After meeting with the FDNY in midtown and the NYPD at the First Precinct House in Tribeca, President Obama and his motorcade made their way to the World Trade Center site, where the growing One World Trade Center has already crested over the surrounding buildings. (Last night it was lit up red, white, and blue in honor of his visit.) There, among the trees that have already been planted for the World Trade Center memorial, which is scheduled to be finished by the tenth anniversary of the attacks this September, he laid a wreath. Only a small number of NYPD and NYFD representatives were present for the ceremony, and the wife and daughters of a 9/11 victim, who held hands nervously as they awaited him. In the background, a gathering of public officials including Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, and Representative Peter King watched quietly. Obama shook hands with the smaller group one by one and put the wreath on a wooden stand near what’s become known as the “Survivor Tree,” a callery pear tree that made it through the attacks on the World Trade Center alive and was nursed back to health. This was followed by several moments of silence.
After the wreath-laying, Obama stayed to shake hands with the assembled dignitaries. Around the World Trade Center site, hundreds of onlookers had gathered quietly along Church Street — no truthers or deathers in sight. A few peddlers were selling leftover Obama pins from the 2008 elections, flags, and some “Never Forget” paraphernalia.
Jeff Garrett, a former Israeli soldier with a scraggly beard, was carrying a sign that said in hasty handwriting “LET US SEE THE PHOTOS.” Garrett, who says he’s a former Israeli soldier but now lives in Brooklyn, isn’t a fan of Obama — but he said he was pleased he gave the order to kill Osama bin Laden. Americans, he says, deserve to see the photos. “To want to see his blood is a normal reaction,” he told Intel. “If justice was served, why shouldn’t Americans who suffered be able to not taste but actually see the blood?”
Manhattanite Gabrielle Styler, who was also there to see Obama, disagreed. “It wasn’t about pleasure. It was about justice,” she said. “And healing. His being rid of this earth was a healing process.”
President Obama received applause as he left the site to go meet privately with more families of the victims of 9/11 in a nearby storefront labeled “Memorial Preview site.”