Victims' families huddled under umbrellas in a park to mark the sixth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the first remembrance ceremony not held at Ground Zero, an event that failed to evoke the same emotions as the hallowed ground of the World Trade Center site.
"I guess they mean well, but I really wasn't happy," said Sal Romagnolo, whose son, Joseph Romagnolo, worked in the trade center's north tower. "I never got my son back. That's the only place we have."
"I get nothing out of this park," Romagnolo said.
Around the country, Americans went through familiar mourning rituals on Tuesday as they looked back on the day when terrorists hijacked four jetliners and killed nearly 3,000 people.
US President George W. Bush attended ceremonies at the White House and the Pentagon, and the 40 passengers and crew members who died when a flight crashed into a Pennsylvania field were honored as "citizen soldiers" by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.
Presidential politics, the health of Ground Zero workers, and the continuing security threat loomed over the day's ceremonies. Hours before, a video from al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was released, calling for sympathizers to join a "caravan" of martyrs. It served as a stark reminder that the US has failed to catch the man believed to be behind the attacks.
The Manhattan ceremonies were held largely in a public park because of rebuilding at Ground Zero. First responders, volunteers and firefighters who helped rescue New Yorkers from the collapsing twin towers read the names of the city's 2,750 victims -- a list that grew by one with the addition of a woman who died of lung disease in 2002. Several first responders referred to the illnesses and deaths of their colleagues that they blame on exposure to toxic dust.
"I want to acknowledge those lost post-9/11 as a result of answering the call, including police officer NYPD James Zadroga," volunteer ambulance worker Reggie Cervantes-Miller said.
Zadroga, 34, died more than a year ago of respiratory illness after spending hundreds of hours working to clean up Ground Zero.
Victims' spouses, children, siblings and parents had read names before, often breaking down with heartrending messages to their loved ones and blowing kisses to the sky. At Zuccotti Park, where the sounds of trucks and buses sometimes drowned out speakers, fewer tears were shed and most readers did not speak at length -- even when mentioning siblings or children who were killed.
Hundreds streamed out of the ceremony after about an hour and fewer than 60 remained at the end. The city estimated 3,500 family members and mourners turned out, down from 4,700 attendees at the fifth anniversary. Some might have been kept away by rain, a sharp contrast from the picture-perfect weather six years ago.
Ground Zero "was more sacred and sad," said Clarence White, whose brother was killed at the trade center.
At the park, he said, "the meaning wasn't as close."
The city moved the ceremony this year because of progressing construction at the site, where several idle cranes overlooked a partially built transit hub, 541m office tower and Sept. 11 memorial.
But family members had threatened to boycott the ceremony and hold their own remembrance if they were not granted access. The city and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey -- which owns the trade center site -- allowed relatives to descend a ramp to lay flowers inside a reflecting pool with two 1.8m outlines of the towers inside, and touch the ground where the trade center once stood.
Howard Gabler, who worked on the 47th floor of the trade center's north tower and escaped on the day of the attack, came to mourn his son, Fredric, who worked on the 104th floor of the same tower. He has no remains of his son.
"This is where he died and we have nothing else," Gabler said.
Gabler said he touched the ground, which he fears will not be available to him next year as construction goes on.
"So today I kissed my hand and I kissed the ground -- I'm still kissing him," he said.
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