As many as 15,000 New Yorkers, mostly union workers, gathered Thursday at the site of the devastated World Trade Center, known as Ground Zero, for a rally in support of U.S. troops in Iraq.
New York Governor George Pataki led the flag-waving crowd in roars of approval for U.S. troops. Mr. Pataki reminded the crowd of the significance of the rally site.
"I am proud of all of you, not just because you are here today," he said. "But for many of us in New York, the war in Iraq did not start when the bullets started in March. The war started right here on September 11, 2001."
Among the speakers at the lunchtime rally were relatives of U.S. troops, such as Sehilla Macias, whose husband is a Marine in Iraq.
"They need to see and know that we are behind them all the way and that we are extremely proud of them and the sacrifices they have made," she said. "We are waiting here with open arms for your return."
Some in the crowds saw the rally as a chance to endorse the war in Iraq. For others, it was simply a chance to support the soldiers.
"I want to let all the troops know that we support them 100 percent and that America is behind them, and we are proud of the job they are doing," one participant said. "God bless us all."
The event was sponsored by the Building and Construction Trades Council, which represents many of the workers who helped clear the Ground Zero site in the weeks and months after the terrorist attack, and are now involved in the rebuilding effort.