Thousands of people journeyed to Lower Manhattan in New York City Sunday to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.
The names of those who died on the Sept. 11 attacks were read by people who had lost close family. Pairs of individuals would read multiple names, and then would finally finish by reading the name of their family member along with, often, a short prayer or remembrance. Often times, the family members remained stoic during the reading; however some became emotional as well. The ceremony took place around the memorial, which includes a reflection pool with the names of victims inscribed on a surrounding wall.
President Barack Obama attended the ceremony, where he read a passage from Psalm 46, which talks about God as our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Obama was joined by former Presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, along with current New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
The president and First Lady Michelle Obama also went to Shanksville, Pa., later on Sunday morning to visit the United 93 Memorial.
Police were heavily visible throughout downtown Manhattan. To get near Ground Zero, visitors were required to pass through security checkpoints. Although only a limited number of people were able to get close to the ceremony, thousands of others joined in surrounding blocks throughout the area and were able to watch the events on giant screens outside the memorial. At approximately 11 a.m. EDT, police had removed some barricades around the ceremony, allowing other visitors to get closer to the ceremony.
Many people also visited Battery Park by the Staten Island Ferry to visit the One Life, One Flag exhibit on display through Monday.
Mourner Makes Regular Visits to Memorial Site
People had many reasons for coming to Lower Manhattan on Sunday. Roc Scott, a 34-year old musician living in Queens, N.Y. used to work down at the World Trade Center. He lost a friend during the September 11 attack, and has not been in contact with her family since then.
Scott said he comes to the area as much as 75 times a year, usually by himself. This time, he brought along both his girlfriend and his brother. Scott said 10 years after the attack, it is nice to see that people have healed emotionally from the day, and points to the construction of the Freedom Tower, formally known as 1 World Trade Center, as proof.
We're finally making progress, Scott said.
Germano Riviera, 60, considers himself both a survivor and a rescuer for the Sept. 11 attacks.
Usually they only talk about firemen and policemen, when talking about the heroes of 9/11, Rivera said. But what about us?
Rivera began as the manager of a jewelry store on Sept. 10. At the beginning of his second day, he said he saw a first plane hit the twin towers. Riviera, who said he was an ex-sergeant, said he helped evacuate people out of the immediate area, and then vividly remembers the South Tower being hit by another airplane.
When the South Tower was hit, I could certainly feel the radiation, Rivera said.
After the attacks, Riviera said he volunteered to help clean up lower Manhattan from all the debris and rubble. He said helping people evacuate that day left him with health issues, including pulmonary infections and five herniated discs in his back. Despite his struggles, he still comes down for each anniversary.
U.S. Veteran Traveled from California to Memorial Site
Some people traveled significant distances just to commemorate the events. Master Sgt. Jose Padilla, 45, came to New York from Delano, Calif. by himself to visit ground zero: this was his first time visiting the site. He said he wanted to come alone in order to free himself from distractions and feel what New Yorkers have felt for the last few years.
I have my children and my friends, but I wanted to come by myself, Padilla said. I didn't want to have to worry about others wanting to do their own thing.
Padilla said he served tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and people he knows frequently call him a hero. However, he didn't necessarily look at himself like that.
These guys who ran inside buildings, these guys who helped out down here, they're the real heroes, Padilla said.
Wave Chan lived only a half mile north of the World Trade Center at the time of the Sept. 11 attack; (he still lives in the same apartment today). He said his brother, Hung, worked at 7 World Trade Center, and was running late to work that day. Chan said he was in the shower when the first plane hit the towers.
When the south tower collapsed, Chan said it felt like an earthquake. He then remembers people battered and bloodied walking uptown. He said for the next several weeks, he remembers having to show identification in order to get into where he lived.
Chan said he comes down to the area nearly every Sept. 11 in order to pay his respects to those who lost their lives in the attack, which he said a few people he knew were included in the list. He comes without his brother, who Chan says would have difficulty emotionally coming out to the event.
Chan said it is nice to finally see signs of a new skyline emerging with the new Freedom Tower. The two, 1-acre square footprints of the north tower and south tower are now the site's memorial areas, officially the National September 11 Memorial & Museum.
Now you can see the Freedom Towers. It used to be just a hole in the ground, Chan said.
Ryan Morgan and Maddie Rakosky live together in Lower Manhattan's financial district, and occasionally come o ground zero. The 10th anniversary was no exception.
I think it was really important to be down here, Rakosky said.
Morgan noted that his father is a recently retired member of the New York Fire Department.
Lots of my dad's friends passed away [in the attacks], Morgan said. I'm out here to show my respect.