In the wake of last Tuesday's terrorist attack which has left hundreds of New York City fire fighters missing after they rushed to the scene to save victims, Secretary-General Kofi Annan today visited a firehouse located near the United Nations to convey his condolences and express admiration for their courage.
"We just wanted to really come and offer our solidarity and our support," said Mr. Annan, who was accompanied by his wife, Nane. He recalled that during yesterday's service at St. Patrick's Cathedral "when they mentioned the fire fighters, the applause and the sentiment and the support was quite remarkable."
"I know you've made great sacrifices - you've lost many of your men - but you should know that you have our support, and the support and admiration of people of the city and around the world," said the Secretary-General. "Everyone is rooting for you."
One fire fighter, expressing appreciation for the outpouring of public support, said "Just a hug makes a big difference." Mrs. Annan responded by hugging him.
"It's really very, very, very sad - our hearts are with you," said the Secretary-General. "You have our strong support, and I think I speak for the whole United Nations."
Over the past few days, Mr. Annan also attended several services, including at the Park East Synagogue on Saturday, and a prayer service at the Islamic Cultural Center of New York on Friday afternoon. Speaking to reporters after Friday's service, he cautioned against blaming groups for the actions of individuals. "We should look for culprits, and punish them, but we should not make anyone guilty by association - by religion or by the region that he or she comes from."
The Secretary-General condemned the "Islamophobia" which he said is beginning to pick up. "How would one kill in the name of a religion that professes peace, that professes God as God the Merciful?" he wondered.