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9/11 Families Mourn As Park51 Controversy Continues

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The air was crisp and the mood was solemn as family members gathered at a site near Ground Zero for New York City’s ninth September 11th commemoration ceremony at Zuccotti Park. Many wore white ribbons and carried pictures of their loved ones as family members and those working to rebuild the World Trade Center site read the names of almost 3,000 people who died there that day.

Police secured a perimeter around the park, keeping family members separated from the media and onlookers. But Alyson Low, 39, from Fayetteville, AK said she had to come over and speak to reporters about her sister. Sara Low was 28 when she died working as a flight attendant aboard American Airlines Flight 11 -- the first plane that struck the north tower of the World Trade Center.

Low held a photograph of her sister, along with a sign that summed up her feelings about the day.

“This says today is only about my sister and the other innocents killed nine years ago,” Low read. She added, “It’s just my way of saying this is about nothing else, and to stop talking about it. No politics, no religion, it is just them and to co-opt it for anything else is just shameful.”

Today’s anniversary comes as the debate continues over a proposed Islamic Cultural Center and mosque two blocks from Ground Zero. While there were few signs of protest in front of the podium, many family members acknowledged the controversy, even if it was just to say that they felt the day should be about something else.

But for some in the crowd, the politics truly are personal.

Fahim Chowdhury lost his sister Shakila Yasmin and brother-in-law, Nurul H. Miah. Both died in the North Tower. As a Muslim, Chowdhury said the tenor of the debate is making him feel vulnerable.

“I could be a target here. You know I feel it that way. I feel insecure,” said Chowdhury, adding, “I shouldn't be because this is America, land of free. And I should practice any kind of religion I practice.”

Kathy Clark, 54, of Easton, PA, was there to honor her brother. She said it’s not a day for politics. 

“I’ve found that even politicians are able to put the politics aside and focus on the victims and families and that’s what today is about,” said Clark, “It’s about healing.”

Clark’s brother Chris Allingham worked as a muncipal bond broker for Cantor Fitzgerald.  He was also a husband and father to two boys, who were 6 and 4 that day.  Clark said it’s hard to think about all that her brother has missed in the past nine years.

“They go to Yankees games, Chris should be there. We get together at my brothers’ house on the holidays with his wife and children and Chris should be there. They're there.  And it's like there's this big space.  Our big heart is missing.”

The absence of loved ones for almost a decade was theme for many of the family members. 

Victor Ortiz, 42, from Flushing, Queens lost his mother Sonia Ortiz in the attacks. She worked as a freight elevator operator at Windows on the World, on the 106th floor of the North Tower. 

Ortiz says his mother had just returned from vacation when she went to work that day. 

"When it happened, she managed to call us.  She didn't know what had happened. She thought there was a bomb. She wasn't aware that a plane hit the building. Once we told her she got very scared and we told her to try to get out," Ortiz said, adding, "then she hung up the phone and we never heard from her again."

In the past nine years, Ortiz met and married his wife Amanda. Together they have two two children, Victor Jr., 7, and Emlie Jai, 1.

"I would have loved for her to meet her grandson. He's a very handsome boy and we have a granddaughter here also who is very beautiful. I'm married and she would have gotten along very well with my wife," said Ortiz, "all these things she missed."

Family and friends near the site of the World Trade Center on the ninth anniversary of 9/11
Stephen Nessen/WNYC

Family and friends near the site of the World Trade Center on the ninth anniversary of 9/11

Family and friends near the site of the World Trade Center on the ninth anniversary of 9/11
Stephen Nessen/WNYC

Family and friends near the site of the World Trade Center on the ninth anniversary of 9/11

Liza Adams from West Virgina came to remember her daughter, Mary Lou Hague, who was 26 on 9.11 and worked on the 89th floor.
Stephen Nessen/WNYC

Liza Adams from West Virgina came to remember her daughter, Mary Lou Hague, who was 26 on 9.11 and worked on the 89th floor.

