NEW YORK — When this year’s Sept. 11 anniversary ceremony unfolds at ground zero, the mayor who has helped orchestrate the observances from their start will be watching for his last time in office. And saying nothing.
What: A fragment from the World Trade Center will be presented to The Citadel by the Fire Department of New York City and the Independence Fund.
When: 3:30 p.m. Friday, before the military college’s dress parade.
Where: Summerall Field, The Citadel
What: An exhibit of photographs taken by military combat photojournalists after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
When: Available now
Where: In the lobby of Capers Hall, The Citadel
What: The Charleston Fire Department will commemorate the 12th anniversary and honor the firefighters killed during the 9/11 attacks. The ceremony will include ringing the bell in the bell tower 343 times for the lives lost from the Fire Department of New York City.
When: 9:45 a.m. Wednesday
Where: 116 Meeting St., behind the building at one of the original fire department bell towers.
Parking: Street parking is limited, so attendees are asked to park at the garage on Cumberland Street near Meeting Street or the garage on Queen Street.
What: Without Walls Ministry and Hope Assembly will hold a united prayer and memorial service. The event also will include barbecue, book signings and guest speakers.
When: 7 p.m. Wednesday
Where: Philip Simmons Mall Park, corner of America and Columbus streets
What: The Art Institute of Charleston will hold events throughout the day. Events are open to the public.
When: Events begin at 8:46 a.m. and run through 5 p.m.
Where: 24 North Market St.
To learn more: see www.artinstitutes.edu/charleston or call 727-0000.
What: 9/11 flag disposal ceremony and memorial service
When: 6 p.m. Wednesday
Where: American Legion Post 166, 116 Howe Hall Road, Goose Creek
Over his years as mayor and chairman of the National Sept. 11 Memorial & Museum, Michael Bloomberg has sometimes tangled with victims’ relatives, religious leaders and other elected officials over an event steeped in symbolism and emotion.
But his administration has largely succeeded at its goal of keeping the commemoration centered on the attacks’ victims and their families and relatively free of political image-making. In that spirit, no politicians — including the mayor — were allowed to speak last year or will be this year.
Memorial organizers expect to take primary responsibility for the ceremony next year and say they plan to continue concentrating the event on victims’ loved ones, even as the forthcoming museum creates a new, broader framework for remembering 9/11. “As things evolve in the future, the focus on the remembrance is going to stay sacrosanct,” memorial President Joe Daniels says.
Reading the names
At Wednesday’s ceremony on the 2-year-old memorial plaza, relatives will again read the names of the nearly 3,000 people who died when hijacked jets crashed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and near Shanksville, Pa. Readers also will recite the 1993 trade center bombing victims’ names.
At the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, where Wednesday’s ceremony will include bell-ringing and wreath-laying, officials gathered Tuesday to mark the start of construction on a visitor center. The Pentagon plans a Wednesday morning ceremony for victims’ relatives and survivors of the attacks, with wreath-laying and remarks from Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and other officials, and an afternoon observance for Pentagon workers.
Deciding how to mark the anniversary of the worst terror strike in U.S. history was a sensitive task for Bloomberg and other leaders in the months after the attacks, perhaps especially for the then-new mayor. Officials were planning a memorial service for thousands of families from 90 countries, while also setting a tone for how the public would commemorate 9/11.
“That was the challenge that we faced, and it was an enormous one,” recalls Jonathan Greenspun, who then was part of Bloomberg’s community affairs unit and now is a political consultant. “There was a recognition, by the mayor, that the ceremony had to transcend typical memorial services and the politics that are sometimes associated with them.”
Officials fielded about 4,500 suggestions — including a Broadway parade honoring rescue workers and a one-minute blackout of all Manhattan — before crafting a plan centered on reading names at ground zero.
‘Simple and powerful’
“Our intent is to have a day of observances that are simple and powerful,” Bloomberg said as he and then-Gov. George Pataki announced the plans in 2002.
For years, the ceremonies did include politicians reading names and texts, and Bloomberg made remarks that over the years touched on Hurricane Katrina, the 2005 London subway bombings and the Biblical King David’s grief at the death of his son Absolom, among other topics.
Bloomberg’s role hasn’t always been comfortable, especially for a mayor whose brisk, pragmatic personality and early criticisms of the memorial struck some victims’ relatives as insensitive.
When the ceremony was shifted to nearby Zuccotti Park in 2007 because of rebuilding at the trade center site, some victims’ relatives threatened to boycott the occasion.
The lead-up to the 10th anniversary brought pressure to invite more political figures and to include clergy in the ceremony. And when Bloomberg mentioned the idea of ending the name-reading the next year, some of the relatives were aghast.
By next year’s anniversary, Bloomberg will be out of office, and the museum is expected to be open beneath the memorial plaza. While the memorial honors those killed, the museum is intended to present a broader picture of 9/11, including the experiences of survivors and first responders.
‘Carrying on a legacy’
But the organizers expect they “will always keep the focus on the families on the anniversary,” Daniels said. “We see ourselves as carrying on a legacy.”
That focus was clear as relatives gathered last September on the tree-laden plaza, with a smaller crowd than in some prior years.
After the throng and fervor that attended the 10th anniversary, “there was something very, very different about it,” says Charles Wolf, whose wife, Katherine, was killed in the trade center’s north tower. “It felt almost cemetery-ish, but not really. It felt natural.”