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Missing 9/11 memorial invitations leave families anxious, confused

By Rachel Garrett, CNN
Mourners gather around a reflecting pool in New York in 2010 on the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
Mourners gather around a reflecting pool in New York in 2010 on the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A ceremony Sunday morning will open the 9/11 memorial at ground zero
  • Some families of 9/11 victims say they have yet to receive invitations
  • The mayor's office says staff on site that day will resolve any issues of admission
  • "There is no reason for any family member to be concerned"

New York (CNN) -- Some families of 9/11 victims say they are confused, anxious and surprised as the 10th anniversary approaches because they have not received invitations to the Sunday ceremony opening the ground zero memorial.

Gillian Joseph, who lost her husband Stephen in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, said she is thinking of canceling her plans to attend the memorial because the whole thing seems so disorganized.

"There was no notification. I made reservations not knowing what the final plans were. I still haven't received an official invitation," Joseph said. She added that the last thing she wants for herself and her 12-year-old son is have to deal with a large crowd and make a "hard day even harder." Joseph said she has made several calls to the New York mayor's office about her missing invitation without hearing back.

So did Ansu Philip, who said the mayor's office finally told her after several days of calling that she would be receiving the invitation last week but she still has not received it. It's been 10 days since she spoke to the mayor's office, and she is anxious to make sure she and her relatives can attend the memorial to honor her daughter, Sneha Anne Philip.

And a widow who did not wish to be identified told CNN while she did not receive an official invitation, she assumed there would be some kind of memorial. "We made plans knowing that something was going to happen. My friend will take us with her. She got two invitations, I got none," she said. The woman still feels she should have gotten her own invitation, especially since she says she has never had any problems receiving memorial notifications in the past.

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"I'm appalled, surprised, and irritated. This just makes things more difficult," the widow said.

The confusion and anxieties surround official invitations -- or lack of them -- for the Sunday morning service that will mark the opening of the National September 11 Memorial at ground zero. The ceremony starting at 8:30 a.m. will include the reading of the names of victims and two moments of silence to mark the times the towers were hit. Family members will be allowed in the memorial, where they will see for the first time their loved ones' names inscribed in bronze.

Meanwhile, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's office said in a statement on Sunday: "We communicate regularly with the family members and have recently sent out letters and e-mails about this year's ceremony. Family members have direct access to our staff for any questions that arise, and we'll have staff on site that day to resolve any issues. So while we apologize for any confusion, there is no reason for any family member to be concerned about not being able to attend the ceremony."

Joe Daniels is the president and CEO of the 9/11 memorial. He said he has reached out to victims' families, letting them know that if they have not yet received an official invitation, they will be able to use alternate methods to identify themselves for admission to the ceremony.

"I want to assure you that nothing has changed from years past in terms of access to the ceremony," Daniels said.

That offers little consolation to family members who want a real invitation that will guarantee them entry. Lois Paterson-Gallo worries that trying to get into the ceremony with other identification methods will complicate getting in, and that will add more stress and anxiety. "I want the official invitation to cut down on the hassle the day of the memorial. I don't feel totally comfortable that this is going to work," she said.

Laurie Mirak, whose husband died on 9/11, is traveling and said she won't be back home to get her invitation until after September 11, if in fact it arrives. She has been relying on a website for the 9/11 community of families -- Voices of September 11th -- for information. She plans to bring her husband's death certificate to gain entry to the memorial.

Mirak said she is planning on taking part in all of the memorials for her husband and the other victims, and has invitations to all events -- except the ground zero memorial ceremony Sunday morning.

Not everyone has had a problem receiving an invitation, though. Elaine Hughes, whose son Kris died on 9/11, received her cardboard invitation in the mail two weeks ago. She thinks the whole issue of invitations is getting blown out of proportion and is confident that "if you're a family member, they're going to let you in."

Patricia Tamuccio, who lost a son, was anxious until her invitation arrived in the mail last Thursday. She plans to bring other relatives and she received a notice telling her that she was permitted to bring guests.

David de Vere from the United Kingdom, who lost a relative on 9/11, received his invitation in plenty of time to plan a visit and he said he wonders if some people just weren't in the correct database.

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