NEW YORK - Victims' families huddled under umbrellas yesterday in a park to mark the sixth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks in the first remembrance ceremony not held at ground zero, an event that did not evoke the same emotions as the hallowed ground of the World Trade Center site.
"I guess they mean well, but I really wasn't happy," said Sal Romagnolo, whose son, Joseph, worked in the trade center's North Tower. "I never got my son back. That's the only place we have."
Around the country, Americans went through familiar mourning rituals as they looked back on the day when terrorists hijacked four jetliners and killed nearly 3,000 people.
President Bush attended ceremonies at the White House and the Pentagon, and the 40 passengers and crew members who died when a flight crashed into a Pennsylvania field were honored as "citizen soldiers."
The Manhattan ceremonies were held largely in a public park because of rebuilding at ground zero. First responders, volunteers, and firefighters who helped rescue people from the collapsing twin towers read the names of the 2,750 victims, a list that grew with the addition of a woman who died of lung disease in 2002.
Several first responders referred to the illnesses and deaths of their colleagues that they attribute to toxic dust exposure.
"I want to acknowledge those lost post-9/11 as a result of answering the call, including police Officer NYPD James Zadroga," said volunteer ambulance worker Reggie Cervantes-Miller. Zadroga, 34, died more than a year ago of respiratory illness after spending hundreds of hours working to clean up ground zero.
Victims' spouses, children, siblings, and parents had read names before, often breaking down with heartrending messages to their loved ones and blowing kisses to the sky. At Zuccotti Park, where the sounds of trucks and buses sometimes drowned out speakers, fewer tears were shed and most readers did not speak at length.
Hundreds streamed out of the ceremony after about an hour, and fewer than 60 remained at the end. The city estimated that 3,500 family members and mourners turned out, down from 4,700 attendees at the fifth anniversary. Some might have been kept away by rain.
Ground zero "was more sacred and sad," said Clarence White, whose brother was killed at the trade center. At the park, he said, "the meaning wasn't as close."
The city moved the ceremony this year because of progressing construction at the site, where several idle cranes overlooked a partially built transit hub, 1,776-foot office tower, and Sept. 11 memorial.
But family members had threatened to boycott the ceremony and hold their own remembrance if they were not granted access. The city and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the trade center site, allowed relatives to descend a ramp to lay flowers inside a reflecting pool with two 6-foot outlines of the towers inside, and touch the ground where the trade center once stood.
Howard Gabler, who worked on the 47th floor of the trade center's North Tower and escaped on the day of the attack, came to mourn his son, Fredric, who worked on the 104th floor of the same tower. He has no remains of his son.
"This is where he died, and we have nothing else," Gabler said. "It's very painful. It's very painful all the time, but today was, I guess, worse knowing we're not going to be back down there.
Gabler said he touched the ground, which he fears will not be available to him next year as construction goes on. "So today I kissed my hand, and I kissed the ground - I'm still kissing him."
Charlene Morgen, whose cousin, Debora Maldonado, worked at the Marsh & McLennan financial services firm, said the ceremony was different at the park. "The crowd was smaller, it rained for the first time - it was almost like saying goodbye. This is the end," Morgen said.
Former mayor Rudy Giuliani, a Republican, returned to ground zero yesterday, despite objections by several victims' families and firefighters who said he should not speak at the remembrance because he is running for president. Senator Hillary Clinton, a Democrat from New York running for president, attended the ceremony, but did not speak.
Giuliani was greeted with a smattering of applause after his brief remarks, which followed the third of the traditional four moments of silence: one each to mark the times when the two planes hit the buildings, and two more for when each tower fell.
Giuliani later descended to the trade center site, and one man yelled "Scum! Scum!" at him. A woman from the family line said she blamed Giuliani for speeding up the search for victims' remains. "Because of Giuliani, we never had closure," said Sabrina Rivera.
Giuliani left the area without speaking to reporters.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has presided over each of the anniversary events, described Sept. 11, 2001, as "the day that tore across our history and our hearts. We come together again as New Yorkers and as Americans to share a loss that can't be measured."