The PJ Tatler

White House emails Ground Zero invitation: 'Dear 9-11 family members...'

I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that the White House sent out a generic form letter to invite 9-11 families to President Obama’s events at Ground Zero. This White House did send the Queen of England an iPod full of his speeches, and the 9-11 families were just meant to act as props.

Jan and John Vigiano received the email invite Tuesday and admitted that they nearly deleted it, thinking it was spam. The private invitation complete with the White House seal informed the couple about President Obama’s visit to the World Trade Center site just days after news broke about Osama bin Laden’s death.

What rubbed the Vigiano’s the wrong way was not what the email said, but how it was addressed.

“It says ‘Dear 9-11 family member,’ – no names” ” John Vigiano said, reading the invite aloud to PIX 11 cameras. “I don’t know if its disrespectful, but it doesn’t work for me.”

The Vigianos lost both their sons on September 11, 2001. John Vigiano Jr. was 36, and a FDNY firefighter, while their youngest Joe Vigiano was an emergency services detective with the NYPD.

They lost two sons, one a firefighter, the other a police officer. The White House eventually apologized but, as usual, shuffles the blame.

In an email to Monica Morales, the White House said, “In consultation with the National 9/11 Memorial staff, we personally invited a group of 9/11 family members who we believe represents a cross section of family members from various 9/11 organizations. If that personal touch did not come across, it was only as a result of technological and time constrictions in pulling together such an important discussion on such short notice. The president looks forward to spending time visiting with the families of those who were tragically killed on 9/11.”

That’s ridiculous. Mass email systems of the type the administration used here includes fields for first and last names, spouse names, a real depth of personal information. These systems don’t take a rocket scientist to operate them. Surely the White House has all those names on file, and surely someone knows how to set the email token properly so that actual names are addressed. But they didn’t. What a shoddy bunch.