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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Services in New York Near End

Aired September 11, 2002 - 11:10   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: When Bob was talking about this heightened state of alert we are living in, it should be pointed out that New York, in fact, has been at the orange level for the last several months. And I heard someone say, it's as though it's a city with its fingers crossed right now. And no more do you feel that more than when you go down to ground zero, which, of course, was the strategic center of the attacks and a spiritual center of the recovery.
Bill Hemmer is standing by down there, who has been covering the morning's memorial service, and has seen thousands of people drifting into the site, and now, away from the site, as we are nearing the end of the services.

Good morning again -- Bill.

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, Paula.

By our account, about a hundred names left. And one of the readers right now down at the lectern down on West Street, literally shouting out the names. Each speaker here given about 14 different victims' names to read out, and it was clear that she wanted everyone in Manhattan to hear the names of the victims that she was reading off.

One thing we are picking up on, Paula, right now, if we can take our cameras down to West Street, there are literally thousands and thousands of family members that are still awaiting, backed up in an essential backlog, waiting for their opportunity to descend the ramp seven stories down into the pit area.

Now, it was our understanding that the schedule was supposed to be dictated this way: Some time between 1:30 and 2:00 Eastern Time here in New York, this area was expected to be cleared out in order for security clearance to come through to make way for the president later this afternoon.

Our senior White House correspondent, John King, is with me here also at ground zero. And days like today, the schedule slides sometimes, doesn't it, John?

JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The schedule slides, and one of the reasons the president gave such brief remarks at the Pentagon and is scheduled not to speak here at all, but just to visit the site, is because he believes this should be a day for the families. So, you can be certain that if they need more time here on the ground, the president would delay his coming. You can also be certain that White House personnel, the Secret Service and others, have been on the ground here, and in all of the president's stops for several days.

HEMMER: And he will make that speech at Ellis Island.

KING: Ellis Island.

HEMMER: And one would assume that has a tie-in with immigration and the open arms of the United States welcoming people into this country.

KING: And he wants the Statue of Liberty behind him and in the backdrop as he begins that speech to say that America is the land of beacon, of hope and freedom. And in his view, that's what the terrorists were trying to destroy. And in his view, he will say, not only did they fail, but the president will make the case that the terrorists actually -- through all of the pain they have caused, and you see it down here on the ground behind us -- that it has caused a revival, if you will, in this country.

HEMMER: Yes. One thing we heard at the Pentagon in that speech what was about seven minutes in length as we were sitting here, the intent, we thought anyway, was to talk about the day today and for what it meant to the families of the victims. But the message we heard seemed to be more directed toward the current war on terror.

KING: He spent much more time than we had led to believe -- led to be believed that he would, discussing the ongoing war against terrorism. And today, is not the day for it. It will be discussed in more detail tomorrow and in the weeks and months ahead.

This president is in the middle of a very delicate debate now, even as we go to a higher alert level in the United States, even as the administration concedes al Qaeda has "scattered like roaches," to use the words of the president's national security adviser. This president will make the case tomorrow to the United Nations that perhaps a new front should be opened up confronting Saddam Hussein and Iraq.

There is a policy and a strategy debate that the administration faces. They'll look to discuss that today, and it's not right for us to discuss it much today. But the president is at this very delicate moment of remembering; also at a very delicate moment as he decides how to go forward.

HEMMER: On a personal level, over the past year, I have spent a considerable amount of time down here in and around ground zero, going back to the events of last September. I know you have been here before. But as we sit here 10 floors above the street level, this is as close as you have been. I just find it remarkable to look around and see the scene and the images and the people that we are seeing right now. KING: It is. The closest I have come before is the perimeter far away on the other side. And I live within view of the Pentagon. And every night for the past year, you see the workers morning, day and night, fixing the Pentagon. And when you live in a city, as I have almost my entire life, buildings are your landscape and buildings are your landmarks. And the Pentagon is healed, if you will.

When you come here and look down, you remember the day, and you remember that this city has more hurt. That is not to minimize what happened at the Pentagon and the loss to all of those families. But the scale of the hurt and, therefore, the scale of the healing is so much bigger here.

HEMMER: There is a giant sign that's hanging at the southern end of ground zero behind us, Paula. It says, "The human spirit is not measured by the size of the act, but by the size of the heart." And there is a giant red, white and blue heart that stands out on the southern skyline of Manhattan that literally towers over the Statue of Liberty based on the artist depiction that we see here at the south end of ground zero.

Back to the president for a moment. This is a very personal issue to him. Oftentimes, we have seen him come to a microphone, greet family members, and it's difficult, it appears to me, anyway, from a distance, for him to hide and hold back his emotions. Do you see that, too, at the White House?

KING: He is a very emotional president. He tears up whenever he talks about this issue. Aides recall his private meetings, which we have not seen, over the course of the past year, including in those early days when he came here to ground zero. There was a very memorable moment when he spoke to the rescue workers outside here. But aides say what they saw much more of the inner strength, if you will, of their president was when he met privately with the families here.

This is will be his first trip to Shanksville. I expect the president to have quite an emotional moment there.

He is an emotional person. He is an angry person sometimes. Remember, his language has been criticized on occasion over the past year when he said, "Osama bin Laden, dead or alive." He is not a poet, but his aides say that when you hear him being blunt or when you see him being moved emotionally that you are seeing the true George W. Bush.

HEMMER: We will see him today, somewhere around 4:30 Eastern Time, which is the anticipated schedule, as I mentioned before, about five, five-and-a-half hours from now.

Thank you, John -- good to have you here in New York. We'll be back in touch later today.

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