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At Ground Zero, grief etched in stone

world Updated: Sep 12, 2011 08:44 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

It was Fortress Ground Zero that greeted visitors as they filed in Sunday morning for the 10th anniversary memorial service for the September 11 World Trade Center terror attack victims.

They came holding US flags and pictures of victims, and wearing T-shirts saying Never Forget.

Ten years is a long time, but the memories are still fresh as if it was only yesterday, said Joseph Mathai, a New York finance professional originally from Kerala. He lost his elder brother in the attacks.

Cherian Mathai, the brother, had come from Arlington, Massachusetts for a meeting at a restaurant on top of Tower 1. The family found only his wallet, with his credit cards and a New York metro card.

Joseph Mathai was among the hundreds of families and relatives who poured in from all over the country for the anniversary service, undeterred by "credible, specific though unconfirmed" information of an al Qaeda terror plot.

Watch video | US warned Taliban after 9/11 attacks

The special memorial service held for the victims was attended by President Barack Obama, his predecessor George W Bush, whose presidency was dominated by 9/11 and its aftermath, and their wives Michele Obama and Laura Bush.

First to speak at the service, Obama read Psalm 46 from the Book of Psalms.

Once he left, the security was relaxed, letting people walk around Ground Zero as they always have. Jack Tegtmeier, a fire officer who lost his brother -- also a fire service man --in the attacks, must have been relieved.

Reaching Ground Zero in the morning had clearly upset him --"gtoo many stops and detours". 'America came together'

He had cooled down quickly to talk about the memorial service, the 10 long years of the tragedy that took away his only brother.

And Osama bin Laden, killed just a few months ahead of the 10th anniversary. Time no healer for families of 9/11 Indian victims

How did he react? Did he feel avenged? Satisfied? “Mixed emotions really,” said Tegtmeier. “Bin Laden was a bad man but who are we to judge? Leave it to God.” But he was disappointed by the way the country responded to the killing.

“I remember some of them celebrated after 9/11,” he said, “and when I saw our own people celebrating bin Laden’s killing, I was disappointed. And I asked myself how are we different? We aren’t.” Ten years after the attacks, which killed 3,000 people in the US and was cause of many more killings the world over, memories live on, but not perhaps the anger of losing a loved one.

The Galas of Connecticut have made it to all the anniversaries of the attack. They come to Ground Zero every year, just to connect with Jayesh Shah, a relative who had worked for Cantor Fitzgerald, a WTC company that lost 526 employees. Musharraf sought friendly govt in Kabul after 9/11

“He had a great smile and was like the big brother to my children,” said Mansukh Gala, of Indian descent. Jayesh was his wife Manju’s nephew. The entire family was at Ground Zero, wearing T-Shirts bearing images of Jayesh. On the back, shirt simply said: 10 years, we will never forget. US warned Taliban after 9/11