‘Tribute of Light’ Will Mark WTC

— -- A temporary "Tribute of Light" will fill the sky over the World Trade Center site. Hundreds of New York firefighters are battling stress-related ailments since the terrorist strikes. U.S. officials are studying the ties between American extremists and foreign terror groups.

Temporary ‘Tribute of Light’ at WTC

N E W Y O R K, Feb. 28 — A temporary memorial for the victims of the World Trade Center attacks will soon shine.

The "Tribute of Light" will consist of two diffused, vertical beams of light, rising from 50-foot bases in a vacant parking lot near the trade center site, said Marian Fontana, president of the Sept. 11 Widows' and Victims' Families Association.

Fontana discussed plans for the memorial after meeting with Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Wednesday. The mayor says he supports the idea.

The memorial will run from March 11 to April 13, and the beams will be illuminated nightly until 11 p.m.

The project would be shut down in cloudy conditions so light doesn't spill into surrounding apartments, Bloomberg said.

The families who met with Bloomberg also asked him to help slow the pace of the trade center site redevelopment and to secure a private, indoor viewing space for families wanting to observe recovery of human remains from the site. Group representatives said the mayor was receptive to both requests.

Bloomberg had said Tuesday that the rebuilding process should be slowed rather than expedited.

—The Associated Press

Stress-Related Ailments Plague Firefighters

N E W Y O R K, Feb. 28 — Hundreds of firefighters and emergency medical workers who responded to the World Trade Center attack have reported nightmares, sudden anger and other psychological symptoms so severe that they were taken off active duty.

The 14,000-member Fire Department said it has put about 350 people with stress-related problems on light duty or medical leave since Sept. 11.

Nearly 2,000 more firefighters, fire officers and workers in the department's Emergency Medical Service unit have seen a counselor since Sept. 11 through the FDNY's counseling services unit.

The number is unexpectedly large for an institution that traditionally prefers to handle problems within the close-knit firehouse fraternity.

"Few people would have predicted as many firefighters would come forward looking for help," said Terence Keane, a counseling unit consultant who heads the National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in Boston.

Firefighters say the staggering losses of Sept. 11 changed perceptions of the counseling unit, once seen as only for those with drug or alcohol problems. The department lost 343 members when the twin towers collapsed.

"Before this, guys would not even dream of going to counseling," said 10-year firefighter Vinny Picciano, who sees a counselor once a week. "Now, the guys that are coming down, they realize something is wrong. Guys are hurting."

Of the 350 placed on light duty or medical leave, about 100 remained off the active roster as of Wednesday. Many others have retired or returned to work.

An additional 650 fire personnel are on light duty or medical leave because of physical injuries, from respiratory ailments to broken bones. Some of them are also said to have symptoms of extreme stress.

The department is working firefighters overtime because of the lost manpower. The department expects to spend as much as $170 million on overtime this fiscal year, roughly double its previous amount, spokesman Frank Gribbon said.

The counseling unit saw approximately 600 people in 2000. Its staff, which had 11 counselors and clinicians, is now five times larger.

About one-fifth of those in counseling suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, a severe reaction that can require intensive counseling and medication, counseling services unit director Malachy Corrigan said.

The remaining 80 percent are experiencing acute stress disorder, a milder reaction that can improve after as little as a month of treatment.

The Police Department required every member to attend a half-day stress management education class after Sept. 11. The Fire Department took a different tack — providing one-on-one counseling, but leaving the choice of whether to seek help to the individual.

Those who chose counseling have benefited from the individual attention, said Tom Manley, health and safety officer for the firefighters union. "Doing it in a group setting, you're not really going to get what you need out of it," he said.

The counseling unit soon will try to gauge the depth and breadth of the department's psychological needs with the largest-ever survey of an emergency department's response to trauma.

