NYPD officers stand guard outside ground zero ahead of President Barack Obama's visit.
Photo credit: AP Photo/Mary Altaffer
It will be somber amid the celebration.
President Obama will see the extraordinary rebirth of Ground Zero firsthand today as he takes a victory lap at the former World Trade Center site to mark the death of Osama bin Laden while honoring the nearly 3,000 innocents killed at the terrorist's hands on 9/11.
The last time Obama visited Ground Zero was as a presidential candidate on Sept. 11, 2008, when 1 World Trade Center -- then commonly known as the Freedom Tower -- was below street level, the memorial plaza had yet to be built, and the entire project was mired in delays and cost overruns.
Today, the site's signature tower has risen 64 stories on its way to a cloud-piercing 1,776 feet, and the 8-acre memorial plaza is nearly complete. Construction on virtually every project is under way, but work will temporarily halt during the visit.
Amid the festive air over the mass-murdering monster's demise, there will be the remembrance of lives lost in the terror attacks; Obama will lay a wreath at 1:25 p.m., but there will be no speech.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said Obama "wants to lay a wreath to honor the victims, to honor the first responders who so courageously rushed to the scene and, in many cases, gave their own lives to try to save others.
"I think the power of that requires no words."
After the event, Obama will meet with about 50 families of the victims and first. The president will be accompanied during the day by Gov. Cuomo, New Jersey Gov. Christie, Mayor Bloomberg and former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, among other dignitaries.
But conspicuously absent will be former President George W. Bush, who was invited, but declined.
There is already a fierce but subtle behind-the-scenes jockeying for credit for the mission, with former Vice President Dick Cheney and other ex-Bush administration members claiming tough tactics like "enhanced interrogation" of detainees provided pivotal breakthroughs -- while key Democrats dismiss the claim and cite the huge number of small tips.
The White House said the family members who'll meet Obama were chosen in concert with the staff of the 9/11 Memorial Foundation. But hundreds of the relatives complained about the limited access to the president, because they had hoped to thank him personally.
Still, "it's a good time for the president to come. It paves the way for the 10th anniversary and the opening of the memorial," said Paula Berry of the 9/11 Memorial Foundation, whose husband, David, died in the south tower.
The president also planned to greet firefighters and police officers at a local firehouse. Engine Co. 54 in Midtown was among the sites that the president's security detail scouted yesterday.
Bill Doyle, whose son, Joseph, worked at Cantor Fitzgerald and was killed on 9/11, called the event "bittersweet."
"I'm ecstatic that he got bin Laden," he said. "It was a gutsy call. Obama said getting bin Laden was his number-one priority and he got it done. That's mission accomplished."
But he added, "It's vindication, not closure."
Meanwhile, after years of debate, the 9/11 Memorial officials announced yesterday they had completed the grueling process of deciding where to place the names of victims at the shrine.
Mapping out the spots to put the nearly 3,000 names from both the 2001 and 1993 WTC attacks had grown so complicated -- and contentious -- officials had a computer algorithm to figure it out.
In the new plan, the names of victims are mostly grouped with the people they died near, while first responders will be listed in a separate group.
Republished with permission of The New York Post.