Events Marked At Ground Zero Following the National Anthem, events kick off observances of the 10th anniversary of the attacks at Ground Zero in Manhattan, N.Y. Audie Cornish talks to NPR's Robert Siegel.
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Events Marked At Ground Zero

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Following the National Anthem, events kick off observances of the 10th anniversary of the attacks at Ground Zero in Manhattan, N.Y. Audie Cornish talks to NPR's Robert Siegel.

AUDIE CORNISH, Host:

Now in a moment, we're going to turn to the official ceremony in New York, which is going to begin with bagpipers and drummers. I'm joined by NPR's Robert Siegel. He's on the 10th floor of 2 World Financial Center, overlooking the National September 11th Memorial and ground zero. Robert, tell us what we're going to see next.

ROBERT SIEGEL: But for now, what we're waiting on is the processional - the bagpipers and the drummers representing the local uniformed services of New York and New Jersey.

CORNISH: And Robert, I can see on - we have some TV screens here. There are people in the audience who are holding pictures of their loved ones.

SIEGEL: Yes.

CORNISH: And some have signs saying, you know, never forget - or remembering their relatives. The audience that's in the site proper, it's only family, correct?

SIEGEL: And the memorial is to victims all over the country on that day, both here - at 9/11 - and also in Shanksville, and also at the Pentagon.

CORNISH: And I want to talk a little bit more about what the memorial looks like. From your view, I'm sure you can see - more than 400 swamp white oak trees have already been planted at the site.

SIEGEL: But I think there's someday going to be just a very beautiful, open space in the midst of one of the most built-up places in the entire world - this lower financial and business district of New York City.

CORNISH: We spoke with the planner of the 9/11 site, Daniel Libeskind, who talked about his idea that this, essentially, is a place to honor memory. And I know that - I believe the names of the victims of the attacks are etched on the lip of each of these reflecting pools.

SIEGEL: So it's a very - I think it's - I've been able to see it from very high up, from a window up on the 34th floor on the east side of the ground zero site and now, from 10 stories up on the other side. It's a very impressive design and should introduce a very quiet park to this part of the city.

CORNISH: And I have to ask, Robert, you're actually from New York. I mean, what do these acres mean to you? What is it like for you to see this now?

SIEGEL: I don't think anybody thought of them the way New Yorkers think of the Empire State Building or the Chrysler building or, from an older time, the Woolworth building. In 1993, in February, when there was an attempt to bomb....

CORNISH: Well - oh, go ahead, Robert.

SIEGEL: Well, that moment, I think, they became much more loved. Right now, I can see the pipers on their way. We should hear them soon. Drummers and pipers from the police department and the fire department and the Port Authority police department are marching...

CORNISH: And they'll be coming in with the lead World Trade Center flag, I think, and this was the flag that flew over the site until late October 2001.

SIEGEL: This is a flag that went into space. It went on the space shuttle Endeavor.

CORNISH: Right.

SIEGEL: All of the people who were in authority in those days in New York City, New York state and New Jersey - and the United States - are here and are gathered in what is a - not just a completely nonpartisan event; it's also an entirely secular event, I might add. You will not hear a - as far as we know, we'll not hear any prayer invocation or benediction in this event.

CORNISH: Nor will you hear any speeches from any of these politicians who are on stage today.

SIEGEL: No speeches. No speeches. It is a ceremony of memory. I think we can hear the drums approaching right now.

(SOUNDBITE OF DRUMMING)

SIEGEL: These are the pipers and the drummers. We're hearing the drummers; we should be hearing the pipers shortly.

(SOUNDBITE OF DRUMMING)

CORNISH: And again, you're listening to live special coverage of the 10th anniversary of the September 11th attacks. Right now, we're listening to bagpipes and drummers who are entering the site of the ground zero September 11th Memorial. And as Robert mentioned earlier, this is a group that's made up of police and fire, and of different members of branches of the American military.

SIEGEL: They are walking alongside one of the pools toward the stage and in fact, they are inaugurating - right now - this memorial as they march through it. Momentarily, we should be hearing the "Star Spangled Banner" and Mayor Bloomberg. I think we can hear the pipers in the distance, can't we?

CORNISH: I think they're a little ways away.

SIEGEL: A little ways off.

CORNISH: I know for the National Anthem, we will be hearing from the Brooklyn Youth Chorus. They're going to be performing that.

SIEGEL: I have a feeling that down there - we're now 10 flights up - but it's really very quiet. Up here, of course, we are a hive of activity of all kinds of broadcast and camera crews and photographers from all over the world. There's much attention being focused on this memorial. But down below, I think, it must be a lot more solemn and quiet than it is up here.

CORNISH: It's a fascinating sight from here, I mean, to see the bagpipers and the drums. They're marching in single file.

SIEGEL: In kilts.

CORNISH: In kilts. Down this plaza, which is flanked by trees. You know, which, if anyone has been in Lower Manhattan - particularly this neighborhood - that's not exactly what it used to look like before.

SIEGEL: It's remarkable, over the years, how this part of Manhattan has turned into not just a bustling business district, but a residential area - which it really never was...

CORNISH: Right.

SIEGEL: Until quite recently. So there's a real neighborhood population here, and there are people who will be taking advantage of all of its parks and open spaces on a daily basis.

CORNISH: Well, the sun is streaming through the buildings that are there, and alight down on the trees below and on the crowd below. And it really is a beautiful sight.

SIEGEL: The pipers and drummers have taken their position on the stage, and the honor guard surrounds them. They're now marching in place, and I expect we'll be hearing from the pipers momentarily.

(SOUNDBITE OF DRUMMING)

CORNISH: We can see members of the Brooklyn Youth Chorus moving up to the podium now, moving onstage.

SIEGEL: I heard them rehearsing yesterday. It should be beautiful.

CORNISH: All very young.

SIEGEL: Yes.

CORNISH: And you know, probably weren't born, or were very young, when the September 11th attacks actually happened.

SIEGEL: You know, one of the readers today, Peter Negron, is the son of a man who died, Pete Negron. He was just 12 years old back then. It's remarkable to think that the children of those days are now young adults. But you're right, these kids from the Brooklyn Youth Chorus will be singing the National Anthem as President Obama and Mrs. Obama take their place on the stage now. Everyone's standing below, and I expect we shall hear the "Star Spangled Banner" in just a moment.

(SOUNDBITE OF CEREMONY)

SIEGEL: The honor guard unfurling the World Trade Center flag - the flag, Audie, as you said, that flew over this site in the weeks after 9/11, and then was sent aboard the space shuttle Endeavor in December of 2001, in honor of the victims. And the flag now being unfolded.

(SOUNDBITE OF CEREMONY)

CORNISH: We should mention that this part of the program is actually leading up to the first of several moments of silence that will be honored throughout the day. This first one will be at 8:46, observing the time that American Airlines Flight 11 struck the North Tower.

SIEGEL: Now the honor guard holds the flag by its four corners.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "STAR SPANGLED BANNER")

BROOKLYN YOUTH CHORUS: (Singing) Oh say, does that star spangled banner yet wave o'er the land of the free and the home of the brave. Oh, say does that star spangled banner yet wave, o'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

CORNISH: The Brooklyn Youth Chorus performing the National Anthem at ground zero, the site of the September 11th anniversary - of the September 11th attacks at ground zero.

(SOUNDBITE OF BAGPIPES)

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