Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump visited Ground Zero in New York on Sunday, for ceremonies marking the 15th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11 2001.
In an unusual appearance together two weeks before the first presidential debate and 58 days before election day, 8 November, the Democratic and Republican nominees were to keep a rare silence. Politicians are invited to attend but not to give speeches at the official commemoration of the attack which destroyed the twin towers of the World Trade Center.
Some cheered as Trump arrived for what was said by a spokesman for the National September 11 Memorial and Museum to be his first such ceremony. Trump, who was born in the New York borough of Queens, grinned as people waved, posing so they could take photographs. Clinton, who in 2001 was the junior US senator from New York, arrived quietly, greeting some families on her way into the site. Both candidates issued short statements about the need to mark the day solemnly.
In Washington, Barack Obama marked the anniversary with a moment of silence in the White House and was due to speak at a commemoration of those who died in the attack on the Pentagon.
In lower Manhattan, family members of those who died; New York firefighters, who lost 343 of their colleagues; police officers; and survivors gathered at the site, under overcast skies.
The humid weather and haze, obscuring the top of One World Trade, the skyscraper that now dominates the New York skyline, stood in sharp contrast to the sunny, blue skies that dawned on the day 15 years ago that changed the course of history.
On that day, al-Qaida terrorists hijacked passenger jets and flew them into the twin towers of the World Trade Center. Another hijacked jet was flown into the Pentagon outside Washington. A third crashed in a field in Pennsylvania: in total, 2,977 people were killed.
On Sunday, Ground Zero was crowded with wives who had lost husbands, children who had lost fathers and mothers and other family members and friends who have come every 11 September, to remember.
They laid flowers on the names of the dead that are engraved into the stone surrounds of two huge reflecting pools with waterfalls, constructed on the exact sites where the twin towers stood. The stage for the event sat between the two pools.
A youth choir from Brooklyn sang the Star-Spangled Banner, to warm applause. A group of first responders in dress uniform held up the torn flag that was raised over the wreckage at Ground Zero in the aftermath of the attack, before marching away to the sound of a piped band.
Then the site went still, for a moment of silence at 8.46am, the time the first jet hit, near the top of the north tower.
When the reading of the names resumed, politicians stood in the crowds. They listened to short, often tearful tributes to loved ones. The dignitaries did, however, divide along party lines when it came to where they stood and whom they murmured to during pauses in the addresses from the stage.
Clinton, almost lost in the crowd, stood in front of the very tall New York mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, and near the state’s Democratic governor, Andrew Cuomo. Trump stood with Rudy Giuliani, the Republican mayor who was in office on 9/11 and led the city’s response, and later ran briefly for president. The Republican governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, a member of Trump’s transition team, was also present.
After the first moment of silence, Jerry D’Amadeo approached the microphone to talk about his father, Vincent D’Amadeo, who worked for Cantor Fitzgerald in the World Trade Center and was killed when Jerry was 10. D’Amadeo choked up as he recalled how many people helped him in the years after 9/11.
Then he told those gathered that he had recently attended a children’s camp for those who lost family and friends in the mass shooting at Sandy Hook elementary school in Connecticut in December 2012.
“Suddenly I was able to be there for people and use my experience to help them,” he said. D’Amadeo now acts as a visitors’ host at the museum at the World Trade Center site.
Then relatives began reading the names of the 2,753 who were killed at Ground Zero. Many others have died since 2001, from diseases they contracted from breathing in the toxic dust and fumes that billowed out from the site.
(Source: THE GUARDIAN)