NEW YORK â€” In a poignant visit to the site that has come to symbolize both the trauma and triumphs arising from the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, President Barack Obama placed a wreath at the fallen World Trade Center on Thursday and said the killing of Osama bin Laden upheld Americaâ€™s vow to â€œnever forgetâ€ victimsâ€™ suffering.
As a gusty wind blew flower petals onto the ground, Obama set the wreath of red, white and blue flowers on a simple wooden stand and then stood silently for a minute, head bowed, eyes closed, hands clasped in front of him. A cluster of invited guests, most of them relatives of those killed on Sept. 11, stood nearby, at the center of a plaza flanked by buildings in various states of construction and by cranes soaring hundreds of feet into the air but frozen for the presidential visit.
As the 10th anniversary of the attacks looms, efforts to speed up work at the site â€” which remains a dusty mangle of concrete slabs, metal and heavy equipment â€” have taken on a new urgency. With that has come dissension among some relatives of the 2,752 people who died there over how best to ensure their loved onesâ€™ memories are not lost amid the rush to rebuild. But for a day, at least, there were no signs of those disagreements as victimsâ€™ relatives, onlookers and tourists heralded the U.S. military raid that led to the al-Qaida leaderâ€™s death and Obamaâ€™s decision to follow it up with a visit to New York.
â€œHeâ€™s a man of action,â€ said Hollywood Houghton of Jersey City, N.J., who stood across from the World Trade Center site clad in an oversized red, white and blue top hat, chanting, â€œObama got Osama!â€
Annette Atanous of New York and her mother, Janet Atanous, visiting from Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., were hoping for a glimpse of Obama as they craned their necks amid the throngs of people hemmed in by a massive security cordon.
â€œI feel 100 percent American â€” I feel 1,000 percent American,â€ said Janet Atanous. Her daughter rejected suggestions that Obamaâ€™s visit might be viewed as overly political. Rather, she said, it was intended to remind New York residents that the anguish of the attacks has not been forgotten.