- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 12, 2002

NEW YORK Family and friends of the 2,153 men, 642 women and six children killed a year ago at the World Trade Center gathered yesterday at ground zero for a 2-hour roll call of the dead.

One by one, the names softly echoed across the 16-acre, 7-story-deep hole that once held the foundations of the Twin Towers. The solemn ceremony was punctured occasionally with shrieks of grief.

Beginning at 8:51 a.m. with Gordon M. Aamoth, 32, who worked for the investment firm Sandler O'Neill & Partners in the South Tower, and ending at 11:21 a.m. with Igor Zukelman, 29, who worked at Fiduciary Trust Co. in the North Tower, the roll call highlighted the massive loss from the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil.

To mark each of the deadly moments in New York 8:46 a.m., when the first plane hit the North Tower; 9:03 a.m., when the second plane struck the South Tower; 9:59 a.m., when the South Tower collapsed; and 10:29 a.m., when the North Tower fell a lone policeman tolled a bell.

After each peal, a family member talked about the loss of their loved one. No statement was more moving than that of 11-year-old Brittany Clark, whose father, Benjamin Keefe Clark, 39, of Brooklyn, was a chef on the 96th floor of the South Tower and was last seen helping a woman in a wheelchair on the 88th floor.

"This poem makes me feel like my daddy is speaking to me," she said before reading: "I give you this one thought to keep, I am with you still, I do not sleep. I am a thousand winds that blow, I am the diamond glint on the snow. I am as sunlight on ripened grain, I am the gentle autumn rain when you awaken in morning hush. I am the swift uplifting rush of quiet birds in circled flight, I am the soft stars that shine at night. Do not think of me as gone, I am with you still in each new dawn."

Hundreds in the crowd wiped away tears as the girl left the stage.

For many families seeking to put the day behind them, the ceremony provided an opportunity to grieve with thousands of others who lost loved ones on September 11. For others, closure may never come. Just more than half 1,402 of the victims never were recovered from the rubble.

The day began at 7:30 a.m. with bagpipers marching down West Street playing "America the Beautiful," "Over There" and "Amazing Grace."

Extended families two, three, sometimes four generations streamed into the fenced-off area around the gaping hole. Some groups of people wore matching T-shirts, emblazoned with the face of a father, mother, son, daughter, brother or sister. "I miss you Tootie," said one design worn by 11 persons.

Volunteers from the American Red Cross distributed packages of tissues at the entrance.

Above the crowd, a banner covering an entire side of an adjacent building read, "The human spirit is not measured by the size of the act, but by the size of the heart."

At 8:45 a.m., New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg took the stage to remember the victims: "They were our neighbors, our husbands, our children, our sisters, our brothers and our wives. They were our countrymen and our friends. They were us."

Thousands bowed their heads for a moment of silence at 8:46 a.m.

New York Gov. George E. Pataki then read from Abraham Lincoln's 1863 "Gettysburg Address," whose lines seemed to have been written for yesterday's ceremony: "We can not dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here."

Former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani then began the recitation of the names of the 2,801 persons who perished at the Twin Towers a year ago. Dignitaries such as Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrats, and Secretary of State Colin L. Powell joined 193 others in the roll call.

The sunlight burst and faded with the readings as clouds blew across the sky.

Family members smiled and displayed photos when the names of their loved ones were read. Tears and hugs quickly followed.

After the 9:03 a.m. pause to toll the bell, Marianne Keane, 17, took the microphone to remember her stepfather, Franco Lalama, an engineer for New York's Port Authority who perished in the attack.

"I would give anything to go back to the morning of September 11 and tell him how much I appreciated everything he's done for me," she said. "But I think he knows that now. In my eyes, he died a hero. And how much more could you ask for?

"I miss you and I hope you didn't hurt too much."

At the end of the roll call, taps was played by two police officers one in the pit, the other on the stage.

Family and friends then descended into the crater to lay flowers, pictures and personal items around a wooden "circle of honor" at the center of the dusty floor.

"We miss you daddy," said one note near a photo of New York firefighter Scott A. Larsen, signed by his five children.

Some of those grieving placed mementos atop piles of rocks they had created. Others scooped up rubble into small plastic bags. A few scratched the names of loved ones into the dirt.

All around, prayers in different languages could be heard: A group of Indians sang a song of prayer; two Buddhist monks chanted. Anguished sobs echoed in the concrete hole.

As the family members filed out of the makeshift memorial, the crowd broke into a spontaneous rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner."

President Bush, accompanied by first lady Laura Bush, visited the site late in the day. They laid a wreath in the bottom of the pit and greeted family members of victims for nearly two hours.

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