By Robin Shulman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 12, 2008
NEW YORK, Sept. 11 -- Under gray skies Thursday morning, thousands participated in a ritual that has been repeated every year since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in Lower Manhattan, as relatives read aloud the names of loved ones who perished and others sat in the audience, heads bowed, eyes tearing.
This year, the ceremony took place at Zuccotti Park, a small concrete plaza across the street from the gaping construction site that once was the World Trade Center. Family members were joined by representatives of the more than 90 countries whose citizens died in the attacks.
Other relatives of the dead clutched framed photos of their lost loved ones or pictures in lockets, on T-shirts or pinned onto bags.
The ceremony included moments of silence at 8:46 and 9:03 a.m., the moments that American Airlines Flight 11 hit the north tower and United Airlines Flight 175 hit the south tower, respectively, and at 9:59 and 10:29 a.m., the points at which the towers crashed to the ground in storms of fire, concrete and steel.
"For seven years, we've come back here to be together and feel how the entire world is linked in our circle of sorrow," said former mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani.
A young boy, Alex Salamone, spoke in memory of his father, John, who had worked at Cantor Fitzgerald, the financial services firm that lost hundreds of employees: "He was strong. He always made me feel safe. He was funny. He always made me laugh. I wish I could remember more. But we were so young when he died."
His brother, Aidan, said: "For our dad, we hope to make a difference in the world one day. He would be so proud of that. My dad died on 9/11. But he is not gone. Just look at each of our faces and you will see him shine through us every day."
"We love you, Daddy," said their sister, Anna, who was only 3 in 2001.
And then the reading of the names commenced. With string music playing softly in the background, pairs of readers continued for hours, until all 2,751 victims were acknowledged.
The number was one more than last year, because the city included in the official death toll Sneha Philip, who vanished on Sept. 10, 2001, and was not seen or heard from again. A court recently ruled that it was plausible she was killed in the collapse of the towers.
Some of the first readers announced themselves as a representative of the people of Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh. And so it went through the alphabet of countries that lost citizens.
New York Gov. David A. Paterson spoke, quoting Albert Camus: "So many things are susceptible to being loved that surely no discouragement can be final."
Later in the afternoon, Republican presidential candidate John McCain, who earlier in the day had attended a ceremony in rural western Pennsylvania where United Airlines Flight 93 had crashed while passengers and crew members battled hijackers, joined Democratic candidate Barack Obama in Lower Manhattan. Accompanied by Cindy McCain and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, the candidates visited the site where the towers had stood, threw flowers into a reflecting pool and bowed their heads in tribute.
Security remained high in Manhattan throughout the day, with police gathered at subway stations and near closed-off streets downtown.
In Lower Manhattan, tourists and mourners paused at the World Trade Center site. Julie Ingermanson said she had only recently moved away from New York to Arizona and was back on a visit.
"I thought I would come here and pay tribute," she said. "I figured it's a part of America and its history."
Later, Bloomberg, speaking at a memorial ceremony for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, said: "Terrorists like those who attacked us on 9/11 don't understand our political system. They look at our intense election campaigns, they hear the strong disagreements we express with one another, and they see disunity and weakness.
"That's a profound misunderstanding of who we are. It's our very ability to disagree that keeps us strong and, in the end, united as Americans."