Obama lays wreath at Ground Zero, meets with 9/11 victims' families

NEW YORK - (AP) - Marking Osama bin Laden's death where theterrorist inflicted his greatest damage, President Barack Obamasomberly laid a wreath Thursday at New York's ground zero anddeclared to the city and the world, "When we say we will neverforget, we mean what we say." The president closed his eyes and clasped his hands at theoutdoor memorial where the twin towers of the World Trade Centeronce dominated the Manhattan skyline. He shook hands with Sept. 11family members and others dressed in black at the site where theskyscrapers were brought down by planes commandeered by bin Laden'sfollowers. Nearly 3,000 people were killed. The president met privately at the memorial site with about 60family members from various Sept. 11 organizations. Earlier, the president visited the firefighters and policeofficers whose response to the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001,turned them into heroes and symbols of national resolve, but alsocost them heavy casualties on that horrific day. "This is a symbolic site of the extraordinary sacrifice thatwas made on that terrible day," the president said Thursday atEngine 54, Ladder 4, Battalion 9. The firehouse in New York'stheater district lost 15 firefighters on Sept. 11, 2001. At the First Precinct police station in lower Manhattan, thefirst on the scene on Sept. 11, Obama alluded to bin Laden'skilling and said of those who died in the Sept. 11 attacks, `'Wekeep them in our hearts. We haven't forgotten." Months before the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, anddays after bin Laden was killed in Pakistan by U.S. commandos,Obama's visit was giving New York its own moment of justice. Therewas heavy security, but New Yorkers still turned out by thehundreds to gather just southeast of the World Trade Center siteand line the roads to watch the president's motorcades. There were happy faces and flags waved in the crowd though theywere cordoned off blocks from where the president entered theground zero site. The president's visits with police and firefighters were upbeat,but overall the day did not have a celebratory feel despite thesuccess of the mission to get bin Laden. The mood at ground zerowas somber, even sad, as the president stood where the towers hadbeen, seeing the faces of the children who lost parents and adultswho lost spouses. As Obama bowed his head, a jetliner screamed byfar overhead on a blue-sky day. Obama never mentioned bin Laden's name in his brief remarks tofirefighters and police. "What happened on Sunday because of the courage of our militaryand the outstanding work of our intelligence sent a message aroundthe world but also sent a message here back home," he said at thefirehouse. Obama said he hoped the outcome brought the firefighters "somecomfort," thanked them for their daily work and said they had apresident who has "got your back." Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who led the city in darkdays after the attacks, joined Obama during the day. At the Pentagon, meanwhile, Vice President Joe Biden led asimilar wreath-laying ceremony at the site where another hijackedplane crashed into the nation's military headquarters. VIDEO: Obama lays wreath at Ground ZeroVIDEO: President Obama announces Osama bin Laden's deathNational September 11 Memorial and Museum

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