Mourners use reading of 9/11 victims' names to criticize Rep. Omar and decry gun violence

David K. Li, Rima Abdelkader
U.S. Rep Ilhan Omar (D-MN) speaks at a news conference after Democrats in the U.S. Congress moved to formally condemn President Donald Trump's attacks on the four minority congresswomen on Capitol Hill in Washington, July 15, 2019.
Erin Scott | Reuters

At least two 9/11 mourners reading the names of the victims at the annual memorial ceremony flipped the solemn moment into a dramatic political stage in New York on Wednesday. One decried gun violence and another mocked Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar.

Nicholas Haros Jr. of New Jersey, who lost his mother, Francis Haros, in the World Trade Center attack, took the stage wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with "Some people did something" — a favorite four-word attack Republicans have used against Omar, a freshman Democratic lawmaker.

Conservatives have said Omar, who is Muslim American, was trivializing the 9/11 attacks in using those words earlier this year.

"Today I am here to respond to you, exactly who did what to whom," Haros said to a smattering of applause. "We know who and what was done, there's no uncertainty about that."

Haros also looped in three other Democratic members of Congress known as "the squad" — Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley, all women of color — into his attack.

"Our constitutional freedoms were attacked and our nation's founding on Judeo-Christian principles were attacked," Haros said. "That's what some people did — got that now? We are here today, Congresswoman, to tell you and 'the squad' just who did what to whom."

Omar, speaking at a Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) event in March, said the reaction to the Sept. 11 attacks had unfairly tarnished millions of Muslims in America.

"Here's the truth. For far too long we have lived with the discomfort of being a second-class citizen and, frankly, I'm tired of it, and every single Muslim in this country should be tired of it. CAIR was founded after 9/11 because they recognized that some people did something and that all of us were starting to lose access to our civil liberties," Omar said.

"So you can't just say that today someone is looking at me strange and that I am trying to make myself look pleasant. You have to say that this person is looking at me strange, I am not comfortable with it, and I am going to talk to them and ask them why. Because that is the right you have."

A representative for Omar could not be immediately reached for comment on Wednesday.

But earlier in the day Omar tweeted: "September 11th was an attack on all of us. We will never forget the thousands of Americans who lost their lives in the largest terror attack on U.S. soil."

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Earlier in the ceremony on Wednesday, Debra Epps, the sister of victim Christopher Samuel Epps, said of her brother: "Our family always thinks about you, we recall you in every aspect of our lives. You are deeply missed."

Then Epps used her time to lament the slow pace of gun control legislation since the attacks.

"In 18 years, you would think we would have made changes to bring us to more peace. However gun violence is on the rampant," she said. "And I hope today that legislation continues to move forward in banning guns ... so that we can live in a world at peace and the home of the brave."

During the annual event in lower Manhattan, selected loves ones of those killed on Sept. 11, 2001, read the names of the more nearly 3,000 people who lost their lives that day in coordinated attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

Terrorists hijacked planes and crashed them into the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon.

Passengers aboard United Airlines Flight 93 fought back and the plane crashed into a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, before it could reach another target.