What Towers Meant To New Yorkers

Audie Cornish talks to NPR's Robert Siegel, a native New Yorker. Siegel discusses what the iconic World Trade Center meant to the city. Siegel then talks about the ceremony at ground zero. Also, former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani marks the day, singer Paul Simon performs and names of the victims of the attacks are read.

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AUDIE CORNISH, host: In a few minutes, we're going to be turning back to the ceremonies marking the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks and we'll actually observe a moment of silence, the sixth and final moment of silence to be observed today and NPR's Robert Siegel is in New York. He's at World Financial Center and Robert, can you tell us now what is going on at the ceremony?

ROBERT SIEGEL: Well, the reading of the names continues. Throughout the morning, we have had this - what has really been an annual ceremony at Ground Zero in which the names of those who perished are read by - in this case by pairs of family members. And I think you can hear behind me, perhaps, there were 167 pairs all told, 334 readers who will go through the entire list of the nearly 3,000 victims who are memorialized here. And as they do so, they also conclude with a special word for their father or brother or husband or wife who was in that group that they're naming.

This will continue now for another almost - more than two hours, but there'll be another moment of silence coming up in just about a minute after which we'll hear from former mayor, the mayor of New York City at the time of 9/11, Rudolph Giuliani. We'll also hear a reading from a family member, Deborah Epps. I believe she was remembering Christopher Epps who died in the World Trade Center. And then, Paul Simon, very much a New Yorker and native of Queens, will sing the song "Bridge Over Troubled Water," which I think feels very much like at anthem for lots of people here at this point.

CORNISH: And as you said, we're coming up on the observance of another moment of silence, this one to observe the time of the fall of the north tower. Robert, can you - you were there in New York that week.

SIEGEL: I was uptown - I was in the 30s at that time and we could look downtown and see that cloud billowing into the sky. As I mentioned earlier, Audi, it hung up there from that Tuesday morning all day Wednesday and Thursday until the rain finally dissipated it on Friday. People were streaming north and by that time that morning 10 years ago, the great urgent matter was to get out of Manhattan and to connect with spouses and with children who were in schools that were letting out early, trying to catch buses even though routes were being improvised by the minute.

Cell phones weren't quite yet ubiquitous and you had to rely on those pay phones that were available. Now we're going to hear the bell rung several times for this last moment of silence.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

CORNISH: The sixth and final moment of silence for the day in observance of the fall of the north tower at the World Trade Center.

RUDOLPH GIULIANI: The perspective that we need and have needed to get through the last 10 years and the years that remain are best expressed by the words of God as inscribed in the book of Ecclesiastes. To everything there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven, a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to pluck up that which is planted, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to cast away stones and a time to gather stones together, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to win and a time to lose, a time to keep and a time to cast away, a time to rend and a time to sew, a time to keep silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time of war and time of peace.

God bless every soul that we lost. God bless the family members who have to endure that loss and God guide us to our reunion in heaven. And God bless the United States of America.

CORNISH: Former mayor Rudolph Giuliani delivering a reading that the Ground Zero ceremonies at the World Trade Center site in New York. Coming up next, we expect to actually hear performance by Paul Simon, gonna sing a song, "Bridge Over Troubled Water."

DEBORAH EPPS: Good morning. My name is Deborah Epps. It has been 10 years and it feels like it just happened yesterday. My brother, Christopher Epps, worked on the 98th floor in the north tower. Not one holiday, birthday, has gone by that my four sisters and my brother and I don't think about him. Our mother never takes off a necklace with his picture in it. Something I have learned over the past 10 years is that people come forward to help you in your time of need.

And today, we thank you. The people of our great nation, family, friends and neighbors. At work, Christopher sat next to his good friend, Wayne Russo. The Russo family has made a special request that their son's name be placed next to my mother's name - brother's name. That's meant so much to our family. What I know now is that the forces of good are not just in movies, it's all around us. People really do catch you when you fall. It's been a blessing.

Christopher would have loved knowing that the love he freely gave to others was given back to us in his name. Thank you and I bid you Godspeed.

CORNISH: Family member of - this is Debbie Epps honoring her brother Christopher Epps who was lost in the 9/11 attacks. Next, we'll hear from musician Paul Simon.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE SOUND OF SILENCE")

PAUL SIMON: (singing) Hello darkness, my old friend. I've come to talk with you again because a vision softly creeping left its seeds while I was sleeping and the vision that was planted in my brain still remains with the sound of silence. In restless dreams I walked alone. Narrow streets of cobblestone. 'Neath the halo of a street lamp I turned my collar to the cold and damp. When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light that split the night and touched the sound of silence.

(singing) And in the naked light I saw ten thousand people maybe more. People talking without speaking. People hearing without listening. People writing songs that voices never shared, and no one dared disturb the sound of silence. Fools, said I, you do not know silence like a cancer grows. Hear my words that I might teach you, take my arms that I might reach out to you. But my words like silent raindrops fell and echoed in the wells of silence.

(singing) And the people bowed and prayed to the neon god they made and the sign flashed its warning in the words that it was forming. And it said, the words of the prophets are written on the subway walls and tenement halls and whispered in the sounds of silence.

CORNISH: Paul Simon performing "Sounds of Silence" at the World Trade Center in New York in honor of those lost in the September 11th attacks. You're listening to live special coverage of the September 11th attacks, of the 10th anniversary of the attacks from NPR News. Robert Siegel, host of ALL THINGS CONSIDERED is in New York at World Financial Center. Robert, one of many...

SIEGEL: By the way, Audie, let me just say - a moment, I said earlier that I said he would sing "Bridge Over Troubled Water," which is what the program said, of course. Instead it was "The Sound of Silence."

CORNISH: (overlapping) Right. I did the same thing and it was no less stirring, I think, from what I can see on the screen, there were quite a few people crying.

SIEGEL: And it's rare to see Paul Simon in a dark blue suit and tie wearing his blue 9/11 baseball cap, anyway, just to set the record straight.

CORNISH: Robert, can you talk about what the other performances were and who else spoke at the New York ceremony this morning?

SIEGEL: Well, there have been several readings and two of them were scriptural. President Obama read from the 46th Psalm, which talks about the earth being removed and the seas roiling and believing in God and placing our faith in God. And Mayor Giuliani, just a couple of moments ago, read from the book of Ecclesiastes famous for everything there is a season. It was the famous folk song that Pete Seeger popularized as "Turn, Turn, Turn."

Otherwise, we've heard some George Pataki, the governor of New York State 10 years ago, read from Billy Collins and we heard a common funeral poem read by Governor Christie of New Jersey.

CORNISH: And you're listening to live special coverage of the 10th anniversary of the September 11th attacks from NPR News.

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