NEW YORK – It was a solemn day in New York City as New Yorkers and hundreds of thousands of people from around the world gathered at Ground Zero to show their solidarity and remember the day many say changed the world forever.
Thousands of people lined the streets surrounding Ground Zero, some getting there as early as 4 a.m. The crowd stood silent, gazing at the vacant space in the New York City skyline where the towers stood exactly one year ago yesterday.
Inside Ground Zero the friends and family of the victims gathered in a circle lined with flowers, photos and mementos for the loved ones they lost. Later in the evening President Bush joined them around the circle giving out autographs, handshakes and words of condolence.
The ceremonies began early yesterday morning at 1 a.m. with a bagpipe procession starting in every borough of the city and convening at Ground Zero, and ended at sunset with the lighting of an eternal flame in Battery Park near the World Trade Center site.
The sound of Taps echoed through Lower Manhattan off the walls of the charred and battered buildings that surround the site to mark the moment when the first tower fell as wind blew dust from the floor of Ground Zero up into the air where the buildings once stood.
At the exact time when the first plane struck the Word Trade Center, 8:46 a.m., there was a city-wide moment of silence followed by Gov. George Pataki reading the Gettysburg Address and former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, along with other political and public figures, reading the names of the Word Trade Center victims.
While many offices were still asking employees to come into work, many of those affected by the attacks last year made a point to be part of the ceremony at Ground Zero.
For Matthew Cohen, who lost 11 friends on Sept. 11, today’s ceremony was a way to get closure and remember them, one of whom was a very close friend from high school whom he was supposed to have been meeting with at the time the towers were struck.
“I’m just going to stay here as long as I can,” said Cohen as he held a small American flag in his slightly trembling hand. “Then just go home and be among friends.”
Marc Lingat was working in a building across the street from the World Trade Center last year and left work for a short time yesterday to attend the ceremony.
“Even if I wasn’t working I still think I would have come in,” Lingat said. “I try not to let it get to me by keeping busy.”
Lingat, like others, said he felt a need to be with those who were sharing their grief and felt the desire to call all his old co-workers that were with him on the morning of the attacks.
There was a very strong presence of firefighters from New York and around the country either working security at the event, participating in the commemoration or in the audience.
“It is a very emotional day, it couldn’t not be,” said Pat Martin, from Engine 229 in Brooklyn. “I hope and I believe it will always be remembered.”