Moment of silence at the ninth anniversary of 9/11
Stephen Nessen/WNYC

Moment of silence at the ninth anniversary of 9/11

Name reading ceremony at the ninth anniversary of 9/11
Stephen Nessen/WNYC

Name reading ceremony at the ninth anniversary of 9/11

Kyle Brown, here to remember his uncle who worked in Tower 2 on the 105 floor
Stephen Nessen/WNYC

Kyle Brown, here to remember his uncle who worked in Tower 2 on the 105 floor

Family and friends near the site of the World Trade Center on the ninth anniversary of 9/11
Stephen Nessen/WNYC

Family and friends near the site of the World Trade Center on the ninth anniversary of 9/11

Family and friends near the site of the World Trade Center on the ninth anniversary of 9/11
Stephen Nessen/WNYC

Family and friends near the site of the World Trade Center on the ninth anniversary of 9/11

Victor Ortiz, Jr. standing next to a picture of his grandmother Sonia Ortiz, a freight elevator operator at Windows on the World. Victor Ortiz Sr (r) with his wife Amanda.
Stephen Nessen/WNYC
Victor Ortiz, Jr. standing next to a picture of his grandmother Sonia Ortiz, a freight elevator operator at Windows on the World. Victor Ortiz Sr (r) with his wife Amanda.

Family brings portrait to ninth annual 9/11 remembrance

Kathy Clark of Easton, PA.  Her brother Chris Allingham worked for Cantor Fitzgerald.  He lived in northern New Jersey with his wife and two sons.
Stephen Nessen/WNYC
Kathy Clark of Easton, PA. Her brother Chris Allingham worked for Cantor Fitzgerald. He lived in northern New Jersey with his wife and two sons.
Richard Butte from New Jersey
Stephen Nessen/WNYC

Richard Butte from New Jersey

Family and friends near the site of the World Trade Center on the ninth anniversary of 9/11
Stephen Nessen/WNYC

Family and friends near the site of the World Trade Center on the ninth anniversary of 9/11

Fahim Chowdhury of Loudon County, VA. His sister Shakila Yasmin and brother-in-law Nurul H Miah, lived in Brooklyn. They both worked for Marsh & McClennan.
Stephen Nessen/WNYC
Fahim Chowdhury of Loudon County, VA. His sister Shakila Yasmin and brother-in-law Nurul H Miah, lived in Brooklyn. They both worked for Marsh & McClennan.
Alyson Low holding a picture of her younger sister Sara Low
Stephen Nessen/WNYC
Alyson Low, 39, of Fayetteville, AK holding a picture of her younger sister Sara Low, a flight attendant aboard American Airlines Flight 11, the first plane that struck the north tower.
Justin Davila (L), 16 a cadet in the Air Force ROTC and Carlos Castro (R), 17. Every year their General brings the cadets down to the ceremony.
Stephen Nessen/WNYC

Justin Davila (L), 16 a cadet in the Air Force ROTC and Carlos Castro (R), 17. Every year their General brings the cadets down to the ceremony.

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Comments [2]

Jo Ann Biviano from Location

Hi,

My name is Jo Ann Biviano. I am from Moorestown, New Jersey, and am a singer/songwriter/pianist. I have an inspirational song that I wrote about 9/11, entitled "I'll Always Remember". It is a song of hope and reflection. My hope is to have this heard all around the world and that people will "connect" with it and remember the day when we were bound in such a unique way.

I would be honored if you would give this song "I'll Always Remember" the opportunity to be heard on your website. I believe it would be soothing and relevant to those listening.

The utube clip is:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QMYteLhHRIk

I wish you peace.

Jo Ann Biviano

Oct. 21 2010 06:06 PM
Jean Cavrell from Brian Lehrer Show

On 9/11/10 the NYTimes published an interview with a member of a mosque that had been located in one of the destroyed WTC buildings. Page A12. If there was one there then, what's wrong with its being replaced by the projected Islamic Center? Why isn't this story made more of?

Jean Cavrell

Sep. 12 2010 04:37 PM

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