Vice President Joe Biden joined New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and hundreds who lost family and friends to remember the 2,752 people who perished in the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on the World Trade Center.
The ninth-anniversary ceremony, held in Zuccotti Park adjacent to the World Trade Center site in lower Manhattan yesterday, began shortly before 8:46 a.m., the moment when a jetliner hijacked by members of the Muslim terrorist group al-Qaeda smashed into the complex’s north tower. A second airplane hit the south tower 17 minutes later. The ceremony attracted more people than last year’s event, held in a heavy rain.
“I just feel that even though she’s always in my heart, it brings me a little closer to her to be here,” said Nick Chiarchiaro, 67, whose wife Dorothy died at age 59, along with 36 others in her office at Fred Alger Management, a financial firm on the 93rd floor of Tower One.
Those who lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001, included more than 400 rescue workers. Among them were 343 firefighters and 60 police officers from New York City and the Port Authority. Their names are emblazoned on plaques in firehouses, at police headquarters, and in memorials throughout the city and neighboring counties.
“No other public tragedy has cut our city so deeply,” Bloomberg said at yesterday’s ceremony.
Day of Remembrance
At the Pentagon near Washington, President Barack Obama called yesterday “a day of remembrance, a day of reflection” after laying a wreath at a ceremony honoring the 184 government workers and airline passengers who died when hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 slammed into the headquarters of the Defense Department nine years ago at 9:37 a.m.
“The highest honor we can pay those we lost, indeed our greatest weapon in this ongoing war, is to do what our adversaries fear the most: to stay true to who we are as Americans,” Obama said. “On this day and the days to come, we choose to stay true to our best selves.”
This year’s remembrance fell a day after Muslims celebrated Ramadan’s end with the feast of Eid al-Fitr and as Jews observe their most solemn holidays: Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. And it coincided with a rancorous debate ignited by a proposed Islamic cultural center and mosque within two blocks of the site.
Supporters and opponents demonstrated throughout lower Manhattan this afternoon, starting moments after victims’ relatives and friends finished reading the names of the dead.
In New York, to highlight progress in rebuilding at the 16- acre site, architects, designers, engineers, construction workers and developers participated in the ceremony. Four office towers, a transit center designed by Santiago Calatrava, a memorial and a museum may be complete by 2014, city and state officials said during a Sept. 7 news conference.
The project’s signature $3.2 billion, 1,776-foot building, 1 World Trade Center, has reached the 36th floor, and will be done by 2013, said Christopher Ward, executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the site. Last month, Conde Nast, which publishes magazines including Vogue and Vanity Fair, announced its intention to lease 1 million square feet in the tower.
“No other place is as filled with our compassion, our love and our solidarity,” Bloomberg said yesterday. “We will build on the footprints of the past the foundation of the future.”
The mayor, who is chairman of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum’s board of directors, is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.
The project experienced delays that spanned the administrations of three New York governors and at least four in New Jersey. They had to resolve disputes among themselves, developer Larry Silverstein, Mayor Bloomberg and officials of the Port Authority.
For Kathy Clark, 54, of Easton, Pennsylvania, whose brother, Christopher Allingham, was 36 and working at Cantor Fitzgerald on the 104th floor of Tower One, among the most frustrating aspects of the past nine years has been “the time it’s taken to build the memorial. Too many hands in the pot, too many issues with the funding. If it’s ready by next year’s 10th anniversary I’ll be happy.”
Nor were most New Yorkers polled happy with efforts to build anew. A Marist Poll last week found seven in 10 said “little or no progress has been made in rebuilding the site.”
The poll also showed New Yorkers divided over the proposed Islamic cultural center near the World Trade Center site, with 51 percent opposed to it and 41 expressing support. Though a majority still rejects the plan, support increased from 34 percent in an Aug. 10 poll.
Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the center’s spiritual leader, said it is meant to foster better relations between Islam and other faiths. The center’s opponents, including former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich, former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, have said its establishment near the site of the deadliest terrorist attack in U.S. history would be inappropriate.
“The whole idea of putting a megamosque at a war memorial is insulting,” Pam Geller, a protest organizer, said in an interview. “They say they want outreach, but what they’re doing hurts people.”
Adele Welty, 74, whose son, Timothy Welty, died in the attack at age 34, intended to avoid the Ground Zero ceremony. She preferred to visit the Maspeth, Queens, firehouse where her son was a firefighter.
“It’s totally inappropriate to be demonstrating on 9/11, which should be a day of respect for the dead and for each other,” she said in an Aug. 23 interview. “The more we aggravate the situation instead of trying to resolve it in a civil manner, the more we disrespect the dead.”
“The raw feelings over the mosque are one example of how, nine years later, attitudes about the events of 9/11 defy consensus and remain unresolved in the public’s mind,” Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist College Institute of Public Opinion of Poughkeepsie, New York, said in an interview.
In Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where United Airlines Flight 93 crashed as civilians tried to wrest control from hijackers, first lady Michelle Obama joined former first lady Laura Bush for a memorial ceremony for the 33 passengers and seven crew members who died.
Mrs. Bush said the passengers of Flight 93 “spared our country from even greater horrors.” Mrs. Obama said she was “filled with a sense of awe” by their heroism. Flight 93 departed Newark, New Jersey, and crashed at the rural site at 10:03 a.m.