Saturday 16 December 2017

We could put a hand on him, feel part of him -- we're at peace now

Stephen Foley

For a decade, the only official memorial to their loved one had been the fleeting call of a name.

From now, the victims of al-Qa'ida in the US are commemorated in stone and in water and in the voids that have been carved out of lower Manhattan, where the World Trade Centre's twin towers once stood.

Relatives and friends of the 2,983 people who died on 9/11 and in the 1993 World Trade Centre bombing stood in silent contemplation, or wept, or laid flowers, pictures and mementos atop the bronze parapet of the cascading waterfalls.

"We were able to put a hand on him, to feel part of him," said Janice Dillerson-Richards, whose nephew Glenroy Neblett was an accountant working in the Twin Towers.

"We travel here every year from Trinidad and now we have a place that we can go back to at any time.

"The water is stunning, like Niagara Falls, and yet calm. It is serene, and we are at peace."

The names are read still, and more intently this year. For more than four hours and over many blocks, they echoed through the skyscrapers of Manhattan's financial district. Colleagues of the firefighters and police who died amid the falling towers wore ceremonial uniforms, but the parade of loved ones who read the names and attended the ceremony chose everything from suits to Bermuda shorts and the atmosphere was at the same time mournful and celebratory.

Former US president George Bush, making a rare formal appearance, was cheered as he moved to speak; crowds applauded calls of "God Bless America" and emotional memories from the speakers.

After the ceremony, many victims' relatives drifted into church services, like the one at Trinity Church that began with 'I Vow To Thee My Country'.

The little St Paul's Chapel, festooned with white ribbons containing messages of hope and peace, was another focal point, as it had been after 9/11 when it served food and provided beds for firefighters and volunteers working at Ground Zero.

But it was also from opposite St Paul's that protesters chanted "Investigate 9/11", as the anniversary events attracted its usual sprinkling of conspiracy theorists who believe that the attacks were orchestrated by the US government.

"Unignited nanothermite found in WTC dust," proclaimed one poster, inviting passers-by to stop and discuss what that discovery might mean.

There were also protests, of sorts, by Christians angered by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's refusal to give a formal place in the ceremony to religious symbols or speakers, because people of so many faiths and people of no faith at all died on that day. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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