By: Noah Goldberg and Larry McShane
New York Daily News
NEW YORK – It was another Tuesday morning in September, this one beneath gray skies, as the loved ones of the 2,753 New York victims of 9/11 marked the 17th anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks.
Thousands of relatives, survivors and first responders filled ground zero for the somber annual ceremony marking the deadliest attack ever on U.S. soil. The sounds of drums and bagpipes filled the air when the service began at 8:42 a.m. followed by a moment of silence four minutes later to mark the moment when the first plane struck the North Tower.
A second moment of silence was observed at 9:04 a.m., the time when the second plane struck the South Tower.
The annual recitation of the victims’ names, typically a straightforward part of the service, went suddenly off-script when the son of 9/11 victim Frances Haros called for an end to the politicization of the terror attacks.
“One more thing if I may … This year network commentators said the president’s performance in Helsinki was a traitorous act as was 9/11,” said Nicholas Haros. “And last week a senator attacked a Supreme Court nominee and called him a racist for comments after 9/11. Stop. Stop. Please. Stop using the bones and ashes of our loved ones as props for your political theater.
“Their lives and sacrifices are worth so much more. Let’s not trivialize them or us. It hurts.”
Most of the readers instead offered fond recollections of their loved ones. The younger brother of Luiz Jiminez Jr. – a 25-year-old Queens man killed while working at Marsh & McLennan – paid homage to his sibling.
“The greatest brother of all time,” said Jimmy Jiminez. “We still miss you.”
The passage of time brought some to the microphone who never met their lost relatives: Children and grandchildren unborn when the buildings collapsed, killing their loved ones. Even after 17 years, the recitation of the victims’ names remained powerful and moving as the crowd listened intently during the one-by-one commemoration of the 9/11 dead.
During the moments of silence, the sounds of the water flowing in the memorial’s two reflecting pools wafted through the damp morning air.
An assortment of politicians, including Mayors Rudolph Giuliani, Michael Bloomberg and Bill De Blasio, Sen. Chuck Schumer and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, joined the mourners on the hallowed 16-acre stretch of Lower Manhattan. The event began with an NYPD contingent carrying an American flag through a crowd where many held photos and signs recalling their lost family members. Others wore T-shirts bearing the names or likenesses of their victims.
Edwin Morales came to honor his cousin Ruben Correa, an FDNY Engine 74 member who died helping people escape from the Marriott Hotel at the Trade Center site.
“When the South Tower collapsed on the hotel, at that moment my cousin was killed,” said Morales, a National Guard reservist who arrived in full uniform. “They never found my cousin, so he is here with us right now.”
Morales clutched a handmade, framed sign dedicated to his cousin and sent to him by a Pennsylvania student. The youngster chose Correa as his hero for a school project, then turned the sign over the late firefighter’s family.
Morales’ tale of a death without a body was no anomaly among the mourners. Roughly 1,100 of the victims were never identified from the remains recovered at ground zero.
The overcast morning stood in contrast to the Tuesday morning of the attack, when the skies were a bright blue as two hijacked planes slammed into the 110-story buildings. As the fog lifted during this year’s event, the 1,176-foot One World Trade slowly appeared above the site. The ceremony also paid tribute to those killed in the Pentagon, aboard Flight 93 and in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.
Lynn Downey, the daughter of legendary FDNY Deputy Chief Ray Downey, sent along greetings from the firefighter’s five children and 15 grandchildren to their missing patriarch. Downey, a 39-year veteran of the NYPD, died eight days before his 64th birthday.
“Continue to send the ladybugs as a reminder that you are always with us,” she said. “May the 343 firefighters, the police officers and all innocent victims of that day rest in peace.”
The rebuilding on the site of the terror attacks continues, with a new stop on the No. 1 train opening this past weekend and the 80-story 3 World Trade Center skyscraper opening this past June.