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Names of 2,801 victims read aloud in somber Ground Zero ceremony
By Timothy Williams, Associated Press, 9/11/2002
As mournful strains of classical music resonated through ground zero Wednesday, New Yorkers from Wall Street to Brooklyn eulogized the 2,801 people lost when two hijacked jetliners reduced the city's tallest skyscrapers to rubble.
Each name was read aloud at the site where the World Trade Center towers fell in a ceremony that lasted nearly three hours, interspersed with moments of silence.
President Bush arrived in New York in the late afternoon, bowed his head before a memorial wreath at ground zero and spoke quietly with relatives of victims of the attacks who had gathered around the site. He did not speak publicly but was scheduled to address the nation Wednesday night in a broadcast from Ellis Island, with the Statue of Liberty as a backdrop.
Earlier, Mayor Michael Bloomberg opened the ground zero ceremony by calling for a moment of silence at 8:46 a.m. EDT, the time the first tower was struck.
"Again today we are a nation that mourns," Bloomberg said. "Again today we take into our hearts and minds those who perished on this site one year ago."
During a pause at 9:03 a.m., the time the second plane hit, 17-year-old Marianne Keane remembered her stepfather, Franco Lalama, an engineer for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey who died at the trade center.
"I would give anything to go back to the morning of Sept. 11 and tell him how much I appreciated everything he's done for me," she said. "But I think he knows that now. In my eyes he died a hero. And how much more could you ask for?"
At Ladder Co. 101 in Brooklyn, the names of the 343 firefighters who died were recited in a smaller ceremony. Clustered at the open bay door of the firehouse, firefighters nodded in silence as the names of the seven colleagues from their company were read aloud.
A similar roll-call drew family members, firefighters, construction workers, tourists and businessmen to a small brick firehouse in midtown Manhattan. They crowded inside, leaving candles and flowers piled outside, just as they had done a year ago.
After the firefighters' names were read, the bagpipes played "God Bless America," a priest said a blessing and the crowd slowly drifted away from the home of Engine 54, Ladder 4 and Battalion 9. Fifteen of their members died.
And at Manhattan's venerable Riverside Church, New York Gov. George Pataki and New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey joined some 500 mourners for a memorial to the 37 police officers and 47 civilian employees of the bi-state Port Authority, which owned and operated the towers.
Christy Ferer, whose husband, Port Authority Director Neil Levin, was among those killed, said: "For them we now embrace the task of rebuilding our home and healing our hearts."
An armed helicopter circled overhead at the start of the ground zero ceremony, and some of the thousands raised American flags in silence. Others held up pictures of lost loved ones. Seven-year-old Skyler Mercado, of the Bronx, clutched the helmet of his firefighter father, Steve Mercado, who died there.
As Yo-Yo Ma played the Sarabande to Bach's C minor cello suite, former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani began the solemn reading of the names of victims. While he spoke, a gust of wind swirled through the area, kicking up dust that stirred memories of the thick ash that hung over the site for weeks after the attack.
The list of those killed and missing started with Gordon Aamoth Jr., 32, who worked for investment firm Sandler O'Neill & Partners on the south tower's 104th floor. It ended with Igor Zukelman, 29, who worked at Fiduciary Trust Company International in the north tower.
The 197 name readers included survivors and relatives of victims from hard-hit companies like Cantor Fitzgerald and Aon, as well as Secretary of State Colin Powell and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.
The reading paused again at 9:59 a.m., when the first tower fell.
Then 11-year-old Brittany Clark read a poem for her father, Benjamin Keefe Clark, a chef who was last seen helping a woman in a wheelchair on the 88th floor of one of the towers.
"I am with you still," Brittany said. "I do not sleep. I am a thousand winds that blow. I am the diamond glint on the snow."
Pataki read from the Gettysburg Address, and McGreevey recited from the Declaration of Independence.
So lengthy was the list that the recitation ran 50 minutes past the anticipated 10:30 a.m. ending. It closed with the sound of taps and the ringing of church bells across the city.
For Diana Conboy Regan, it was a jarring experience to stand on the ground where her brother-in-law, firefighter Lt. Bob Regan, died.
"When I was in the pit, I could hear a million voices screaming," she said.
Heightened safety concerns prompted a heavy police presence around the city. Snipers toting rifles were in positions overlooking the trade center site.
A camouflaged military helicopter with a protruding gun turret patrolled over ground zero. Security for the city's tunnels and bridges, already strengthened over the last year, was increased.
At LaGuardia Airport, terminals were nearly empty, but some travelers were determined not to be spooked by fears of another attack.
Mike Yax, a truck driver from Detroit, flew into the city so he could head to ground zero with four friends.
He said wanted to send a personal message about terrorism: "Don't be afraid to fly, don't be scared to live your life."