NEW YORK—The 9/11 commemoration held at Zuccotti Park near Ground Zero allowed around 1,500 attendees, most of whom lost family members that day, to face and acknowledge important, yet painful memories.
One by one, for three hours, the names of those who lost their lives nine years ago, were read out loud.
Mayor Bloomberg opened the event saying that there is “no other public tragedy that has cut our city so deeply.”
Over 100 family members paired up with construction workers, architects, and arborists working on the 9/11 Memorial to read the nearly 3,000 names.
Part of the 9/11 Memorial is targeted for completion in time for next year’s ceremony. A public plaza and two, 30-feet deep fountains built at the exact location of the twin towers, are to be done first, followed by a museum ready in 2012.
After each set of names, the family member spoke in mourning of their loved ones, in most cases visibly straining against a well of emotion, after which the other name reader would say how they are proud to be working on the memorial.
“My beautiful mother, my best friend, and the greatest mom. God bless you. We love you,” said a young girl, after presenting the name of her lost mother.
“Let today never, ever, be a national holiday. Let it be a day to reflect on the thousands of people that died for us,” said one of the readers, eliciting clapping from the crowd.
Interspersed with the acknowledgement of those who lost lives that day, were ceremonial bells marking four distinct moments of silence—the exact times when the first and second towers were struck, and when each fell.
After each silent moment came family tributes as well as inspirational readings by politicians, including vice-president Joe Biden, Governor David Paterson, and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
“Even in the abysmal abyss, hope secretly feeds and strengthens promise,” said Governor Paterson, quoting American author Sri Chinmoy.
Biden said: “We came not to mourn, but to remember and rebuild,” and he quoted the American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem, “The Builders.”
As the morning progressed, and the voices of remembrance built up, emotions also ran higher. There were long hugs, pictures held up high, but mostly, the choking back of tears, and the determined looks on the faces of those who attended out of a sense of purpose, of duty.
“How could you not [be here],” said a fireman who helped in the rescue effort during the immediate aftermath. “It is a part of being vigilant.”
A volunteer firefighter asked us to consider the alternative of not remembering. “There is nothing you can say. Why would you want to forget?” he asked.
Outside the police barriers, which provided sanctity to the family members, a couple hundred people comprised of residents, citizens, tourists, and public safety workers in all kinds of uniforms – navy seals, army corps, volunteer fire department, police – stood listening to the service.
Alongside, and resounding for blocks, the bells of Trinity Church chimed without stopping.
“I had a lot of friends that lost a lot of people, so I come every year,” said Ryan Madigan, a restaurant consultant who moved to Greenwich Village two months before Sept. 11, 2001.
Around the corner retired naval commander Mark Anthony stood beside a bright red truck decorated with graphics and the names of firefighters who lost their lives in the rescue effort.
He said he dedicated his truck to honor what he called the “fallen heroes, so they may live on.”
Anthony also said he brought his truck to the ceremony to make sure that an attack on American soil does not happen again. “And that comes from my heart,” he emphasized.