In New York, a lasting memorial for the 9/11 dead

September 11, 2011 - 10:55 AM

NEW YORK (AP) — In the days after the 9/11 attacks, all of New York seemed to become a shrine to the dead. People left heaps of flowers in front of fire stations. They lit candles. They hung photographs of the missing.

Now, at last, there is a permanent memorial to the victims.

Dennis Baxter saw it for the first time Sunday, along with hundreds of other people who lost a relative on 9/11. His brother, Joseph, died in the World Trade Center's south tower. Baxter found his name etched in bronze in the low wall surrounding the enormous fountain and reflecting pool where the tower once stood.

"It was real inspirational to come here after all these years and finally see his name," said Baxter, 65, of King of Prussia, Pa. "I touched it. ... I didn't know what to do. It was really moving."

The tree-covered memorial plaza at ground zero opened to the families of the victims for the first time Sunday, on the 10th anniversary of the attacks. Shortly after 9 a.m., a steady stream of people began walking along the black parapets that ring the two pools, searching for the names of their lost loved ones.

Many left flowers. Some stuck small flags in the recesses created by each letter. Others made paper rubbings of the names, or simply stood and wept, as the sound of the roaring waterfalls in each fountain washed over them. The memorial includes the names of all 2,977 people killed on 9/11 in New York, at the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania, as well as the six slain during the bombing of the trade center in 1993.

Mary Dwyer, 36, of Brooklyn, said it was moving to finally be able to stand in the place where her sister, Lucy Fishman, died.

"It's the closest I'll ever get to her again," she said.

Paul Schlehr, of Cincinnati, whose sister-in-law, Margaret Seeliger, also died in the south tower, said he was amazed by the memorial, which occupies an 8-acre plaza and is ringed by new skyscrapers under construction. Each of the memorial pools is an acre in size, and the waterfalls that plunge into the pits drop 30 feet.

"The size of it all is kind of breathtaking," he said.

The city remembered Sept. 11 all over again Sunday, with ceremonies that started at dawn at Manhattan's southern tip, and were to end long after nightfall, with twin beams of light streaming heavenward at the spot where the World Trade Center once stood.

While two presidents and relatives of the victims gathered at the newly opened memorial at ground zero, New York City firefighters mustered six miles uptown in Riverside Park to mark the moments when the towers collapsed, and read the names of the 343 members of the department who perished. Later, the fire commissioner was to attend a service at the New York City Fire Museum, and dedicate a memorial exhibit of the helmet and bunker coat worn by FDNY Chaplain Mychal Judge when he died in the lobby of the North Tower.

Houses of worship throughout the city held prayer services for the dead.

At St. Peter's Church, a Roman Catholic chapel a block from the trade center that helped treat the wounded, hundreds of people stood watching the ceremony, some clutching flowers, others American flags. It was hushed except for the sound of the organ playing the Bach cantata "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring."

"We have every right to feel angry. It is the opposite of indifference," the church's pastor, the Rev. Kevin Madigan, told those gathered for Mass. But the priest urged forgiveness, saying the anger must then be relinquished and "somehow be linked to love."

He noted that the last moments of those whose names were being read were spent "in love, not hatred" — calling or texting "I love you" to those closest to them.

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Associated Press writer Verena Dobnik contributed to this report.