15-year-old Brittney Cofresi used her speaking role at a 9/11 Ground Zero memorial to address President Barack Obama on the subject of Syria on Wednesday. After reading the name of her uncle, a victim in the World Trade Center attacks, Cofresi, added, “President Obama, please do not bring us to another war.”
Expectedly, the off-the-script comment has generated a lot of criticism from not only pundits, but members of Cofresi’s own family. Opponents have called out Cofresi for being tacky and daring to politicize an event meant to commemorate the lives lost in the terrorist attack.
Cofresi, who attends the tribute annually, says that her war remark wasn’t intended to be disrespectful, but after watching Obama’s speech on Syria the previous night, she felt compelled to use her moment of high visibility to share her opinion. “I wasn’t sure the president would get my emails or letters. I felt like the only way to get my voice heard was to say this on TV,” she said.
Cofresi held the picture of her deceased uncle, Sal Papasso Jr., as she spoke. As the niece of Papasso’s widow, she is related to the 9/11 victim through marriage, a fact that Papasso’s blood relatives have derided. Tom Papasso, Sal’s brother, said, “We are all stunned. It was completely inappropriate to use this day for that. It was not the time nor the place for a political statement.”
Even if Cofresi’s extended family doesn’t condone the pacifist plea, at least her mother stands by her. “I’m proud of her,” Karen Cofresi said. “She had a message to the president and said ‘please.’ She didn’t say ‘Go giants!’”
However, that hasn’t prevented the media from condemning the teenager. The New York Post and Washington Times called out Cofresi for “bragging” about her comment on Twitter and attempting to seek fame.
It’s an easy — if not outright hypocritical – criticism for the mainstream media to make after seemingly supporting strikes on Syria at every turn. To pretend that, since 2001, the 9/11 tragedies have not been highly politicized is equally laughable.
The main difference, of course, is that Cofresi used a 9/11 commemoration to speak out against war, whereas most have used it to promote foreign attacks. After all, wasn’t 9/11 turned into an excuse to start a war with Iraq, a country that was not involved in the twin tower attacks? Hasn’t the phrase “Never Forget” been warped into a sentiment to make people paranoid about terrorist attacks rather than memorializing the victims?
Perhaps Cofresi sees parallels between the supposed WMDs in Iraq and the less-than-concrete proof of chemical weapons in Syria. Perhaps, after losing her uncle, she just knows the pain these types of attacks bring. Either way, to vilify the young woman for calling for fewer deaths in an event honoring the senseless deaths seems more like propaganda than anything Cofresi said.