Reflecting on Fallen Patriots;
Tears, vows mark holiday at WTC site

Copyright 2002 Newsday, Inc.
Newsday (New York, NY)...07/05/2002

By Leonard Post. STAFF WRITER

A somber procession of thousands came to Ground Zero yesterday to pay homage to those who died in one of the saddest chapters in the nation's 226-year history.

"It makes me so sad how these innocent people lost their lives," said Ivanka Bull, 57, who was crying uncontrollably at the fence line on Church Street. She'd come up from San Antonio with her husband to see the gaping hole where the Twin Towers once stood.

Four buildings remain shrouded there, and roads and new steel beams run through the pit, now being prepared for redevelopment. Yesterday, the area surrounding the site at Church and Liberty streets was often three deep with onlookers, who no longer need a ticket to view the site.

And just as the city tries to move forward from Sept. 11, many of the visitors yesterday came to do the same.

Twenty-three Army Airborne soldiers re-enlisted at the site yesterday, standing on a bridge above the hole. Three hundred soldiers assigned to train cadets at West Point showed up in fatigues to honor their commitments, and about 100 veterans came, too.

"I felt that this was the proper place to rededicate myself," said Sgt. D.C. Armstrong of Dallas. "I wanted to let the victims' families know that I will do all I can to help stop terrorism."

Also among the visitors was Leslie Nichols, 41, who stood between two saddled horses that he'd rode from Texas during a journey that began Nov. 1. On his way, he spent the night in more than 120 firehouses, and raised money for the city Patrolmen's Benevolent Association and the Firefighter 9-11 Disaster Relief Fund.

His trip started at the front door of the Alamo in San Antonio.

"The Alamo is where our Texas heroes died," Nichols said. "This is where the heroes of America just died."

Chris Casante, 26, a Port Authority police officer, was guarding one of the gates on Sept. 11.

"These were our buildings," he said. "We lost 37 of our people. It's very special for me working here."