One year ago, New Yorkers gathered in Central Park to seek comfort in the wake of the attacks that destroyed part of their city and left them all shaken and reeling. Hundreds of thousands returned to the park’s Great Lawn last night for a vigil that brought them together again with a sense of closure.

“I just felt that I had to be here,” said Richard Szamotula, who has lived in New York for most of his life. “There was never any official memorial for those who weren’t family. In a way, I feel that this is for the rest of us.”

Mike Neese felt the vigil was an opportunity “to be with friends and family and to show our respect for the policemen, firefighters and our colleagues who died.”
Selections of classical music were played by a live orchestra from a stage decked out in red, white and blue. Thousands of people lit candles and gathered to share each others’ presence.

“The events of Sept. 11 weren’t against any particular people. They were against innocent people,” said Chris Teague, an Australian native living in New York who brought his son and daughter to the vigil. “It’s important to show there are others out here who will always remember.”

Others at the vigil came to pay their respects and take comfort in all of the other people who were there.

“I just didn’t want to sit at home and be sad,” said Kristen Neese, Mike Neese’s wife. “New York has really come together, all five boroughs. It wasn’t limited to Manhattan.”

The support shown by the rest of the country and the rest of the world has been a comfort for some.

“Just to see New York come together again, it means so much. It means so much to see that the world is supporting us,” Laura Dugan said.

For Dugan, born and raised in New York City, the World Trade Center became a part of her identity in a way she never realized until it was gone.

“As much as the Trade Center was a part of the fabric of New York, I personally took them completely for granted. I was in the city my entire life and I never went to the observation deck. I never went to Windows on the World. I thought ‘I’m a New Yorker, and tourists do that,'” she said.

But now that she can’t glimpse the familiar towers when she walks through the city, she regrets not taking the time to really see them.

“It just feels like a phantom limb,” she said. “I still don’t comprehend that they’re not there.”

The vigil had a sense of finality to it, a sense that New Yorkers can and are moving on. Dugan attributed this to the strength of the city.

“When push comes to shove, people are there for each other.”

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