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Obama Visits Ground Zero

U.S. President Barack Obama poses with officers of the First Precinct police station in lower Manhattan during a visit to the World Trade Center site in New York, May 5, 2011.
U.S. President Barack Obama poses with officers of the First Precinct police station in lower Manhattan during a visit to the World Trade Center site in New York, May 5, 2011.

Four days after U.S. forces killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, President Barack Obama visited New York City to pay tribute to those killed in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. It was Mr. Obama’s first visit as president to what is now called "Ground Zero."

Almost 10 years after the World Trade Center was destroyed, President Obama went to New York to meet with the families of the victims and emergency workers who died that day.

Roughly 2,800 people were killed when members of Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida terror network hijacked commercial airliners and crashed them into both 110-story towers of the World Trade Center.  The location of the buildings has since been referred to as Ground Zero. 
The president’s first stop was a firehouse in midtown Manhattan that lost 15 firefighters - an entire shift - on September 11.  The surviving firefighters have covered one wall of the station with pictures of their fallen colleagues and messages from their families.

Mr. Obama had lunch with the firefighters at the station and praised their everyday heroism.

He said he hoped the killing of bin Laden is of some comfort to them in the name of the colleagues they lost in 2001.

Related video report by Peter Fedynsky

"What happened on Sunday, because of the courage of our military and the outstanding work of our intelligence, sent a message around the world, but also sent a message here back home that when we say we will never forget; we mean what we say," he said.

Afterward, New York Fire Department Chief Edward Kilduff said the station Mr. Obama visited symbolizes the sacrifices made by New York’s emergency workers on September 11, 2001, and that the president understands those sacrifices.

"So for him to come here and to see the faces of the firefighters that were killed on September 11 and to see the shrine that was erected in their honor really meant something to him.  I could see that the president was clearly touched by the sacrifices and by the stories that the firefighters told him," Kilduff said.

From there, Mr. Obama visited a police station in lower Manhattan.  He told officers who were working on September 11 that he could not be more proud of them or more grateful for their work.  He said the killing of bin Laden was directly connected to what they do every day.

At Ground Zero, the president silently took part in a wreath-laying ceremony in memory of those who died at the World Trade Center.

At about the same time, Vice President Joe Biden laid a wreath at the Pentagon Memorial, to honor the 184 people who were killed on September 11 when al-Qaida slammed a plane into the side of the Defense Department headquarters.

After the wreath-laying in Manhattan, President Obama met with the families of about 60 of the people who died in the New York attack.  He was seen shaking hands, talking briefly and hugging many of the family members.

Ground Zero is now a construction zone, where workers are building the National September 11 Memorial and the Freedom Tower.  The skyscraper will stand 1,776 feet high-representing the year 1776, when the U.S. Declaration of Independence was signed.  

The president’s spokesman, Jay Carney, said Mr. Obama will return to New York in September to mark the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks.

Related video report by Carolyn Presutti:

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