NEW YORK – With string instruments and flutes playing softly in the background, victims' family members, government officials, firemen and others took turns at a Ground Zero ceremony reading the names of those who died there a year ago.
"They were our neighbors, our husbands, our children, our sisters, our brothers and our wives," said New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. "They were our countrymen and our friends. They were us."
Former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani began reading the names after Gov. George Pataki had recited the Gettysburg Address. As each reader took turns at the podium to his allotted 25 names, the victims' families walked solemnly down into "The Pit," where the Trade Center once stood, roses in hand.
People dressed in red, white and blue, holding flags, stood mostly in silence as the 2,812 names were read one by one.
Some people held hands, some held each other. Others held their children close. Some sat on the curb around the perimeter of the pit with heads bowed, tears sliding down their faces.
"What a waste of lives, what a waste of life -- just like a war," said former New Yorker Allen Genco, a Vietnam veteran who spent seven days at the site after the towers fell to help look for survivors. "I've seen it all, but I came back to do it again."
Some people listened to miniature radio and television sets to better hear the ceremony as the wind carried many of the names away.
All was still at 9:04 a.m. when a second moment of silence arrived, this one to remember the moment the second plane crashed into the south tower. Then the reading continued.
"I don't remember the last time I told him I loved him," said Marianne Keane, 17, as she took the microphone. Her stepfather, Franco Lalama, an engineer for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owned and operated the World Trade Center, died Sept. 11.
"I would give anything to go back to the morning of Sept. 11 and tell him how much I appreciated everything he's done for me," Keane continued. "But I think he knows that now."
"In my eyes, he died a hero," she concluded. "And how much more could you ask for?"
Police officers from around the country stood still in full uniform, hands behind their backs. People got off their American flag-festooned bicycles and stood as if in anticipation of something.
"My feeling is just how quiet it is -- everybody is just really respectful," said Lynn Manning of Bucks County, Pa. Bucks County lost 17 people on the hijacked planes and in the towers.
Manning's daughter, Katharine, 24, was in Jersey City, N.J., when the planes hit. She watched as they fell and frantically tried to get hold of her aunt, who escaped from the towers.
"I'm just glad I don't hear my aunt's name, basically," Katharine said. "It's pretty sad."
The reading paused again at 9:59 a.m., the time at which the south tower fell, and once more at 10:29, when the north tower collapsed, before ending at 11:20 with "Taps" and the ringing of bells.
During the ceremony, a girl stepped up to the podium to read a poem that she said "makes me feel like my father's reading to me." Her father, Benjamin Keefe Clark, was a chef on floor 96 for Fiduciary Trust in 2 World Trade Center, the south tower.
"Do not think of me as gone, I am with you soon at each new dawn," she said before the name of James Joseph Kelly was read.
Two fathers wheeled their toddlers in strollers to the edge of the sidewalk. The children, a girl and a boy, were dressed in red, white and blue. As victims' names floated through the air, the children reached out for each other -- their fathers moved the strollers just a little bit closer so they could make contact. The men kneeled to cuddle their children.
Retired AT&T employee Vincent Errico stood alone, leaning on a fence in front of the World Financial Center, staring into space. Errico, a resident of Battery Park City, lived in the same building as many who died.
Wearing a red Communication Workers of America shirt with the names of union members who died on Sept. 11, Errico thought about the neighbors he will never see again.
"You know you've seen them and they're not there anymore," Errico said. "I just felt I had to stand here and listen to these names being read."
A huge sign was plastered across the side of a badly damaged apartment building close to Ground Zero. On the sign was a big red, white and blue heart lying behind the city skyline with the Statue of Liberty in the foreground. It read: "The human spirit is not measured by the size of the act, but by the size of the heart."
Puerto Rico native and New Jersey resident Hector Rodregues stood listening to the names with headphones hooked up to a small TV set. Pointing to this sign, Rodregues, struggling with his English, said, "That sign tells you a lot of thing ... the people who did this, they have no heart."
"All of these people are dead for no reason."
Readers included actor Robert DeNiro and Federal Emergency Management Administrator Joe Allbaugh.
Just two weeks prior to Sept. 11, Allbaugh met with one of the 10 people whose names he read -- Joseph J. Angelini Sr., a veteran New York City firefighter from Rescue Company 1.
"He was honored to be selected to pay tribute to the victims," said a spokesman for Allbaugh before the ceremony.