It was an incredibly emotional day at Ground Zero yesterday, as we came together to remember the souls who were lost there six years ago. It was a day that had a different feel to it all together and for a number of different reasons.
This would be the final time any of us would be allowed down into the pit of the site, as the construction has moved along at such a pace that bedrock will be covered over forever by this time next year.
The city also moved the ceremony over to Zuccotti Park, across Church Street on Liberty Street. An estimated 3,500 people were there to remember those lost loved ones. (Although the New York Times, the so-called "newspaper of record," said that "only a few hundred" were there. I guess no one can count at that paper.) Also, for the first time, the weather didn't cooperate, as there were intermittent showers throughout the morning, and umbrellas were going up and down all the time. The last five years the weather had been picture perfect every time. (I can't help but think there's some kind of message there.)
My friend Deborah and I got to the park just after 7 AM, and we were one of the first people there. First responders read the names this year. The ceremony began shortly before 8:45 AM, and a few moments later, the bells rang for moment the first plane struck the North Tower. About 30 minutes later, the name of our beloved friend Joyce was read. We stayed in the park for over three hours before we took the walk down to the site. (The picture you see of me and Deborah was taken while we were in Zuccotti Park.)
This year there was very little room down in the site for people to safely walk, due to all the construction. So, people were allowed down into the site in groups, so the wait to get down was longer. At 10:25 AM, we made the trek down the ramp. It was very emotional for both of us, as Deborah and I had done it on every anniversary together. As I walked won, flags of all 50 states adorned the ramp on the right side. I was also struck by how different Ground Zero looked from last year. It is indeed on the way to being rebuilt.
It took nearly fifteen minutes to get to the bottom of the ramp and inside a specially built circle that the family and friends of the victims could lay flowers and other mementoes. I brought down two red roses, and I also wrote a little message on the circle. Deborah and I spent about fifteen minutes there. It was another emotional day there, and I'm proud to have been there.
As we walking back up the ramp, I spotted Jon Corzine, New Jersey's governor, walking down the ramp with a group of people. He stopped, and saw the picture of Joyce I was holding, and gave me an appreciative nod. That was nice of him to do that. (The picture of Joyce is so incredibly stunning that whenever I hold it, it seems to immediately get people's attention, even in large crowds.) I was also later told that we were seen on TV walking back up the ramp by my parents.
After we left the site, Deborah and I went to the Tribute Center on Liberty Street, which is place of remembrance for the WTC and the victims. We spent a little while there, and and soon as we got out, we heard a reader who was doing the list of names say: "for the friends of Joyce Ann Carpeneto." Deborah and I were so incredibly happy to hear that. Deborah had a met a lady the night before who said that when she read the names she would remember Joyce at the end of it. It really made our day to hear that, and we couldn't help notice that as soon as we left the Tribute Center, we heard that lady say that. (If we left 30 seconds later, we would have missed it. I think someone was guiding us...)
We also went down to Battery Park to check out the flags that were in the park for the 9/11 victims, courtesy of NYC 9/11 Memorial Field. We met some nice people from the group who took pictures of us, and we also planted a flag for our late friend in the park. And just as we did, the heavens absolutely opened up and the rain came down in buckets. I just thank heavens that it didn't happen during the actual ceremony.
After going over to the Family Room on Liberty Street, we concluded the day with meeting a nice friend of Deborah's who is a teacher in a high school right next to the WTC site. It was a really emotional day for all of us. It was mentally and as well as physically exhausting, but it was something we all needed to do. September 11 is a special day in my life, and I was so proud to be down in Lower Manhattan to remember my friend, as well as all of the victims of the worst terrorist attack in American history.
May God bless all of them, and their loved ones especially.