Sept. 11 Remembered

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Audie Cornish talks to NPR's Robert Siegel and John Ydstie about the attacks.

AUDIE CORNISH, host: Right now we're awaiting to hear more about the Pentagon ceremony and in New York family members of victims of the 9/11 attacks continue to read names of the victims. Robert Siegel is there in New York at World Financial Center. Hi there, Robert.

ROBERT SIEGEL: Hi, Audie. As the family members have been reading the names and as they do so they conclude a group of names with a special message about their loved one that died on 9/11. I can't help but be struck by, you know, among all these discussions of unity in the country the unity that is this country and this city, the vast variety of names you hear, the Spanish names, and Irish names, the long Italian names and Slovak names.

It's a reminder of just what a great diverse country and city this is and how many people from very different experiences come here to live and to work. They're all being remembered in this reading of the names. And we are approaching the moment at which we'll recall, as you said, the falling of the South Tower. When that happened, Audie, the building collapsed and a cloud of dust, in effect, the pulverized building rose above Lower Manhattan.

And it hung there from that moment just before 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday morning really until a strong rain came on Friday of that week. Until then, as you walked down toward ground zero you stepped out from under a sunny sky and into this gloom created by the artificial cloud of the pulverized dust of first the South Tower and then of course later the North Tower.

CORNISH: And for those of us who watched it on TV at that time, some of the more disturbing and gripping images that we saw came from those moments.


CORNISH: Seeing people covered with ash and covered with debris from head to toe.

SIEGEL: Yes. We now know of course what happened but at the time people wondered would the building be able to withstand this kind of crash into it and neither tower did. The island is pretty narrow down here and the streets are pretty narrow and those panicked screams of oh my God that you just played a moment ago were people trying to get as far away as they could from a wave, a tsunami of dust that pushed out from first the South Tower as it fell.

And of course that's when the largest at first, when a large number of deaths from the World Trade Center were recorded. It was a horrible moment, just a horrible moment. And it is about to be marked with another moment of silence, after which you'll be hearing from the governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie.

It's not just that this is the port authority of New York and New Jersey that operated the World Trade Center, it's also that a tremendous number of people who worked there came across the Hudson from New Jersey and there are towns in New Jersey that were as hard hit with losses that day as any neighborhood of New York was. And it's really as much a story about people from New Jersey as from the city of New York.

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