By Keith B. Richburg and Robin Shulman
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, September 11, 2008
NEW YORK, Sept. 10 -- At Engine Company No. 10 on Liberty Street, next to the World Trade Center site, tourists and local residents left flowers, posed for pictures with the firefighters and lined up to buy T-shirts with the station house logo "10 House Still Standing."
In Battery Park, at the southern tip of Manhattan, large U.S. flags displayed the names of those who died on Sept. 11, 2001, while the victims' family members and tourists signed and wrote messages on a steel beam to be used in the construction of a memorial and museum.
And at a downtown hotel, workers were busy photographing and archiving the victims' personal items -- shoes, wallets, business cards -- while family members lined up in front of scanners with envelopes stuffed with photographs, to be included as part of an online record.
Seven years have passed since the terrorist attacks on New York, Washington and Pennsylvania, but the memory of that day remains seared into the city's collective psyche. And with the memorials, tributes, wreaths and events -- organized and impromptu -- there is a concerted effort to ensure the memory is preserved.
"It's something we've got to think about every year -- or even every day," said Gloria Harris, a cafeteria worker from Barbados, who lost a close friend in the World Trade Center's restaurant. She came with her husband, Grantley Harris, to sign the 37-foot-long two-ton beam.
"You have to study it every day," she said. "You're going to remember it until you're gone yourself. At least we're going to remember it."
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg signed the beam in a small ceremony at the park this morning. "Signing the steel beam offers all of us an opportunity to be a part of the physical structure that will help us pay tribute to those we lost, remember the past and look towards the future," he said.
Several people left short notes with their signatures. Astrid Bucca, whose 47-year-old son, firefighter Ronald Bucca, died in the South Tower, wrote: "To our angel in heaven -- we love and miss you."
Barbara Pandolfo, whose 27-year-old daughter had just started graduate school at New York University and died while at a business meeting at the trade center, said: "She was the light of my life."
At the nearby Marriott hotel, people were leaving tidbits for the construction of http://www.911livingmemorial.org, an online homage to their loved ones.
Janice Favuzza, 56, a record keeper, brought photographs of her brother, Bernard Favuzza, 52, who worked at Cantor Fitzgerald, the finance firm that lost 658 employees in the attack. There were black-and-white shots of him grinning as a boy, pictures of him making bunny ears over the head of a guest at a rehearsal dinner for his daughter's wedding, a pamphlet from a memorial in the Queens park where he played ice hockey as a child.
Favuzza said creating a Web page for her brother was in some sense an effort to create a memorial where there are no remains.
"We are a family who visits cemeteries," she said. "We go to grave sites. We have pictures of family members who passed on our walls. We want a place to go."
Sneh Jain's husband died in the North Tower after 4 1/2 weeks at Cantor Fitzgerald. Jain, 54, an accounting manager in Rockland County, said she will contribute to the Web site. "This is my legacy -- I have to," she said.
Frank Fetchet, director of business development for http://www.911livingmemorial.org, said he wanted to preserve memories of his son, Brad, 24, an equities trader.
He said Brad called him once, after the first tower was hit, to say, "Don't worry, it's the other tower." After the second building was hit, Brad left a 43-second phone message for his girlfriend. His father cherishes the message but is not ready to include it on the Web site.
"I don't want it to be public for 50 years," he said. "It's too personal and painful. But I want the record to be there."
The Family Room, a spacious room set up on a top floor of an office tower dedicated to those who lost loved ones, was packed with teddy bears, origami cranes, balloons, replicas of the twin towers, photos, posters and cards. Mourners left birthday cards and graduation photos -- memorabilia from events missed.
"We miss you Papi, it's bad without you," read one sign.
In a reminder of the dangers that still exist, the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism -- set up by the 9/11 investigating panel -- held a hearing on the eve of the anniversary to assess the city's readiness to prevent another mass attack.
Testifying before the commission, Bloomberg said the New York Police Department has strengthened its counterterrorism and intelligence operations, including posting agents worldwide, conducting random bag searches at subway stations, and spending $70 million to "harden" sensitive areas of Lower Manhattan with high-tech equipment such as security cameras, license-plate readers and radiation detectors.
But he said New York remains the premier target for terrorists and urged the federal government to increase Homeland Security funding for the city.
"Seven years ago tomorrow, a group of terrorists brazenly attacked the city's two tallest skyscrapers, writing an ugly new chapter in the history of horror and evil," Bloomberg said. "In the seven years since, New Yorkers have come together to rebuild a city that is safer, stronger and more welcoming than ever."