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Identity Politics at Ground Zero

Feminists and multi-culturalists return to the national discourse with a disgraceful display.

11:01 PM, Jan 9, 2002 • By BETH HENARY
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THE HEADY DAYS of unalloyed patriotism that followed September 11, in which Americans lost their hyphens and became heroes instead of victims, are over.

Firefighters Dan McWilliams, Billy Eisengrein, and George Johnson were captured in a now-famous photo, raising a flag, Iwo Jima-style, over the ground-zero wreckage. Copies of the photo--both legal and illegal--have spread throughout the world. So it would have seemed reasonable for the statue commemorating the moment, a model of which was unveiled on December 21, to have replicated the photo exactly.

Not so. At the request of the New York Fire Department, the sculptors who worked on the statue replaced McWilliams, Eisengrein, and Johnson--all white--with firefighters of three different races, because people of all races contributed to the rescue effort. While that is certainly true, the fact remains that it was those three firefighters who hoisted the flag. After all, the men depicted in the Iwo Jima monument, fashioned after another famous photo, are the individuals shown in the picture.

But perhaps we should just be grateful that the artists from Studio EIS, who created the statue, kept the firefighters male. In an effort to counter the ubiquitous images of male heroes at ground zero, the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund has produced "The Women at Ground Zero," a video showcasing women working at the crash site. Columnist Wendy McElroy notes that the group is using the video not only to promote women as contributors to the rescue effort, but also to lobby for government relief funds to get more women to become firefighters and police officers. Only 1 in 460 New York firefighters is female, and as a matter of fact, few of the civil servants charging into the burning towers were women.

Perhaps NOW wishes that weren't the case.

Beth Henary is an editorial assistant at The Weekly Standard.

Correction: Beth Henary's piece originally stated that the Record was not enforcing the copyright to the photo of the firefighters. In fact, while they originally allowed the photo to be reprinted for free, they are enforcing the copyright, and are currently pursuing several hundred alleged violators. We regret the error.