NEW YORK – On Sept. 11, 2001, thousands fled from the World Trade Center. One year later, thousands are flocking to it.
From every corner of the United States, they made a pilgrimage to the place now called Ground Zero, paying their respects to the thousands who died and reflecting on the day America changed.
"I love New York," said Ashley Morton, 27, standing a block north of the World Trade Center site where relatives of victims filed toward the grounds.
The hammock maker, who bore a folded U.S. flag on his shoulder, had travelled all the way up from Ocracoke, N.C., to be in the city on the anniversary.
"Last year, I couldn't do anything, I just watched it on TV," he said. "This year, I wanted to show my patriotism and everything else."
A little further down, behind a police barricade, 50-year-old Baron Chase, from Bethlehem, Pa., leaned against a fire plug as he recalled serving in the Navy with Victor J. Saracini, the pilot of United Airlines Flight 175. Chase's T-shirt, which he made up himself the day after the attacks, read "Fight Terror World-Wide."
"It's like a wake," he said of the ceremonies. "Hopefully, we won't have to do this again."
Within four blocks of the World Trade Center, thousands carried flags, signs and laminated photos of the dead. Pete Dagno, a 24-year-old building engineer from Bethpage, Long Island, squinted toward the site itself as he held aloft a large American flag that fluttered in the strong wind.
Jennifer Jones, of Tulsa, Okla., wanted to bring the focus away from the sadness of the past. The financial analyst tried, unsuccessfully, to fly a homemade kite decorated with a painting of an angel. As the ceremonies began two blocks to the south of her on West Street, she and Philadelphia friend Jerry Kane managed to get the kite airborne for a few seconds before it collapsed to the earth and a cop shooed her away.
"You have to transcend it all," she said. "I felt if I could just fly a kite, I could lift our spirits and do something more constructive."
For Lt. Wayne Winter, 57, of the Portland, Ore., Fire Department, and Officer Lewis Seals, 41, of the Portland Police Department, there were many more ceremonies to go. Both had a full slate of memorials to attend for New York City police officers and firefighters.
"When you're a law-enforcement officer or a firefighter, you share that brotherhood across the country," Seals said. "We'd all sacrifice our lives to duty."
The two became friends after last year's attacks when they decided to form a fund called A Tribute to Honor, to take care of the families of Portland's police and firefighters should anything like Sept. 11 happen there.
"We came to let the police officers and firefighters here know we're here for them. They need us, they seem like they're back to the shock, [from] all the memories," Winter said. "Though the World Trade Center was a tragic event for New York and the world, so much good came out of it, because people came together."