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Obama visits Ground Zero to honor 9/11 victims

05-06-2011 08:43 BJT

NEW YORK, May 5 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Barack Obama laid a wreath at Ground Zero on Thursday in memory of the 9/11 victims, four days after U.S. forces killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.

U.S. President Barack Obama lays a wreath at Ground Zero in memory of the 9/11
victims, four days after U.S. forces killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, in
New York, May 5, 2011. The visit marked the first time Obama visited Ground Zero
as president. (Xinhua/Wu Jingdan)

The visit marked the first time Obama visited Ground Zero as president. The area was filled with police, tourists and fans waving American flags while chanting.

During the wreath laying ceremony, President Obama did not make any public comments. As explained by the White House spokesman Jay Carney, "he wants to lay a wreath to honor the victims, to honor the first responders who so courageously rushed to the scene and in many cases gave their own lives to try to save others, to honor the spirit of unity in America that we all felt in the wake of that terrible attack. I think the power of that requires no words."

Before the ceremony, Obama met with the firefighters of Engine 54, known as the "Pride of Midtown", which lost 15 men on Sept. 11, 2001.

"This is a symbolic site of the extraordinary sacrifice that was made on that terrible day almost 10 years ago," Obama said at the firehouse. "Thank you from the bottom of my heart ... for the sacrifices you make."

New York Fire Department Chief Edward Kilduff said that the firehouse symbolizes the sacrifice of the first responders and firefighters. The president was kind enough to visit our fire house today," he said. "I think the president connected well with the firefighters for what they did on Sept. 11."

Joseph Majersck, a construction worker for the Freedom Tower, told Xinhua that "this is a great day for America." "I am very proud that I am a builder of the tower. The spirit of freedom will eventually defeat terrorism," he said. After the ceremony, Obama also held private talks with first responders and families of 9/11 victims.

Maureen and Alexander Santora, the parents of 9/11 firefighter Christopher Santora, who died in the collapse of the World Trade Center, were chosen among the families to meet the president. Alexander Santora told Xinhua before the wreath laying ceremony that "justice has been done finally."

Hundreds of New Yorkers gathered at Ground Zero early Monday morning to hold a victory celebration of the death of bin Laden. Meanwhile, the New York police also beefed up security to keep alert for any potential terrorist attacks.

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