NEW YORK - A statue based on the famous photograph of the flag-raising at the World Trade Center site is being criticized because the three white firefighters in the picture have been transformed into one white, one black and one Hispanic.
Some firefighters and their families say the 19-foot bronze is political correctness run amok and an attempt to rewrite history.
The $180,000 sculpture is expected to be erected this spring at the Fire Department's Brooklyn headquarters in tribute to the 343 firefighters killed in the attack. It is based on the Sept. 11 newspaper photo of firefighters raising the American flag on about 20 feet of rubble.
The decision to represent different races was made by the Fire Department, the makers of the statue and the property-management company that owns the department headquarters building and commissioned the work.
"Given that those who died were of all races and all ethnicities and that the statue was to be symbolic of those sacrifices, ultimately a decision was made to honor no one in particular, but everyone who made the supreme sacrifice," Fire Department spokesman Frank Gribbon said.
But Tony Marden of Ladder 165 in Queens called the decision "an insult to those three guys to put imaginary faces on that statue. It's not a racial thing. That shouldn't even be an issue."
And Carlo Casoria, who lost his firefighter son, Thomas, said: "They're rewriting history in order to achieve political correctness."
The three firefighters in the photo - Dan McWilliams, George Johnson and Billy Eisengrein - declined to comment. But their lawyer, Bill Kelly, said the men are "disappointed because it's become something that is political as opposed to historical." He said he has written to the management company and the department, asking them to stop production of the statue.
But Kevin James, a member of the Vulcan Society, which represents black firefighters, welcomed the design.
"The symbolism is far more important than representing the actual people," he said.