Remembering the Horror of a Bright Blue MorningBy A. G. Sulzberger
On a rainy, wind-whipped morning that bore little resemblance to the crisp and glass-clear dawn of Sept. 11, 2001, politicians and survivors of that day’s attack gathered early on Friday to mark the eighth anniversary of the destruction of the World Trade Center.
They gathered near the pit where the Twin Towers once stood. Politicians spoke, a choir of students sang, and the name of each of the victims was read aloud, one at a time, 2,752 in total, one more than last year. At the end, “Taps” was played, and the relatively small group that lasted for the entire 3 1/2-hour ceremony — much of if buffeted by fierce winds and lashing rain — dispersed into lower Manhattan.
City Room live-blogged the ceremony:
Updated, 12:20 p.m. | In the end, only a few dozen people were left as the final names were read. When the list was concluded, the Brooklyn Youth Chorus returned to the stage to sing “Hero.” The wind, which had grown fiercer toward the end of the ceremony, even breaking several umbrellas, abruptly let up as the song’s final verse rang out. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg addressed the crowd before trumpeters played taps. At the final note, the crowd quietly dispersed. Some headed to the streets, others to the site of the World Trade Center for a more private moment.
Updated, 12:10 p.m. | The reading of the names has concluded.
Updated, 11:38 a.m. | There are a number of American flags in the area — on umbrellas, on signs, on shirts and lapel pins. One man has held a full-size flag aloft throughout the ceremony, clutching the pole against his stomach along with a bundle of roses. Another flag hangs from the large construction crane behind the stage. By now, like many people in the crowd, it is soaked through, but the strong winds keep kicking it up to a full sail.
Updated, 11:15 a.m. | As the reading of the victims’ names continues — the name of Anthony Perez was just read — the park has continued to empty. The umbrellas came down briefly as the rain softened, allowing a better view of the crowd. There are some chairs for older attendees and strollers for the younger ones; everyone else is standing. Some are in uniform; others are carrying photos of the dead. One sign reads “Wayne A. Russo” with the words, “We will never forget.” Two adults just walked out with three children clutching roses. One woman wearing a clear plastic poncho keeps wiping away tears.
Updated, 10:42 a.m. | Former Gov. George E. Pataki just asked the crowd to pledge “never to let the country forget what happened here.” The question about when these types of commemorations should either be scaled back or stop entirely comes up occasionally, provoking strong feelings on both sides.
Friday morning’s event hints that the process could be a natural one. The crowd is noticeably lighter than in the past, but the family members here, many of them becoming emotional, are still clearly getting a lot out of the ritual of remembrance. The surrounding area seems to be in the midst of a normal rainy Friday in Manhattan: Broadway remains open to traffic; coffee shops are busy; and in the office building overlooking the park and adjacent to ground zero, people can be seen working through the windows.
Updated, 10:36 a.m. | Carly Simon sang “Let the River Run” with her children, Ben Taylor and Sally Taylor. The song won an Oscar in 1988 for the movie “Working Girl.” The crowd applauded.
Updated, 10:29 a.m. | A final moment of silence in observance of the fall of the north tower.
Updated, 10:20 a.m. | There are 2,752 names on the list this year, one more than in previous years, because of the addition of Leon Bernard Heyward. The office of the chief medical examiner declared in January that Mr. Heyward had died in October because of exposure to dust after the collapse of the World Trade Center, making him an official casualty of that day. Lisa Foderaro, a reporter for The New York Times, reports that Mr. Heyward was a father of two from the Bronx who worked as an inspector for the city’s Department of Consumer Affairs. He was out on the street trying to help with evacuations when the first tower collapsed, and he was engulfed in dust. His sister Leona Hull intended to attend, but she was unable because of her emotions. She heard his name called on television (although it was mispronounced).
Updated, 10:10 a.m. | The parade of politicians continues with former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, who shares two quotes from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that hit on the day’s theme of service. “Everybody can be great,” he said, “because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love.”
In the background, sirens just wailed, an unnerving sound on this day.
Updated, 9:59 a.m. | The crowd pauses for a moment of silence in observance of the fall of the south tower. Someone outside the area keeps yelling during the moments of silence, but it is not clear what he is saying. He sounds angry, though.
Updated, 9:36 a.m. | The huge construction cranes that loom behind the ceremony stage, testaments to the advancing construction of the new World Trade Center site, are not the only reminders of how long eight years can be. While the event has a certain somber rhythm — and some of the speakers have choked up at the names of their lost loved ones — it seems absent of some of the deep overarching emotion of previous years. The crowd has really thinned out; more than half the journalists appear to have left. A smattering of journalists and family members are chatting as the names are read.
Updated, 9:30 a.m. | One of the speakers urges support for responders who survived the attacks but have health problems as a result of exposure to the toxic dust clouds. “They were here for our country, and now it’s time for our country to be here for them,” she says, to applause.
Updated, 9:20 a.m. | The rain is really coming down. The Red Cross handed out clear plastic ponchos when people arrived, but many people are already soaked through, including a handful who appear to have forgotten umbrellas. Some people are leaving, perhaps family members who have already heard their loved ones’ names called. The names have reached the letter C. A man who lost his son declares: “This is not the rain. This is tears.”
Updated, 9:10 a.m. | Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. addresses the crowd, quoting the poet Mary Oliver. “Meanwhile the world goes on,” he exclaims. The reading of names soon resumes.
Updated, 9:05 a.m. | The reading of the names, which is being accompanied by flute and cello music, pauses for a moment of silence to observe the moment when United Flight 175 hit the south tower.
Updated, 8:55 a.m. | The reading of names begins with Gordon M. Aamoth Jr., an investment banker at Sandler O’Neill & Partners, who went by the nickname Gordy.
This year they are being read by family members and, fitting with the theme of the Sept. 11 national day of service declared by President Obama, volunteers.
Updated, 8:54 a.m. | The crowd was addressed by Jay Winuk, whose younger brother Glenn Winuk was a prominent Manhattan lawyer and volunteer firefighter last seen running toward the towers from his office nearby, “toward the inferno and the people in danger.”
“My little brother is my greatest hero, not just for the way he died but for the way he lived,” Mr. Winuk said.
Updated, 8:46 a.m. | Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg asked the crowd for a moment of silence to commemorate the moment American Airlines Flight 11 hit the north tower of the World Trade Center.
Updated, 8:42 a.m. | The tattered American flag that had flown over the World Trade Center and survived the attack has been carried to the stage. Members of the Brooklyn Youth Chorus are singing the national anthem.
Updated, 8:30 a.m. | For the third consecutive year, the commemoration ceremony is being held at Zuccotti Park, a small patch of land adjacent to ground zero that is shaded by 54 honey locust trees. While the ceremony was initially held at ground zero, it was displaced because of efforts to redevelop the site.
Family members — some of whom were initially upset about the change in venue — will visit ground zero after the ceremony.Family members and journalists have already filled much of the park with a sea of umbrellas. The weather continues to be terrible, with gusting winds driving a light rain.