President Barack Obama left Ground Zero at 1:15 p.m. today to the salutes of firemen and NYPD officers. The president paid a brief, but somber visit to the 9/11 memorial to lay a wreath at the site of a tree.
He met with family members of victims of 9/11, like Patricia Smith, 11, who never got to know her mother, Moira, an NYPD officer killed nearly one decade ago.
“He’s really nice,” Smith told Metro after meeting the president. She was wearing a locket with a photo of her mother, who she said was her hero. “He said that he was proud of us.”
The president was at Ground Zero for 15 minutes, all of which was nearly silent except for the shutter clicks of cameras.
Obama laid the wreath at the base of the callery pear tree.
That tree was badly burned and nearly destroyed in the 9/11 attack, and
remainders of it were found in the wreckage of fallen towers. The tree
was nursed back to health and planted at Ground Zero in December. It is
now known as the "Survivors' Tree" and stands 35 feet tall.
In a dark suit and blue tie, flanked by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Governor Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, he spoke with each firefighter and about 60 family members of 9/11 victims.
Security officials were at nearly every corner, including men that appeared to be Secret Service officers, with sunglasses and earpieces, facing away from the president to watch adjacent rooftops.
After the event, the president met with more families at the 9/11 Memorial Preview Site on Vesey Street, later leaving by helicopter for Kennedy Airport at about 2:30 p.m.
Just outside Ground Zero after the event, Gov. Cuomo told reporters, "It's a day of mixed emotions."