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City Dishonors a Hero

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This may come as a shock to the a-rule-is-a-rule crowd, but there are times when common sense and simple human decency trump the letter of the law. The case of fire Capt. James Corrigan is one of those times.

Corrigan, a retired firefighter from Little Neck, was killed Sept. 11, 2001, at Ground Zero. Last week, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced the city would go to court to try to block Corrigan’s name from being listed on a memorial to be unveiled next year on the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.

The mayor argued that “the Fire Department has a reasonable decision they made a long time ago. You had to have been an on-duty fireman, an active firefighter or officer to be included.”

Corrigan was 60 on the day he died. He had retired from the city Fire Department after three decades of service. He later became the fire and life safety coordinator at the World Trade Center. In an attempt to circumvent bureaucratic foolishness, in 2002 then-City Councilman Tony Avella drafted a resolution that called on the city to grant full, active-duty status to Corrigan and two other retired firefighters who also died Sept. 11. The state Legislature later voted to grant all three men the same honors as active duty firefighters.

In July, Queens Supreme Court Judge Augustus Agate ruled in favor of Corrigan’s widow who had fought to get her husband the honor he deserves. In his ruling, he wrote, “While the court hesitates to become embroiled in the internal decisions of the FDNY regarding a matter of such a sensitive nature, there is simply no rational basis for the FDNY’s position herein given the circumstances of Captain Corrigan’s death.”

The mayor plans to appeal the ruling. It is maddening the city will waste taxpayer dollars on this pursuit. Where is the risk of harm in placing Corrigan’s name on the memorial?

Avella’s resolution and the vote from the Legislature should give the city the legal cover it needs to make an exception to the city fire commissioner’s rule regarding 9/11 honors.

Most important, granting Corrigan this honor would be an act of simple human compassion.

Updated 6:03 pm, October 10, 2011
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