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A Day Imprinted in History

NEW YORK, N.Y. — For the first time in their lives, Jefferson and Alison Crowther saw the name of their son, Welles Remy Crowther, engraved in bronze at the 9/11 Memorial.

Alison Crowther said that the memorial has been beautifully designed, mentioning the white oak trees that surround the two reflecting pools built on the footsteps of the World Trade Center towers.

“It gives the families a special place to go that truly honors their loved ones,” she said.

The Crowthers both grew up in Westchester, he in White Plains and she in Scarsdale. They were among thousands of people who gathered at ground zero Sunday morning to remember and honor the ones they lost in 9/11. The ceremony also opened the National September 11 Memorial, still under construction, to the families of 9/11 victims, with the public opening scheduled for Monday.

Fences closed all the streets around ground zero, and one couldn’t walk twenty steps without crossing a police officer. At 7:40 a.m., the ceremony site was already packed, with people waving posters with the names and pictures of the victims, or displaying them on their lapels, among a profusion of firefighter and police T-shirts, caps and shields. Many came in groups, but, here and there, a solitary figure would be mourning in silence.

Photographers crowded the top of the buildings around, and even inside the One World Trade Center flashes betrayed their presence behind dark windows. Below them an enormous American flag, covering six floors of the unfinished building, waved with the gentle breeze, while pale skyscrapers hovered at a distance, under the same blue sky of 10 years ago.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg introduced the moments of silence at 8:40 a.m. The first silence was observed six minutes later, at the same time the American Arlines flight 11 struck the World Trade Center north tower, in 2001. Five other moments of silence would follow during the day, when the south tower was struck, for each tower's fall, when the Pentagon was struck and when the United Airlines flight 93 crashed in Shanksville, Pa. And for each of them, the bell tolled six times.

After president Obama and former president George W. Bush delivered their speeches, the families of the victims took the podium. During the rest of the ceremony, over the faint sound of a flute or a violin, 167 pairs read the names of the victims of 9/11, finishing always with their own relatives, fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers, sons and daughters, all greeted at the end with words such as “We love you,” “We miss you,” “You’re my hero,” “Forget me not.”

“I wish my dad was there to see me learn how to drive, to graduate in high school and 100 other things,” said Peter Negron, who was only 11 when his father Pete died in the World Trade Center.

Once in a while, a more emotional or patriotic utterance, a “God bless America,” a “Thanks to the firefighters and the military,” would trigger a burst of applause.

Jefferson Crowther had a red handkerchief sticking out of his jacket pocket. It symbolized the red bandana that his son Welles, a trader and volunteer firefighter, wore around his face while helping people get out of the burning south tower, where he worked. He was killed in the tower's collapse.

The name readings carried on until 1p.m., interrupted at specific times for moments of silence, speeches of politicians such as Gov. Andrew Cuomo, former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani and others, and performances such as those by James Taylor and Paul Simon.

Near 10 a.m., with clouds taking over the sky, the two screens at each side of the podium started showing more often the interior of the 9/11 Memorial, where people leaned over the bronze panels, their heads down. Some brought roses; others used a lapis to stamp the names on a sheet of paper.

The Crowthers placed an American flag in one the letters of their son’s name.

“It was a really poignant moment,” Alison Crowther said.

Roses will wither, flags will fade, but Welles Crowther's name and the names of the 2,982 others victims of 9/11, including 109 from Westchester County, will stay forever in the Memorial, imprinted in the very place so many of them died.

Have you attended the 9/11 commemoration at ground zero in Manhattan? You can answer in Facebook ?

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