9/11 victims remembered at Ground Zero
Politicians were on the sidelines early Tuesday as the city marked the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks at the National September 11 Memorial plaza.
The ceremony, somewhat subdued compared with previous years, began at 8:39 a.m. with bagpipers and drummers from the three hardest-hit agencies -- the FDNY, the NYPD and the Port Authority Police -- leading the way to the stage. The Young People's Chorus of New York City performed the national anthem. The reading of the victims' names began just before 8:50 a.m. and ended about 12:15 p.m.
The ceremony concluded about 12:20 p.m. after the playing of "Taps" by buglers from the same three agencies.
After the ceremony, a greatly reduced crowd lingered in the plaza, slowly walking around the pools. Red roses and American flags stood from the names along the pools, while someone had taped a large photo of one of the victims to the side of the memorial. Notes were tucked into names, along with flowers, trinkets and photos, and family members used long pieces of paper to make rubbings of the names.
This year, the anniversary was marked by having 200 people, working in pairs, read the names of the nearly 3,000 victims in the plaza near where the World Trade Center towers once stood.
Rosemary Cain of Massapequa, mother of Firefighter George Cain, 35, said the ceremony was "quieter and less stressful than last year."
Cain was joined by family and friends -- but not her daughter, who Cain said was so turned off by the politicians' speeches and barricades that characterized the 10th anniversary ceremony that she refused to attend this year.
"Last year it was horrible," Cain said. "We don't need them [politicians] here."
Shortly after 7 a.m., people had already gathered for the ceremony. One woman in a gray sweatshirt, clasping her hands, had a large poster filled with photos of a family member with the words "Missing you always," and "Daddy, we miss you."
Another woman, Ilia Rodriguez, a Miami resident who lived in West Babylon 11 years ago, came to honor her son, Carlos Rey Lillo, 37, an FDNY paramedic from West Babylon.
"Please don't forget about my son. He was a caballero," she said, using the Spanish word for gentleman. "I come here every year, holding this picture. I'm sad. I'm very sad today. I'm living with a pain that is inside, that is always in my heart."
Tracy Armentano, 39, of Rocky Hill, Conn., came to honor a firefighter she did not know: Michael J. Cawley of North Bellmore, who died in the attacks. Some of her friends were friends with Cawley, so she joins them every year at the ceremony.
"We've been coming for 10 years because we feel it's important to be here," Armentano said.
Yet, she admitted she was not certain whether the group of friends would come next year. "We'll see," she said.
Edwin Morales, 51, of Woodside, said he would never stop coming to the annual ceremony. He came to remember his cousin, Ruben Correa, a firefighter from Staten Island who worked at Engine 74 on the Upper West Side.
"This is his burial site," Morales said. "We don't have a place to go to pay our respect." Correa's remains, like those of some others who died in the attacks, were never recovered.
Being with others who lost loved ones on 9/11 gives him comfort, Morales said. "We could all mourn together as a 9/11 family," Morales said. "I'll come here until the day I die."
On the stage, a moment of silence was observed at 8:46 a.m. -- the time 11 years ago when the first plane struck the north tower, and another moment was observed at 9:03 a.m., when the second plane hit the south tower.
A third moment of silence at 9:37 a.m. marked the time another plane hit the Pentagon, and there was a fourth moment of silence at 9:59 a.m., the time when the south tower fell. Two final moments of silence were be observed at 10:03 a.m., when a fourth plane crashed near Shanksville, Pa., and at 10:28 a.m., marking the fall of the north tower.
The program concluded at about 12:30 p.m.
As the names were read, most family members gathered around the stage, set between the two reflecting pools, to listen. Some looked at the speakers. Others lowered their heads slightly. Still other family members gathered in small clusters around the reflecting pools.
As the ceremony progressed, some people drifted away, toward the pools. One young man made a stone rubbing from the memorial wall and lifted up a white sheet of paper with the name Jose Ramon Castro.
A block away, Zuccotti Park served as a gathering place for a diverse cross section of people, some who lost loved ones in the 9/11 attacks and others who knew the event only through news reports.
There were firefighters with black mourning bands across their shiny badges, on-duty police officers, military members in dress uniforms, tourists with cameras around their necks, and friends and family members carrying framed photos of those they lost on Sept. 11, 2001.
The 11th anniversary marked the first year that politicians did not speak at the ceremony. The National September 11 Memorial & Museum -- which is chaired by Mayor Michael Bloomberg -- decided in July that politicians would not speak this year, although they could attend. The goal, the museum said at the time, was to focus on the reading of names, "in a way that is free of politics."
Bloomberg, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Mayor Rudy Giuliani arrived shortly before the ceremony began.
Giuliani stopped to talk to reporters as he left. "It's a little scaled back, but that's appropriate, it's a very solemn ceremony," he said.
"I believe most Americans realize we can never forget, but we also can't forget that things are still going on, the struggle is still going on," he continued. "It's not like Pearl Harbor where the peace treaty has been signed and the war is over."
"We may say there is a war on terror or there isn't, but the terrorists -- the Islamic extremists -- are at war with us and all you have to do us look at the 40 or so attacks that have been foiled the last 10 years to realize that they are very aggressive," Giuliani said. "So in the memories of the people that we lost, we better remain vigilant."
Just a day before the ceremony, there was finally political movement on two 9/11 issues: health care for people who had worked on the site and the completion of a memorial museum.
First, the federal government said cancer will be added to the list of diseases covered under a federal law that provides financial aid and health monitoring to ill 9/11 first responders and others exposed to toxins at Ground Zero.
Dr. John Howard, director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, issued a proposed rule in June expanding the list of illnesses covered under the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act to include about 50 types of cancer. Monday, he made his ruling official.
Second, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced late Monday that they had reached agreement to provide funding for the 9/11 museum at the site after more than a year of bickering over cost overruns.
U.S. Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) on Tuesday praised the federal ruling on cancer, but warned that there is another crisis looming in the U.S. government's program to aid those made ill by their work rescuing World Trade Center attack victims and cleaning up the ruins at Ground Zero.
"We have a moral obligation" to pay for the health care, he said. "This is the same as people who have been wounded in battle," King said in an interview with CNN from the site.
Giuliani called the museum situation "a very complex thing, it's an enormous amount of money at a time in which all governments are under a lot of stress. It's understandable that there be some debate about who pays for what, and I think they've gotten it straightened out. Let's hope they can keep to the schedule and get it done by next year."
He said he's spoken with both Bloomberg and Cuomo and he's "confident" that the deal they struck will get the construction back on the track.
Distributed by MCT Information Services