all brothers and sisters down there.”

Hatch said, “I’ve been around here since it happened. It’s devastating. I choke up every time I think about it. It’s nothing like TV.You just have to see it for real. … We are all working hard keeping our minds on what we’ve got to do or we wouldn’t be able to hold ourselves together.”

The difficulties faced by the workers at Ground Zero mirror the hardships of workers facing the economic aftermath of Sept. 11. Over 100,000 people have lost their jobs, from every sector of the economy.

At the six-month anniversary, many working families are losing the possibility of assistance from the many funds and charities set up to help those affected by Sept. 11. A citywide coalition of organizations representing immigrant workers, low-income communities and civil liberties groups called a press conference to protest an arbitrary Mar. 8 deadline for new applications. This deadline, the coalition said, is “despite clear evidence that disaster relief information has not been adequately disseminated to many needy New Yorkers.”

Mayra Peters-Quintero, an attorney in the Immigrant Rights project at the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund (PRLDEF), told the World that on the day before the deadline, 750 families came in to the family assistance center for the first time for help; 1,100 came in the next day. “It’s unconscionable that the charities would all cut off new applicants just as they are beginning to see 1,100 people a day while they sit on $500 million,” she said..

Peters-Quintero said, “Many benefit applicants and advocates have recorded complete insensitivity to the needs of immigrants and language minority communities. We don’t have much reason to believe that these communities were taken into account when the policies were being made.”

The Coalition is asking for participation of disaster victims in the assistance policy decisions. The coalition groups also cite “major inequities in WTC charities’ eligibility rules, unfair policies, inconsistent implementation and overnight changes without notice in the disaster assistance system.”

According to Andrew Kashyap of the Urban Justice Center, “the pattern of poorly designed and implemented policies has revealed a system that seems more intent on shutting out displaced workers than helping them.”

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