Coronavirus controversy creates dueling 9/11 anniversary ceremonies

The anniversary of 9/11 next month will be honored with something new:

Dueling ceremonies.

The 9/11 Memorial & Museum, chaired by Michael Bloomberg, plans to hold a COVID-conscious observance on Sept. 11 featuring pre-recorded audio of family members reading the names of loved ones, instead of the live readings of the past.

But the virus will not deter the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, which plans to feature live readings in a separate, simultaneous event a short walk from the Ground Zero memorial.

“This is not something we wanted to do. It’s something we had to do,” said Frank Siller, the foundation’s CEO whose Brooklyn firefighter brother Stephen, 34, was killed in the terror attacks.

The two groups did not criticize each other, but tensions increased when the 9/11 Memorial announced Thursday that it would also cancel its Tribute In Light — the beams that shine into the sky to resemble the Twin Towers, a decision that raised a furor.

Citing COVID-19 again, officials said the tribute would put a team of about 40 stagehands and electricians needed to install the 88 lights at risk of infection.

The Siller foundation said Friday it was ‘shocked and heartbroken” by that decision. It vowed to “do everything that is humanly possible” to illuminate the night sky at Ground Zero with its own lights.

The foundation will hold its anniversary ceremony at the corner of Liberty and Church streets, next to Zuccotti Park — where the victims’ names were read aloud before the ceremony was moved to the 9/11 memorial in 2014.

Both events will ring bells and observe six moments of silence at the exact times when hijacked plane crashed into each of the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and in Shanksville, Pa., and when each tower fell.

By Saturday, 297 family members had volunteered with Siller to read the names live. They were invited to sign up until Aug. 29. A lottery will select 140 relatives.

Traditionally, the 9/11 Memorial and Museum has chosen the people who read the names of 2,983 men, women and children killed on 9/11, along with those who perished in the 1993 WTC bombing.

Siller decided to stage a separate ceremony after he spoke with memorial CEO Alice Greenwald on July 28 and she told him she was going to cancel the live reading “out of an abundance of caution” to prevent the possible spread of the coronavirus, he said.

The recordings — to be piped into the memorial plaza — were produced to be played in the museum’s “In Memoriam” exhibit, which displays photos of the victims.

The memorial has invited 6,100 family members to attend its ceremony, spokesman Michael Frazier said. All will be required to wear masks and maintain social distancing.

“We felt an obligation to make it possible for families to come to the site, which has profound meaning for them, but to do so in as safe a way as we could, given the pandemic,” Frazier said.

But Siller insisted his foundation’s ceremony will be just as safe.

When reading the names, family members will stand alone at two podiums six feet apart, he said. Those waiting their turns to read as well as spectators will also stand at a safe distance from each other in marked spaces. Anyone without a mask will be given one, he said.

The foundation plans to live-stream its event.

The memorial’s decision angered some family members, first-responders and others around the country.

“It’s a sacrilege that the private 9/11 Memorial Museum canceled both the in-person reading of names and the tribute in lights,” said Sally Regenhard, whose firefighter son Christian was killed in the attacks. “Many of us believe it has nothing to do with COVID and everything to do with their financial mismanagement.”

Survivor Donna Spera launched a petition to protest the cancellation of live readings. It collected more than 54,000 signatures as of Friday.

Charles Wolf, whose wife Katherine, an executive assistant, was killed when the first plant struck her office in the North Tower, said he supported both ceremonies.

“What matters is that there will be a family member reading the names,” Wolf told The Post.

But he added, “God bless the Siller Foundation. I hope they get to do it safely.”

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