Ground Zero Ceremony Marks Fifth Anniversary Of 9/11
Nelly Robledo held a picture of her niece, Emerita De La Pena, over her head. In the five-by-seven inch photograph, De La Pena smiles and cradles her daughter in her arms, but under a red beret, the look on Robledo's face was frantic.
"Right now, I'm not even thinking," she said. "I'm looking for my family."
Robledo took off both of her jobs to come to Ground Zero on Monday, but boarded the wrong train, and arrived late. She now had to wade through thousands of rescue workers and families to find her own.
It was five years since the South Tower fell with De La Pena trapped inside - she worked on the 90th floor - but watching Robledo scan the crowd underscored how close the events of Sept. 11 still are for those suddenly robbed of loved ones by the terrorist attacks.
New York, the United States and the world have all changed drastically since that day in 2001, but for victims' families, friends and survivors, the wounds remain as gaping as the bare 16-acre site they flocked to on the crisp, cloudless morning, jarringly similar to the tragic morning five years ago.
Packed shoulder to shoulder for two full blocks behind barricades and police officers, thousands came to hear these names and the messages accompanying them. Only families, friends and survivors were allowed onto the World Trade Center site.
The centerpiece of the fifth commemoration, like those in each of the previous ceremonies, was the reading of the victims' names by spouses and significant others. At two oak lecterns set on the large, navy podium, pairs of readers stood proud, taking turns reciting about 12 names each before adding that of their partner.
Christy A. Aceto, the first reader, told her husband Michael Aceto, "Our daughter Christine and I love you and miss you very much," a message echo-ed hours later by Madeline Zuccala, the last of 231 readers, as well as many in between.
Some readers only recited names of the departed, as if other words could neither express nor encapsulate their emotions - or perhaps because they could not bear to say more.
For those who said more, the words sometimes overwhelmed the impressive composure they showed while reciting the names of others.
Monique Ferrer spoke to her ex-husband Michael Trinidad, and began to weep as she said, "You always had a place in my heart. We talk about you every day. We love and miss you."
The names - from Abad and Domingo to Lai and Williams - as well as the faces and accents of those who uttered them, was a reminder of New York's vast diversity and how the attacks affected everyone in the city, but also brought them together.
A group of 80 New Englanders, in matching gray t-shirts that read "To-gether Forever," chartered several buses to Manhattan to remember Lynn Goodchild and Shawn Nassany, a couple who were aboard United 175, one of two planes that the terrorists crashed into the Twin Towers.
Judy Leigh explained that for this group the trip was actually a lot of fun, explaining, "As somber as this can be, it's a celebration."
Though this was a day for families and remembrance, it was not without moments of politics. The tone of the politicians who took the stage was equally clear and commemorative.
"Five years from the date of the attack that changed our world, we've come back to remember the valor of those we lost - those who innocently went to work that day and the brave souls who went in after them," lionized former-mayor Rudolph Giuliani said.
Two readers drew applause from the crowd when they spoke out of understandable anger against the terrorists.
"We must be vigilant against these fanatics so that events like Sept. 11 never happen again," Ira Blau exclaimed.
Across the street, a woman held up a sign bearing the message: "Where is Osama bin Laden?"
Decidedly apolitical were the bells, wrung at the times when each plane hit the towers and when they fell, followed by a moment of silence.
After a somber yet rousing rendition of taps, Debora Salgado filed out with the few hundred people who remained through the end of the ceremony. Despite the emotions tied to the site and the day, Salgado endured.
"It's always hard to come here," she said. "But you're here to remember those that passed, and to honor them."
In addition to ceremonies held at Ground Zero on Monday to mark the fifth anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, there were services held in and around Canarsie to mark the tragic day.
A particularly poignant ceremony was held on Monday evening when a procession of the faithful took part in a candlelight march from the steps of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church of Flatbush on Avenue R and East 41st Street to St. Thomas Aquinas Roman Catholic Church on Hendrickson Street near Flatbush Avenue.
Other activities in the borough included a cordial welcome by Borough President Marty Markowitz to visiting "Bobbies" (police officers) from Great Britain who honored their nationals who died in the tragedy.