Skip to main content /TRANSCRIPTS


Memorial Service Held at Ground Zero

Aired October 11, 2001 - 08:44   ET


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: The memorial service is getting underway. Let's go to that live right now.


RABBI JOSEPH POTASNIK, FIRE DEPARTMENT CHAPLAIN: ... one of the best responses is for people of different faiths to stand together.

Lord God, there is an inscription on the grave of an architect named Christopher Wren which says: "If you want to know about me, don't look down, look around." I say to all of you today, if you want to know the greatness of this city, don't look at the devastation over there, look at the dedication over here. Don't look at the terrorism over there, look at the heroism right here.

This is composed of two parts, the light and the dark, but you only see from the dark. And that's even on this difficult day, as we look at God in the heavens, let us remember to look at God in the humans who stand right next to us, those of us who believe that we all belong to one human family. Amen.

At this time, I ask that we join together for a moment of silence to remember those who may not be with us, but certainly are within us.


POTASNIK: At this time, I call upon the mayor of the city, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.

RUDOLPH GIULIANI, MAYOR OF NEW YORK CITY: Thank you Rabbi. Thank you all.


GIULIANI: Thank you.

Sometimes it feels like yesterday and sometimes it feels like a year ago or more. This has been the most devastating attack on America, on New York City ever. The fire is still burning, but from it has emerged a stronger spirit, a more unified country, a more unified city and a more unified world in the goal of making certain that something like this never happens again.

All of you, those of you who are working on the recovery effort, those of you who are in our fire department and our police department, and all of those who have come to join us from all over the country, you've given us the strength to emerge from this much stronger, much more unified and much more convinced that the ideas that we believe in are the ideas of the future. Democracy, the rule of law, freedom -- political, economic and religious freedom. These are the most powerful ideas that are spreading throughout the world. They're the reason we were attacked, they're the reason that we're going to fight on, and they're the reason that ultimately we're going to prevail.

So I thank you very, very much for the example that all of you have given to the rest of the country and the rest of the world about how dedicated you are and how committed you are to the American ideal.

In the name of all of those that we lost here, our heroes, the firefighters, the police officers, the emergency workers, the citizens who were going about their lives trying to pursue in their way the American dream, all of whom are heroes. We remember them. We will always remember them. And to them, we will dedicate the rebuilding of New York and making certain that we do not allow the terrorists in any way to affect our spirit. They attempted to break our spirit, instead they've emboldened it.

Thank you, and God bless you.


MONSIGNOR DAVID COSSATO, NYPD CHAPLAIN: Let us remember and let us pray; and let us remember all those that died here, all those that are missing.

Oh God, glory be to the life of the just. By your presence in this world, we believe in new life. We ask you, oh Lord, to bless all those that have died in this site, that they truly enjoy joy, happiness and peace with you. We ask you to bless them, both now and forever. Amen.

Eternal rest grant unto them, oh Lord. Let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. Amen.

May their souls and all the souls of the faithful departed through the Mercy of God rest in peace. Amen.

God bless you and may God bless America.


POTASNIK: Let us conclude with the recitation of the 23rd Psalm, a selection that brings all of us together as one. I ask that we join arm-in-arm.

"The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He maketh me lie down in green pastures. He leadeth me beside the still waters to restoreth my soul. He guides me in straight paths for his namesake. Yeah, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for Thou art with me. Thy rod and they staff, they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my adversaries. Thou hast anointed my head with oil. My cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life. And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Amen."


ZAHN: Those words mark the end of the memorial service.

We are told about several thousand people were on hand to listen to the fire department's chaplain speak, as well as the mayor of the city. The mayor of the city says the terrorists attempted to, quote, "break our spirit, but has only emboldened them."

The chaplain advising all of us not to look at the destruction, but instead look at the level of dedication here of all the Americans committed to the American ideal.

But, I'll tell you, when you look at this shot of the debris, it is stunning that here we are a month later. You still see smoke rising from the pile. Large pieces of steel still being moved here. Hotspots being exposed to the air, creating the smoke and steam. I was talking with one of the men involved with the cleanup downtown, and he was saying that they've tested the water underneath here, and it is 180 degrees today.

So Bill, I wanted to chat with you a little bit about what we have just witnessed.

This, of course, is just one of the first ceremonies to honor those who lost their lives here. At 5:30 there will be a mass held at St. Patrick's Cathedral, which will be presided over by Edward Cardinal Egan, who just returned from Rome last night. And there, again, thousands are expected to show up for that.

And you have a service you can talk about that's going to unfold in Washington at 11:00 that we will also be covering live.

