quinta-feira, 5 de maio de 2011

The Washington Post - At Ground Zero, Obama quietly completes a circle

At Ground Zero, Obama quietly completes a circle

Video: President Barack Obama greets NYPD officers who were at the World Trade Center site on Sept. 11, 2001. He says they are proud of the work they did on that day, a day they will 'never forget.' (May 5)
NEW YORK — Before the president was a flower wreath meant to signify closure for the families of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, four days after U.S. commandos killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. It also represented completion of a circle at the Ground Zero site, from crematorium, to cemetery, to construction site. But the thing about a wreath is that it’s just a ring with a hole in the middle of it — and maybe that was appropriate.
There will always be a gaping hole where the twin towers of the World Trade Center once stood. In its footprint is a raw open plaza with half-laid stone and open gravel pits, where on Thursday President Obama paid a brief and wordless tribute with a long moment of silence.

While in New York Thursday to pay his respects to those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001, President Barack Obama visited and had lunch at a fire station that lost 15 firefighters during the attack. (May 5)
While in New York Thursday to pay his respects to those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001, President Barack Obama visited and had lunch at a fire station that lost 15 firefighters during the attack. (May 5)
The loaders, excavators and backhoes were motionless, and the giant cranes sat suspended in midair above the bowed head of the president. An honor guard of police officers and firefighters stood stiff and still in their dress uniforms. Nothing moved in the unfinished memorial plinth, except a few leaves on the limbs of an elegant pear tree called the Survivor Tree, stirred by the breezes that always seem to swirl at Ground Zero.
Members of 60 bereaved families of first responders attended the ceremony, and then visited with the president. But there were holes in those ranks, too. Some families found it too difficult to attend.
Among them were family members of former New York City fire chief Peter Ganci, killed when the towers collapsed. They meant no disrespect, but they don’t like to go to Ground Zero. “You stand there and it’s a constant reminder of pain,” said Ganci’s son, Christopher, who is also a New York City firefighter.
Although he appreciated the fact that bin Laden had finally met his death, “I gotta say, it’s bittersweet. You never want to wish for, you never want to cheer for death.”
Nearly 10 years ago, another president, George W. Bush, bulky and workmanlike in his windbreaker and work boots, came to Ground Zero and stood on a heap of smoking debris with a bullhorn and threw his arm around the shoulders of a firefighter.
When the armies of volunteers in the wreckage shouted that they couldn’t hear him, he replied: “I can hear you! The rest of the world hears you! And the people — the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon!”
The visit of this president was a bookend to that event, but it was a far different affair. He was slim and discreet in a dark suit and bright necktie. He spoke no public words, reserving his most emotional remarks for meeting with firefighters at the “Pride of Midtown” firehouse, Engine 54, Ladder 4, Battalion 9, at 48th Street and Eighth Avenue. The firehouse lost 15 men on 9/11, an entire shift, the heaviest loss of any station house in the city that day.
“What happened on Sunday, because of the courage of our military and the outstanding work of our intelligence, sent a message around the world, but also sent a message here back home that when we say we will never forget, we mean what we say,” Obama said, “that our commitment to making sure that justice is done is something that transcended politics, transcended party. It didn’t matter which administration was in. It didn’t matter who was in charge. We were going to make sure that the perpetrators of that horrible act — that they received justice.
“So it’s some comfort, I hope, to all of you to know that when those guys took those extraordinary risks going into Pakistan, that they were doing it in part because of the sacrifices that were made in the States. They were doing it in the name of your brothers that were lost.”
At the Pentagon, Vice President Biden likewise laid a floral wreath next to a blackened stone commemorating the crash of American Airlines Flight 77, which killed 184 people.
The charred stone was rebuilt into the base of the western facade of the Pentagon to mark the site of the crash. The words “September 11, 2001” are inscribed on the stone, behind which lies a time capsule.
Biden made no public remarks during the two-minute ceremony, which was marked by a military bugler playing taps. He was flanked by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Marine Gen. James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Standing next to them were 13 members of the Arlington County Fire Department who had responded to the crash site nearly 10 years ago.
Among the dignitaries and public officials who observed the ceremony from a distance were former defense secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. Also attending were about a dozen survivors and relatives of victims of the attack, who met with Biden afterward in private.

Staff writer Craig Whitlock contributed to this report.

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