FROM THE PUBLISHER >> Ground Zero marks fourth anniversary
It was the end of a four-hour ceremony on a bright late-summer day commemorating the fourth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.
This was the first time the anniversary fell on Sunday, and thousands of people surrounded the fenced-in site, which is now a huge pit, while hundreds of relatives read the first, middle and last names of their loved ones, often ending with a personal note about how much they missed them and then threw a kiss up to the sky before they let the next group read more names.
Many of the relatives at the ceremony were little children, who hardly knew their parents when they were killed.
Susan Tillier, of Bloomington, N.C., was at the memorial with her cousin Tom Krieger, who was holding a large, framed color photograph of Richard Stewart, a 35-year-old stockbroker who worked at Cantor Fitzgerald on the 104th floor of the north building at the World Trade Center.
That building was the second one hit but the first one to fall.
“When the first plane hit,” Susan Tillier told us, “he called his parents in Delaware. ‘Dad, I don’t know what happened,’ he told him. ‘There’s black smoke outside the window. Tell Mom I love her.’”
Tillier was living in Warsaw when she heard about the attack on the Twin Towers and found out Richard had been killed.
“He was my only brother,” she continued tearfully. “They discovered some of his remains. He is buried in North Carolina.”
It was his wish to be buried there, she said.
Nearby, anti-war protesters were arguing with the police. An older man who was dressed in red, white and blue from head to toe held up the American flag was shouting, “God Bless America.”
More than 200 British police officers in their crisp uniforms were also there, representing every police department in Britain. Sgt. Steve Gartside and Sgt. Tommy Simpson of the Manchester Police Department said they were there to show their solidarity with the people of New York.
“We come here every year,” Gartside said, reminding us that terrorists attacked London’s transportation system.
At night, two blue streaks of light brightened up the sky near Ground Zero on the southern tip of Manhattan, symbolizing the twin towers. Called “Tribute in Light,” the beams are white but look blue against the night sky. They are turned on during the anniversary of 9/11 and serve as a memorial since nothing permanent has been built yet.
Looking down the Avenue of the Americas in lower Manhattan, you could see the two columns of light radiating from the ground to the sky just a couple of miles away, but the light seemed much closer.
It was at this spot where our youngest daughter stood when the first tower was attacked. The burning skyscraper must have looked as if a neighbor’s house across the street was on fire.
At my son’s Brooklyn apartment, you can walk up a wooden ladder to the rooftop, where the blue streaks of light seem almost as close.
Four years ago, a few miles away, he stood at the East River minutes after the first attack and watched the second building collapse across the river, sending clouds of dust over the water in less than a minute, forcing onlookers to flee.
Americans have had much to mourn in recent years, from terrorist attacks to natural disasters. Almost everywhere you turn, you meet someone who has lost a loved one because of terrorism or has fled Louisiana and Mississippi ahead of Hurricane Katrina or is there helping the victims.
On a Brooklyn street on Saturday, we met an 83-year-old retired Boston detective named John O’Connor, who wore a small American flag on his shirt collar.
He told us Libyan terrorists had killed his 31-year-old son, an engineer, along with 269 other passengers, when they blew up Pan Am Flight 104 over Lockerbie, Scot-land, in December 1988.
“Khadafi killed my son,” he said.
The old detective was holding back tears and said he thinks about his son every day. Then he looked at me and my son and said we should take good care of each other.