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Certainly. The president will be there, Paula. So will the Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

And a couple things strike me. If we can go back to this other picture -- this heavy machinery. As we look down, there's at least four or five -- this is the largest construction site on the planet right now as these workers try and move out this debris.

Paula, you remarked about the smoke, and so did the mayor. And it just clouds our vision every time we look at it because it just filters into our camera lens here. And it's a constant reminder of the fires that burn below. And once oxygen hits them, it just helps to fuel it even more.

I think just as a frame of reference, Paula, that ceremony we just watched -- and we have to check with Marty Savidge about this -- I believe that was taking place in the southwest corner of the World Trade Center. The reason I mention that is because it seemed like it was backed up against the World Financial Center. Those buildings still stand at this time. But for our viewers, the long line of dignitaries that have gone in and out of ground zero for the past month -- Kofi Annan and Jacques Chirac and all the congressional leaders -- that's where they would have come, also, underneath a damaged pedestrian bridge, but a bridge that still stands at this point. But that's where they would have brought -- been brought in, as well and have been, really, for -- if we can go back to that -- for the past part of the month. At times it seems like it comes about on a daily parade there.

ZAHN: I wanted to bring Martin into our conversation now because, of course, he's had an awful lot of exposure to not only family members whose lives have been so changed by all this, but you've had a chance to talk with the rescue workers and firefighters.

Describe to us, Martin -- I know you weren't right there at the site -- but just whether New Yorkers did stop and pause for this moment of silence.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, they didn't stop and pause on the streets in the immediate area where we are, which is in Broadway and Cedar.

And the recovery effort itself did not come to a halt. We didn't see the excavators that you watched working amidst the smoke and the debris in the background pause. That's significant because the mayor did not want to give the impression that everything would come to a standstill. They realize how vitally important the recovery of remains, trying to bring back for family members something from the many thousands of people that are still missing. And that is probably why you saw the work carry on despite the large gathering of firefighters and city officials that did pause to remember.

When you talk to those that work at this site, they still say it is horrendous. Emotionally, they are bearing a tremendous weight down there. The scene does not get any better, nor does the recovery work.

But what spurs them on -- what drives them on is the fact, the pledge that they say they have made to try to recover for every family something that they can hold onto, something that they can have of their loved one. That's what motivates them now, still, 30 days after the attack -- Paula.

ZAHN: And Martin, I was going to say that last night might have been the first time in about a week-and-a-half that people who lived as far as three miles north of the site -- even four miles north -- because of the changes in the wind were actually still smelling this very acrid, bitter smell that pours out of this site. It's very strong from where you stand, too, isn't it?

SAVIDGE: It is. I mean, the moment you come off the subway station down there at the Nassau (UNINTELLIGIBLE) it hits you right away. It's a smell like nothing else.

That's not to say it's the smell of death; it is just the smell that is associated so closely with the World Trade Center attack. So it is a reminder that strikes you not only visually, but with your sense of smell and in many, many senses.

The service, of course, was most moving not just because of what was said but where it was held: ground zero, a place that has altered, now, all of our lives -- Paula.

ZAHN: All right, Martin, thanks.

Let's check in with Elizabeth Cohen now.

Elizabeth, I was very moved as we had that split-screen image of the memorial service up, to continue to see people stream by the firehouse where you are standing by right now.

New Yorkers continue to mourn and continue to celebrate the power of these brave firefighters, don't they?

I guess Elizabeth isn't standing by right now.


ZAHN: OK. I was just talking about how New Yorkers continue to mourn the loss of firefighters who they never met, but also celebrate their strength. I noticed one man on that split-screen image during the memorial service really stopping to read about some of the firefighters who lost their lives. It was very touching.

COHEN: It was a very touching memorial service. And I'm standing in front of a fire company that lost 15 firefighters. Some 340 have been lost in all in this city.

And I've been so touched by looking at the photos, looking at the letters from school children written to the firefighters. One of them said, "I live in Utah, I hope you're all OK in New York City. You are so cool." All sorts of letters offering all sorts of solace.

And as I've spoken to these families, Paula, over the past month, the ones who I've been speaking to, they are beginning to cope. And many of them cope in very physical ways. One gentleman is wearing his brother's necklace all the time, and that's how he's getting through the loss of his brother.

Two young women who lost their father got tattoos that say "Daddy" on their backs. And so they say their father is now always with them. Other people are starting scholarships in their loved one's names.

I have to say, on a very sad note, that when I speak with siblings or with spouses, they're able to talk about their grief. The people who are in the worst shape, it seems to me, the ones who can barely get a word out, are those who lost their children. It has been just terrible to talk to them -- Paula.

ZAHN: All right, Elizabeth. Thanks so much for that update.




Back to the top