City marks fourth anniversary of 9/11
Two women hug at the footprint of the north tower of the World Trade Center during the fourth anniversary commemoration of the Sept. 11th terrorist attack. (Photo by Stan Honda-Pool/Getty Images / September 11, 2005)
Sasha Cardona, 15, whose father died in the 2001 attack, felt the tug of time and the shift of public attention to more recent calamities such as the London subway bombings and the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.
"It's sad because it seems like people are forgetting," said Cardona, whose father, Jose, was a clerk in a financial firm in the north tower.
There are no immediate plans to stop or scale back the annual day-long eulogy for the 2,749 people killed at the World Trade Center, officials say. The crowds around the ceremony may have seemed thinner simply because the anniversary of the worst-ever terrorist attack fell on a Sunday.
But there was an undeniable sense of urgency among family members yesterday.
Anjunelly Gartrell, 23, said she trekked from suburban Washington yesterday "to remember, to remember the legacy" of her mother, Maxima Jean-Pierre, who worked as a food service administrator at Cantor Fitzgerald.
Germano Riviera, 54, of Borough Park, worked at a nearby jewelry store in 2001, and was sipping coffee at Austin J. Tobin Plaza, between the Twin Towers, on the day of the attack.
"People tend to forget," he said of what seemed to be thinner-than-usual crowds outside the ceremony. "It used to be so many people who came here. For me, it's sort of like a shame. I guess life goes on."
Yesterday's event was dedicated to the brothers and sisters of those killed, with siblings reading names in a ceremony that began at 8:40 a.m. and concluded about 1:30 p.m.
"My older brother John lived in Technicolor; he taught me to wear bright colors and to love life," said Anthoula Katsimatides, who wore a hot pink shirt to celebrate her 31-year-old brother, who died in the north tower.
Former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani evoked the unity following the terrorist attack, a sense of togetherness that has been notably absent in the aftermath of the Gulf Coast hurricane response.
"I have no brothers and sisters and now you're all my brothers and sisters," Giuliani said, his voice cracking. "We all stand together."
Giuliani was joined by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who hosted the event, Gov. George Pataki, New Jersey Gov. Richard Codey and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
During the ceremony, families stood on the western edge of the trade center site, where they had a panoramic view of the site's past, present and future. To their left was the glass-edged Seven World Trade Center, still under construction; in the middle was the pit, still unfilled after four years of planning and wrangling; to their right was the black-veiled, damaged Deutsche Bank building, which will soon be demolished.
The mourners descended down the ramp clutching photos, long-stemmed roses and each other's hands. They placed the flowers into twin memorial pools, as stray red, white and pink petals scattered on the dusty bottom of the pit.
The day was not without discord. Many family members are trying to block plans to stage wide-ranging exhibits at a cultural center next to the trade center's planned memorial, arguing that the project should focus on the sacrifices of victims and rescuers.
About 20 people reading names made those sentiments known by concluding with, "I pray that we will succeed in our efforts to protect your name and your legacy."
If there was any need to remind people how the attack changed the country, proof could be found on the corner of Liberty and West streets in the form of a Fire Department decontamination unit, stationed in the event of a chemical attack.
Firefighter Greg Bruno of Ladder 174 in East Flatbush, who was in that convoy, was sprawled on the marble steps of the World Financial Center in the sun. His gaze resting on the trade center site, and his thoughts veered to how much New York had changed since 2001.
"Everything's changed, and it will never be the same," said Bruno, 38. "You just knew so many of those guys," he said, referring to the Fire Department's 343 Sept. 11 fatalities. "A lot of guys."
Staff writer Bryan Virasami contributed to this story.