Every Fire Department member will be asked every three to six months to fill out a pages-long survey. The survey, developed by the counseling unit and academic and government experts, is expected to continue for years. —The Associated Press

U.S. Examines Contacts Between Domestic, Foreign Extremists

W A S H I N G T O N, Feb. 27 — U.S. authorities are monitoring a growing number of contacts between American extremists and foreign terrorist groups to make sure the two don't begin collaborating on attacks, government officials say.

The officials caution there is no evidence to date that American extremists have been collaborating on any specific operations with European, Mideast or Asian terrorists.

But they said they have evidence that neo-Nazis, white supremacists and Black Muslim factions have reached out to foreign terrorists whose similar hatred for Israel and the U.S. government might make them natural allies.

"On the international terrorism front, we see people here and overseas communicating mainly via the Internet and talking back and forth and communicating that way," Dale Watson, the FBI's assistant director for counterterrorism, said recently.

U.S. concerns about collaboration follows evidence from Europe detailing how al Qaeda, the terror group headed by Osama bin Laden, and terrorists in the Middle East have been able to recruit like-minded citizens from France, Germany, Spain and Italy, officials said.

Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge is aware there are contacts between American extremists and foreigners and backs the FBI's stepped up efforts, a spokesman said Wednesday.

"It certainly is an area he is concerned about, and he is continuing to monitor these contacts," spokesman Gordon Johndroe said.

The FBI is "going to investigate and follow any information that we have on any individuals or groups that may wish to cause harm to the United States, regardless of whether they are domestic or international," he said.

For years, U.S. authorities have monitored efforts by neo-Nazis to stay in touch with like-minded groups in Germany and Western Europe. The FBI says the contacts are expanding beyond that universe.

"We do see some interaction and communications between groups," Watson told the Senate Intelligence Committee earlier this month. "With the explosion of the Internet we certainly see white supremacist groups in contact with people in Europe, particularly in Germany."

The FBI official also raised concerns that Americans and foreigners might be beginning to use code words to disguise communications. "There are a lot of indicators and key things we look at, as well as the intelligence community, about codes, et cetera," Watson said.

Officials and outside experts also are watching overtures by U.S. extremists to befriend Arab and Asian groups such as Hezbollah in Lebanon, al Qaeda in the Mideast and Europe or abu Sayyaf in the Philippines.

For instance, several anti-Israel Americans planned to meet in Lebanon last year for a major gathering of people who believe the World War II Holocaust did not occur. The Lebanese government forced the organizers, including a California group, to abandon the plans.

A smaller but similar gathering was held later last year in Amman, Jordan.

Such meetings allow Americans to befriend Arab extremists by focusing on a common hatred of Jews, one expert said.

In the aftermath of Sept. 11, some American white supremacists have written pieces aimed at Middle Eastern or Muslim audiences that blame the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon on U.S. politicians and Israel.

"The real reason we have suffered the terrorism of the WTC attack is shockingly simple," former Klu Klux Klan leader David Duke wrote in one such piece. "Too many American politicians have treasonously betrayed the American people by blindly supporting the leading terrorist nation on earth: Israel."

Duke's articles on his Web site are now translated into Arabic and have appeared in Mideast and Muslim publications since Sept. 11.

U.S. authorities also are watching to ensure extremist black Muslims, some of whom surfaced in earlier terrorism cases, don't become more activist.

One Muslim from New York, Clement Rodney Hampton-el, is serving a lengthy prison sentence for his involvement in a failed plot to blow up the United Nations and other New York landmarks in the 1990s. He previously fought with Muslim rebels in Afghanistan.

One of the groups being watched in the United States is al-Fuqra, a splinter sect of black Muslims that authorities have linked to several crimes over the past decade from Colorado to New York.

A week after the Sept. 11 attacks, authorities charged three alleged al-Fuqra members living in a secluded trailer park near Roanoke, Va., with weapons and ammunition violations.

Al-Fuqra was founded in New York city 20 years ago by a Pakistani cleric. The group "seeks to purify Islam through violence," according to a 1998 State Department report. —The Associated Press