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Visitors to World Trade Central Site Reflect on New York Attack - 2002-09-10

Wednesday's observance of the first anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks has drawn tourists from around the United States and around the world to the site of what was the World Trade Center in New York.

Anna was just Anna: lovable, sweet. She made me feel comfortable when I first met her 17 years ago and we had been like sisters ever since. Anna Centeno. Like a sister.

Anna Centeno was among the 2,800 people who died in the attack on the World Trade Center. Now, one by one, their stories are being told again at the place where they perished.

As tourists pass by the giant pit where the Twin Towers once stood, volunteers like Jim Kelly are reading aloud brief portraits of the victims compiled by The New York Times.

"These people are normal, just like you and I," said Mr. Kelly. "They went to work. They never returned. Just reading their small bio of 4-5 minutes each is enough to say, hey, we still care about you and you were a normal person and we want to learn about the intricacies about your life."

New Yorker Susan Elefant still mourns the loss of friend Harvey Hermer. She finds his portrait in the book and begins to read:

"He was an electrician. He was dependable. And on September 11th, he was working at Cantor-Fitzgerald at One World Trade Center and his boss left him in charge of a crew on the 105th floor."

Susan Elefant says the first anniversary of the terrorist attacks will be difficult. But she says she and her husband will remember their friend in their own way, by seeing a baseball game.

"Actually, we are going to the Yankee game and we are going to save a seat for Harvey and put a Yankee hat down [in his honor]," she said. "We did that for him last year when the Yankees beat Oakland and we are going to beat Boston. And Harvey was a special person and we will always remember him, especially here."

A few steps away on the viewing platform set up for the public, tourists from the Netherlands gather around a man displaying photographs of the Twin Towers.

"I am an amateur photographer. Let me show this picture, here. This is the Fourth of July, 2001. Who would have thought that two months later the whole world would change, right?" said Harry Roland. He can remember when the Twin Towers were being built and at one time he was a tour guide at the World Trade Center. One year after their destruction, he is still angry.

"You are not just going to come here and knock down two buildings and think we are going to cower to your demands, just because you take a religion and twist it to your own personal agenda," continued Mr. Roland. "Okay, most of us know that the Islamic religion is not hateful. But how can you brainwash some people to think that this is what your Allah wants? Your God wants death? No God wants death. God is life. God is love."

A few steps to his left, two paramedics from Glendale, California, stare at the open pit. Mike Bell was here last year and recalls all the smoke and rubble. Although the scene has changed, the emotions still run deep.

"It has changed a lot since we were here last year," said Mr. Bell. "Last year there was a pile, and now there is a hole. And there is still as much disbelief as there was last year. You can not get your head around it [understand it]."

Mike Bell is not alone. Many of those who visit have difficulty in grasping the enormity of what happened here. Most seem content just to look for a while, to reflect, to pray and to remember.