Sept. 11, 2002: To Comfort a Nation
09/12/2002 AT 01:35 PM EDT
Despite sweeping 35-mph winds that blew dust in every direction, the president spent two hours in the pit of New York's Ground Zero, where, with first lady Laura Bush at his side, he personally consoled relatives of those killed a year ago.
The day also took the Bushes to the Pentagon and to the Pennsylvania field where the hijacked airliners crashed.
"God had placed us together in this moment, to grieve together, to stand together, to serve each other and our country," the president said at the end of the day, speaking from Ellis Island in New York Harbor, with the illuminated Statue of Liberty behind him. "What our enemies have begun, we will finish. I believe there is a reason that history has matched this nation at this time."
Also in New York -- where several moments of silence, punctuated by the ringing of church bells, populated the day -- former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Robert De Niro were among those who read the names of the thousands who were killed on that day last year.
Current Mayor Michael Bloomberg brought Wednesday's events to a conclusion with the lighting of an eternal flame in Battery Park, which needed to be re-lit during the night because of a faulty fuel line and, possibly, the gusting winds.
Yet, despite all the solemnity of the day -- emotions ran visibly high on the streets of Manhattan -- there was also something of a miracle that took place that has given people pause.
A woman named Susan Turner, who lives in Battery Park (just adjacent to the World Trade Center), drew a winning $500 New York lottery ticket Wednesday. Her wining numbers: 9-1-1.
"It's destiny," Turner told the New York Post. "Just like these winds."