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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 September, 2003, 18:46 GMT 19:46 UK
New York remembers its dead

By Matt Wells
In New York

The names of the dead, echoed like ghosts around a vast cavern of space that should not really be there.

Boy holds flowers at the ceremony in New York
Many of the children were overwhelmed with grief
This simple and powerful ceremony, on the edge of what is now a construction site where the towers once stood, was all about the children.

They came to the microphone in pairs, to invoke the memory of each person killed, signing-off with the name of their own relative.

In front of them, a sea of other relatives.

Before the beginning of the ceremony at 0846 local time (1246 GMT), the atmosphere was like a sombre school reunion, where parents are invited too.

As the names began, so did the tears.

Long list

Grainy photographs were held aloft. For many hearing their own name, was the point of being here at Ground Zero, two years on.

Ramon Rodriguez (centre)
It's no less painful than a year ago
Ramon Rodriguez

The list is so long. It takes three hours to read.

Many of the children stumbled over their poignant task, briefly overwhelmed with grief, in front of the world's cameras.

Looking at the sad faces all around the site, they represent the soul of this complex and often maddening city.

All ages, backgrounds and colour are here. Some slouch on the ground, clutching flowers.

One group of 11 walk by, all wearing T-shirts bearing the tribute: "Forever You."

'No peace'

With each passing minute we were thinking of the struggle for life that took place two years ago.

At 0959 (1359 GMT), the first tower fell.

The litany of names and reflective music stopped.

Now, there is silence. Then, it was thunderous destruction.

"I took the same journey to get here, as my son used to take for work," said Richard Blood, 67, whose son Richard Jnr. Died in Tower 2.

Richard Blood
Richard Blood had the same clothes as the last time he had been with his son
No remains have been found, so personal recovery is slow.

Mr Blood was dressed today in a cap and shirt which he'd bought the last time he'd been at a sports game with his son.

Ramon Rodriguez, came with the whole family to mourn his brother, Angel Perez.

"It's no less painful than a year ago," he said.

"I've not found any peace. This site here is being redeveloped a bit too fast for me," he added.

'It's tough'

Gazing down into the pit, you truly appreciate the scale of the loss.

Thousands of relatives processed slowly down the ramps from ground level, to a commemorative square, forming a queue half a kilometre long.

Alongside the New York emergency services, about 100 police officers from all over the UK, stood as ceremonial guard, lining the relatives' route.

Woman hold a framed picture of one of the victims of the attacks
Many carried pictures of their loved ones killed in the attacks
They came in their own time and at their own expense. A gesture of solidarity.

Joseph and Peggy Furmato, from New Jersey, lost their market-trading son Paul.

They couldn't face coming to the ceremony last year, it was all too raw.

"We were stuck in France when it happened. Paul had sent us off on vacation," said Peggy.

"I do find it a comfort being here, but overall the second anniversary has been worse," she added.

Mr Furmato listens carefully to his wife speak, but he can only say a few words to me, before dissolving into tears and walking away: "It's tough..."

'Simplicity and dignity'

Without the appearance of US Vice President Dick Cheney to politicise the event, Mayor Michael Bloomberg succeeded in making this Ground Zero commemoration less fiercely patriotic than last year.

It was more reflective and centred on hope.

As the ceremony neared its end, you could not help feeling sorry for those relatives whose names began with W or Y.

Inevitably for such a long morning under a hot sun, the crowd front-of-stage had dwindled dramatically.

The people of New York did their job, as they did that day exactly two years ago.

Whatever the resolution is to the political maelstrom unleashed that day, they remembered their dead with simplicity and dignity.


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