More subdued than usual, New York City made it through the first anniversary of the terrorist attacks that leveled the World Trade Center.
“It’s very somber, very serious,” World War II veteran Ed Hunt said.
Hunt spent the day in the city where he was born and raised, praying in St. Patrick’s Cathedral and then making his way through the city to the Brooklyn Bridge, near the former site of the World Trade Center.
“I’m a New Yorker. I had to be here,” said Hunt, who now lives in New Jersey.
He burst into song in Times Square, singing the notes of “God Bless America” as he watched live coverage of the ceremony at the Pentagon on NBC’s giant television screen. When asked why, he replied simply, “Pride. Pride in my country.”
That same sense of pride was evidenced by the scores of people wearing red, white and blue.
“A lot of people want to wear the flag again,” said Meng Chen, a cashier at a shop called New York Skyline. Chen said there had been a small increase in the number of patriotic merchandise in the past few days.
Donning a bright shirt covered with American flags, Ed Peck ascended to the observation deck on the 86th floor of the Empire State Building, the tallest building in New York City since the Twin Towers fell.
“I’m in New York today because it’s Sept. 11, to show support for our nation, to thumb my nose at those who did it,” he said.
Michigan native Rick Morrow was also on the observation deck yesterday.
“We wanted to go down (to Ground Zero), but we felt it was for the families today,” he said.
From the Empire State Building, visitors could see the gap in the skyline left by the World Trade Center and the American flags on the buildings around Ground Zero.
“It’s a good point of interest for viewing where it used to be,” said Morrow, who met friends from England to see the city.
Along with the disbelief that the Twin Towers were gone, there was a sense of keeping memories alive so that no similar attacks happen in the future.
“It’s going to be in our memory for a long, long time,” said Jack Singh, an operations specialist at First Republic Bank. “Hopefully, things will get better, and we take life as it comes.”
Many of New York’s boroughs also felt the somber mood of the day, as many described their neighborhoods as eerily quiet and calm.
In Harlem, sidewalks that are normally lined with more than 25 or 30 street venders only had two or three, and store employees said business was much lower than in past weeks or pervious years.
“The streets never seem empty except for today,” said Albert Marrero, who works at HMV Records in Harlem. “People in this area have been hit very hard by Sept. 11 … it is definitely noticeable.
Marrero added that although people were buying very little, what they did buy yesterday was related to Sept. 11, like commemorative compact discs, movies and posters.
The elementary schools in Harlem each had special events planned, some out in the field, where the students learned about the Sept. 11 attacks and why they are important, an official from the superintendent’s office said.
In the offices surrounding Ground Zero many people chose not to attend work, employees said, and surrounding businesses, like coffee shops and restaurants, had noticeably fewer customers.
Marc Lingant, who works across the street from Ground Zero, said he chose to go into work to take his mind off the attacks, but others in his office had to take the day off because of the emotional strain put on them by the one-year anniversary.
“Today is pretty hectic,” said Marc Lingant, as he stepped out of the office for a few minutes to attend the ceremonies at Ground Zero. “People are calling in cause they didn’t feel up to it.”
Lingant was working near the World Trade Center last year when it was attacked. He said he has been spending almost every moment of the day thinking about what he was doing a year ago. At the office, Lingant said there was a very serious mood and people were less talkative.
At one restaurant near Ground Zero, an employee said business was much slower than normal and will be closed today because they are expecting a lot of people will take off work today as well.
In a predominately Hispanic area of Queens, many said they share the sense of loss with their fellow New Yorkers even though their neighborhood was not as directly affected.
“It is a very sad day for my family,” said Louisa Gomez. “What happened was terrible, it affected everybody no matter what country they are from.”