Obama pays visit to firemen, police

President Barack Obama speaks to firefighters and first responders at Engine 54, Ladder 4, Battalion 9 before visiting the National Sept. 11 Memorial at Ground Zero.

NEW YORK -- As President Barack Obama visited with firefighters and police officers in New York City on Thursday, some saw a glimmer of hope that Osama bin Laden's death may help bring an end to the decade of war and grief that began on Sept. 11, 2001.

"Every day is a memory of that day," said detective Steven Stefanakos, who was among the officers Obama met on his way to a wreath-laying ceremony at ground zero. "The difference now is we have an end, which means we can have a new beginning, a chance to move forward past this."

The president's visit to New York -- part somber, part celebratory -- began with a stop at a Manhattan firehouse that suffered grave losses on 9/11.

Obama arrived under tight security at the midtown headquarters of Engine 54 and Ladder 4.

Once inside, Obama was met with another reminder of 9/11's heavy toll: Bronze memorial plaques hanging in the garage honor 15 members of the engine and ladder companies killed in the attacks, the steepest losses of any firehouse in the city.

The president said he came to give thanks to the first responders who sacrificed so much on 9/11, and to pass along the message that the Navy SEALs who killed bin Laden did it, in part, in honor of the dead of the FDNY and NYPD.

Afterward, Obama stopped at Manhattan's First Precinct stationhouse, whose officers were among the first wave of responders to reach the World Trade Center on 9/11.

About 60 officers from the precinct and the NYPD's elite Emergency Services Unit assembled to meet the president. Lt. Frank Barberio, a commander in the unit, said the visit was a treat.

"He had no prepared speech. It was clear he just wanted to come and personally thank us. It meant a lot," he said.

"It was closure for a lot of these people, it was a relief," said the precinct commander, Capt. Edward Winski.