“A lot has happened in the last 10 years,” said Ricardo Miranda, a Park Slope resident who grew up in Astoria, as he stood outside Ground Zero on Sunday morning. “But you come down here and all the bickering and the politics pretty much go away.”
Miranda was among the Brooklyn and Queens residents in a crowd of thousands who bowed their heads in silence as the names of the 2,982 victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks were read aloud at Memorial Plaza.
The ceremony’s attendees cried, hugged, clasped each others' hands, held up victims' pictures and sought the names of their lost family members on the newly-opened 9/11 Memorial as the list of those fallen rang out.
Edward Lee, of Canarsie, said he comes back every year to honor the memory of his wife, Juanita.
“More and more of the feelings were coming back as I got closer to the site,” he said. “It never leaves you.”
Robert Esposito, 79, of Farmingdale, Long Island, said he lost three friends at the World Trade Center. He traveled today to Ground Zero for the first time in seven years.
“When it first happened, I couldn’t come down here,” he said. “It was too emotional. It makes me feel very sad, but I went to the corner and saw [One World Trade Center] and it’s quite a sight to see.”
During the ceremony, family members read a handful of names, ending their time at the podium with a special dedication to the ones they lost. Some of them left flowers, while others rubbed the names of victims cut into the stone of the 9/11 Memorial onto pieces of paper.
The event marked the debut of the long-awaited memorial in the footprint of the two towers. The stunning site includes two voids with waterfalls that fill 30-foot pools, which then feed into two smaller voids below. Bronze panels bearing the name of 9/11’s victims are located at the edges of the waterfalls.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg asked for the ceremony’s first moment of silence just before 9 a.m. He also introduced the tolling of bells for the victims at the World Trade Center, The Pentagon and in Shanksville, PA.
“Ten years have gone by since a perfect blue morning turned into the blackest of night,” the mayor said. “They were our neighbors, friends, brothers, sisters and parents. They each had a life cut short.”
Bloomberg was joined by President Barack Obama, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former President George W. Bush at the ceremony.
The Brooklyn Youth Chorus sang “The Star Spangled Banner” to the crowd early in the morning and was later followed by James Taylor, Yo Yo Ma and Paul Simon.
Lynn Weyant, of Yaphank, Long Island, said she walked across the Brooklyn Bridge earlier in the morning before heading over to the memorial.
“For me, it means to come here and make sure I never forget,” she said. “It’s extremely sad, but I want to feel the sadness. That way I know I’ll never forget.”
Weyant said her son, Dylan Vanderwalle, is a firefighter who makes the pilgrimage each year. His cousin, Capt. Thomas Moody, died on 9/11.
Addy Lefevre, 40, said she drove down from Hartford, CT, to watch the ceremony.
“You can feel the pain in the air, even 10 years later,” she said. “I’m a Christian and I wanted to be here.”
Mariela Flores, a former Jersey City resident, said she lost her brother in the attacks.
“Coming here hasn’t been easy,” she said. “There hasn’t really been closure. We’re always thinking about what happened. We just take it one day at a time.”
Tom Greeb, of Bay Ridge, said he and his wife, Maggie Ryan, were able to get into the ceremony after a woman on the subway offered them tickets when she overheard that they were unable to get in.
Carlos Ramos, who lives on Park Avenue in Brooklyn, said the ceremony “brought back a lot of memories.”
“Being there was something very special,” he said.
One attendee, Dennis Kelly, flew from Irvine, CA, to take part in the ceremony.
“We came a long way to be here today, but it was well worth it,” said Kelly, who grew up in Levittown, Long Island. “I came down here for the tenth anniversary to pay my respects. I just wanted to be a part of this.”
The tearful ceremony ended with the playing of Taps by trumpeters from the military, Port Authority Police Department, NYPD and FDNY.