9/11 anniversary brings sorrow and protest
Cyril Josh Barker | 8/31/2011, 2:32 p.m.
The ninth anniversary of the September 11 terrorists attacks brought thousands to Lower Manhattan on Saturday. While those who lost loved ones shed tears and paid respects, this year's anniversary was laced with controversy and protest about the proposed Park51 mosque and Islamic cultural center near Ground Zero.
The morning started off with the annual commemoration ceremony at Zuccotti Park. Those working to build the National September 11 Memorial and Museum and family members of those lost recited names of the 2,752 victims who died at the World Trade Center.
Moments of silence were held at the exact times when planes struck the North and South Towers and when the towers collapsed.
Vice President Joe Biden and Mayor Michael Bloomberg gave speeches of healing to victims' families. President Barack Obama was in Washington, D.C., at a ceremony at the Pentagon. Meanwhile, Gov. David Paterson told mourners at the World Trade Center site that rebuilding must not only begin physically but also morally.
"New Yorkers were on the front lines then, and we are still today," Paterson said. "The attacks were meant to strike fear into our hearts and make us question the wisdom of our free society. But what the terrorists did not realize then--and what they will never understand--is that our laws are stronger than our fears, and our fears are never written into law. Their strength will never approach ours. New York will rebuild."
With a rose in hand and a ribbon with her daughter's name, Edith Warford of the Bronx attended the ceremony with her family to remember Brenda Comire, who worked in the North Tower.
"I always come down here," Warford said. "I just like to come down here because I don't want to leave her alone. It's so much."
Ilia Rodriguez came from Miami, Fla., to remember her son Carlos "Rey" Lillo, who was a paramedic during the September 11 attacks. Accompanied by several family members, she held a sign with a photo of her son for all to see.
"It's something that never goes away from your heart. It's a big pain. I come here every year to honor my son and I have to come for the rest of my life. It's like going to a cemetery," Rodriguez said.
As controversy swirls about the Park51 mosque and Islamic center near Ground Zero, dueling rallies took place, mostly after the commemoration ceremony, with separate gatherings of those for and against the mosque.
The block where Park51 is set be built on Park Place was closed off by the NYPD, prohibiting anyone from entering the area. However, thousands of demonstrators from both sides were out in full force to defend their views, creating tension in the air.
Heated arguments up and down Chambers Street could be heard about religious freedom, constitutional rights and basic morals. Noticeable signs that read "Stop Racism" and "Freedom Now" were frequent but were met with signs that read "No Mosque at Ground Zero."
The NYPD reported no physical incidents or injuries.