Do not build it. Not there.

Now New York’s Uniformed Firefighters Association has pulled its support for the World Trade Center Memorial Foundation.

In a letter dated July 27, 2005, the union cited its objection to the foundation’s support for the International Freedom Center and the Drawing Center to be located at the final resting place of many of the rescue workers and victims of the attacks.

“We must never forget that 343 firefighters perished during the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11,” said Steve Cassidy, UFA President. “Currently, our membership and our 9-11 families believe that the memorial design will take away from the memory and sacrifice of the firefighters who bravely gave their lives during the most horrific terrorist attacks our country has had to face.”

This is a damned shame. If the IFC had self-respect — if, indeed, it were not trying to force its agenda onto this hallowed ground — then it it would withdraw from this site and allow it to be a memorial and it would find another site anywhere in New York for its debates. If the LMDC, Pataki, and Bloomberg had any courage, they would make it so. It was a mistake to invite political debate to be part of the memorial and it is an equal mistake to then try to curtail — to censor — that debate. And it is a final mistake to try to put the families in the position of censor by making them the bad guys when this was not their error.

But, instead, they and The New York Times editorial page try to … what’s a slightly lighter word than demonize? blame? hide behind? … the 9/11 families and Debra Burlingame. The paper said:

Mr. Pataki has not been able to force the founders of the Freedom Center to back out, but he has managed to talk the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, which includes several staunch defenders of the center, into establishing a new six-week process for approving its plans.

There is nothing wrong with asking the Freedom Center to provide more detail about how it intends to govern itself and what programs it intends to create.

Well, actually, there is. If you have to ask the IFC not to be offensive and to prove it, then you’re censoring them before the fact; you’re trying to get them to define politically correct for you. If they were not at this place, you’d never think of asking them that. That is the issue Pataki, Bloomberg, and the LMDC didn’t think through when they invited a debate society to a funeral. The Times continues:

And everyone presumes that a center so close to the memorial for the victims of 9/11 will be sensitive to its location. But this new appraisal of the center’s plans may mean little more than subjecting them, essentially, to the veto of Debra Burlingame, the family member who began the Take Back the Memorial movement.

Stop. Debra and the families did not ask to be in the position of censor, for that position never should have existed and would not exist if New York’s leaders had thought about what they were doing.

Right after Debra exposed what was happening here in her Wall Street Journal op-ed, I spoke with her and we agreed that she and the families should not want to edit the site or the committee but instead should just remind officials that the memorial should be a memorial, and urge that the debate should happen elsewhere. That has been their constant stand. So The Times’ characterization of Debra and the families — and the position the LMDC and The Times try to put them in — is most unfair. The paper continues:

But neither Ms. Burlingame nor her followers can be allowed to dictate the future of the entire area. That has a place in the heart of the nation as a whole, and its use must reflect not only the nation’s spirit, but its commitment to its basic principles.

And neither should the odd member of the IFC or Bloomberg or The Times.