Bravest to Slam WTC Book

By MAGGIE HABERMAN
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER

Furious FDNY members are gearing up for a protest tomorrow against a book claiming New York's Bravest looted World Trade Center stores while the twin towers burned.

"We just think that's a disgusting thing to say," said Capt. Peter Gorman, head of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association, which is organizing the rally.

"He's making a disgrace of all the lives that were lost that day," said Lee Ielpi, a retired firefighter whose son Jonathan, also a firefighter, was killed in the attacks.

Gorman is urging people to rally outside the South Street Seaport Museum, where William Langewiesche, author of "American Ground: Unbuilding the World Trade Center," will sign copies of his book - just blocks from Ground Zero.

"We hope he gets the message," said Gorman, who has sent letters to 2,500 of his members for the protest.

Another rally will be held Tuesday at another Langewiesche book signing, on the upper West Side.

Gap store jeans

Langewiesche, a correspondent for Atlantic Monthly, was granted unfettered access to the recovery effort at the Trade Center site by city Department of Design and Construction head Kenneth Holden.

In "American Ground," he accuses firefighters of loading pairs of jeans from a Gap store in the underground mall at the twin towers onto their Ladder 4 rig while the horror of the terror attacks unfolded.

The smashed rig was found several levels below ground.

He alleged there were similar incidents, including looting by cops on the scene, in interviews in Atlantic Monthly last summer.

"I'm not naive enough to say there aren't crooked firefighters, cops, teachers, nurses out there," Gorman said. "But to think that a firefighter might have told his captain [that day], 'I'll go down and take some jeans,' it's absurd."

"People should have more dignity and compassion," said Arnie Roma, whose son, Keith, a member of the New York Fire Patrol, died that day.

Ielpi, who spent nine months searching for remains at the site, praised all of the recovery workers and volunteers who gave their time to dig through the twisted rubble.

"To see their names disgraced by this book is a travesty," he said. "I'm sure the public is going to see through this money-making charade that was orchestrated by a couple of people who had access to the site."

Langewiesche couldn't be reached for comment. The book's publisher didn't return calls.

Atlantic Monthly editors have said they're standing by Langewiesche's reporting.

Originally published on November 17, 2002



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