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Controversy builds over Showtime’s filming at the Ground Zero memorial

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The hit Showtime series ‘Billions’ has drawn fire for filming its season 2 finale at the Ground Zero Memorial. (Image: PR photo)

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The Showtime series Billions is under fire by some New Yorkers who are furious that the hit TV show filmed its season 2 finale at the Ground Zero Memorial.

Some families of 9/11 victims say the sacred burial ground should never be exploited as a “cheap” Hollywood backdrop.

On the May 7 season finale of “Billions,” hedge-fund billionaire Bobby Axelrod (played to perfection by British actor Damian Lewis) gets arrested for insider trading at the Ground Zero Memorial by a swarm of FBI agents.

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Sally Regenhard, who lost her son Christian in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, called the 4-minute scene a “disgusting disgrace.”

“His memory is being defiled,” she told the NY Post. “I’m sickened that they are shooting television shows over the graves of the people who died for this country.”

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However, not everyone agrees. City Hall rep Ben Sarle said he has received a lot of support from other 9/11 families who are grateful that the “Billions” finale brought attention to the Ground Zero Memorial.

“The head of the Memorial told us he has received many calls from families who feel that the scene in ‘Billions’ brought attention to the Memorial in a respectful and fitting way,” Sarle said.

Similarly, Debra Burlingame, sister of Flight 77 pilot Charles Burlingame III and a member of the Ground Zero Memorial board, praised “Billions” for the “beautifully done” scene. “This is just another way of remembering. It makes it part of our daily lives,” she said.

While the feelings of 9/11 surviving families are understandable, it’s important to remember that Ground Zero has a special meaning for every New Yorker. All New Yorkers remember exactly where they were the moment they first learned of the planes crashing into the World Trade Center.

Similarly, a major story line for “Billions” lead character, Bobby Axelrod, centers on how the 9/11 attacks left him as the only surviving partner of his investment firm. So Ground Zero has as meaningful a significance to the fictional character as it does to many real people. It’s unfair for someone to say they have a larger “claim” to Ground Zero than anyone else.

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Ground Zero means something to every New Yorker. And to every American. To ignore it completely on TV and movies would be a grave disservice.

Samantha Chang

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