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In Display of Solidarity, Obama Lays Wreath At Ground Zero

President joins first responders, politicians in silent ceremony in Lower Manhattan

President Barack Obama made a visit to the city Thursday afternoon, a gesture of shared mourning and solidarity with New Yorkers whose lives were forever altered on Sept. 11, 2001.

"He's for real," said Peace Pinella, a lifelong resident of Columbia Street. "Of course he should go down there and honor them."

Osama bin Laden's death brought unexpected closure to many New Yorkers this week, though at the news.

Pinella said that while he was relieved bin Laden had been killed, he didn't think anything was going to change.

"I doubt it'll make us safer," he said. "If something is gonna happen, it's gonna happen."

Before laying a wreath at the World Trade Center site, Obama joined firefighters and former mayor Rudy Giuliani at Engine 54 firehouse in Midtown, which lost 15 members in the attacks. 

While there, NY1 cameras caught the president making some off-the-cuff remarks.

“I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart on behalf of the American people for the sacrifices that you make every single day, and I just want to let you know that you’re always going to have a president and an administration that’s always going to have your back the way you’ve gotten the backs of the people of New York over these last many years,” Obama said. “Obviously, we can’t bring back our friends that were lost. I know each and every one of you have grieved for them, but also tried to deal with their families and children, trying to give them comfort and support.”

Indeed, families of victims are still dealing with their great losses. Nancy Carbone, Executive Director of Friends of Firefighters, Inc., a Red Hook not-for-profit organization that supports firefighters through counseling and long-term assistance, said since the news of bin Laden's death, more people have been calling needing assistance.

"There's definitely been a response, particularly with the families of the victims," she said.

Carroll Gardens resident Frankie Granato said it was important for Obama to visit Ground Zero.

"It looks good for him, he needed to do this," he said. "What's he gonna do? Make people happy."

State Senator Daniel Squadron, D-Cobble Hill, joined Obama in honoring victims of the Sept. 11 attacks.

"With Osama bin Laden finally brought to justice and extraordinary progress being made in the rebuilding of the site, I am reminded of the infinite capacity of our city, state and nation to come together and rise above enormous challenge," he said in a statement.

Security was intense throughout the city, with street closures taking place to clear city traffic for the president’s motorcade and police stepping up patrols and searches on subways.

At Ground Zero, the wreathe-laying was a solemn affair. Obama did not make any formal remarks, but shook hands and traded words with members of the honor guard, family members of victims and local politicians.

New York City residents lined the streets, packed up against barricades at the intersection of Barclay and Church streets north of the World Trade Center site.

Many thousands of people gathered to catch a glimpse of Obama.

Carroll Gardens resident Lindsey Oates got a close-up view of him through an open window while driving by on Barclay Street on his way to Ground Zero.

"He had his head out the window and waved," she said. "It was really exciting stuff. I just wished I could have grabbed a picture but it happened so fast.

Some attendees said they had been near the scene on 9/11.

"I was here,” said George Sona, a Staten Island resident who works at 90 Church Street near Ground Zero. “I do remember how people were jumping from buildings. It was a day I'll never forget."

He said he was not sure whether Osama’s death would bring closure to the families of 9/11’s victims.

"I really feel for the families that were personally affected,” he said. “I don't know if they would call it closure. I would not speak for them. But I feel that it was one of President Obama's accomplishments."

Brooklyn's Joel Shoy waited for the president to pass by at Barclay and Church streets, one block north of Ground Zero.

"It's definitely the first time I'll get to see the President and it's a great day to celebrate — maybe not celebrate — but to take pride in the success of the Army and the military," he said.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Michael Bloomberg were at the location, as well. U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner, who praised the president’s decision not to release photos of Osama bin Laden’s corpse, said the day was important for families who lost loved ones on Sept. 11, 2001.

“With Public Enemy number one finally gone, we should instead focus on coming together as a country,” Weiner said. “That is why today I look forward to joining the President, heroic first responders and their friends and families as we honor those who lost their lives on September 11.”

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