9/11 plaque stalled over wording
Victim’s father wants to blame ‘Muslim terrorists’
HARTFORD - A memorial to honor a Sept. 11 victim from a small Connecticut town has been halted because his father insists that it say his son was murdered by “Muslim terrorists.’’
Town officials in Kent are balking, saying it would be inappropriate to single out a religious group in a project on town property and paid for with taxpayers’ money. The memorial plaque to be erected outside the town hall is on indefinite hold.
Peter Gadiel accuses town leaders of being too politically correct, and says he’s frustrated about what he calls a growing trend across the country to soften the reality of the attacks by not mentioning terrorism on victims’ memorials.
“Ordinarily I would not want a reference to his murder on his memorial, but there seems to be an effort to whitewash what happened that day,’’ said Gadiel, 61, a retired real estate investor.
“I don’t think it’s right that people should be murdered like that and that people intentionally forget what happened. It’s wrong. It’s immoral.’’
Gadiel’s 23-year-old son, James, was working for the Cantor Fitzgerald brokerage firm when he was killed in the attacks on the World Trade Center.
Town leaders agree that Muslim terrorists were responsible, but they insist that saying it on a public memorial plaque would be wrong. They say many local residents support their position, while most of the criticism is coming from outsiders.
“We’re a very welcoming, caring community,’’ said First Selectwoman Ruth Epstein, who did not seek reelection this year. “To disparage a particular religious group would not be appropriate. There are things that are just insensitive and we feel we don’t want here.’’
Epstein said the town has received about 150 e-mails and numerous calls on the issue. She said many of them supporting Gadiel were obscene, vile, and threatening, including one from a person who hoped Epstein and her family were killed by terrorists. Epstein thinks the controversy is unfortunate, but she said Gadiel’s proposed wording is harsh.
“James was a lovely young man,’’ she said. “Something that would memorialize him rather than focus on the horror of that time would be so much better.’’
The flare-up gained traction last week when Fox News commentator Bill O’Reilly talked about it on “The O’Reilly Factor.’’
“He wants to tell the truth on his son’s memorial and I’m behind him,’’ O’Reilly said on the show. “Let’s get the memorial up. We’ll march into Kent, Connecticut. We’ll all go up there and tell the guys to put it up.’’
“And if we have to charter a bus and go up there, we may have to do that,’’ he added.
Kent, home to former secretary of state Henry Kissinger, is a rural town of about 3,000 people on the New York state border.
It’s where James Gadiel grew up before heading off to Washington and Lee University in Virginia and landing the job with Cantor Fitzgerald on the 103d floor of the north tower.
Peter Gadiel volunteers at 9/11 Families for a Secure America Foundation, a group of victims’ families that says its goal is to educate Americans about the threats of open borders and illegal immigration.
He says he’s not backing down from his fight against the town and won’t let the memorial go up without the wording he wants.
“To not acknowledge that he was murdered is kind of insane,’’ Gadiel said. “I’m not going to collaborate on a memorial that will dishonor my son in that fashion.’’
Bruce Adams, a town board member who was elected first selectman Tuesday, said he’s not sure when the panel will take up the matter again. He agrees with Epstein. “His son was murdered by Muslim terrorists, but we can’t put that on a memorial on town property,’’ said Adams, a retired high school history teacher who had James Gadiel as a student. “It’s the use of a word that picks on a group of people for the deeds of some.’’
Asked whether town officials were being too politically correct, Adams said: “I don’t like that term. If that’s what you want to call it, then maybe we are.’’