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Twin sisters Amanda and Emily Ortiz smiled as they posed for photos with family friends at the 9/11 memorial at Ground Zero Tuesday morning. The young girls from Whitestone were just 5 months old when their father, Emilio, perished in the attack on the World Trade Center 11 years ago.
They were a year old on the first anniversary, 10 years old on the 10th. Their ages will always eerily coincide with the numbered anniversary the entire nation observes as it moves another year further from 2001, but if the coincidence seems uncanny, it was lost on the girls.
“Scary, but exciting,” Amanda said with a smile, describing how she felt when she completed the list of victims’ names she read at the podium in the center of the memorial, ending with her father’s.
With a surname in the latter half of the alphabet, the Ortiz family had plenty of time to spare before Amanda took to the small stage where family members softly read the names of their loved ones.
The girls’ mother, Wanda, said they spent the better part of the morning wandering around the grounds of the new memorial and visiting the large reflecting pools where they etched their father’s name on a piece of paper.
“We’ve gotten to know families throughout the years,” she said. “In a way it’s comforting to see the same families year after year.”
If the families and friends provide a sense of consistency, the place itself is rapidly changing. Last year’s ceremony was situated in what resembled a construction site more than anything else. This year the grounds were lush with trees, grass and fledgling ivy patches.
Looking up, one noticed that the steel skeletons of 1 World Trade Center and 4 World Trade Center were almost completely sheathed in their glass skins. The cranes that protruded from their tops and the elevators that rode up their exteriors would someday be gone, as would the construction workers, equipment and barriers that have been a constant reminder that the site was still in the process of being rebuilt, that more than a decade later it was still not completed.
In fact, the Sept. 11 Museum had originally been scheduled to be open by now, and it was only on the eve of the 11th anniversary that Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Gov. Andrew Cuomo reached an agreement that will allow construction to begin this fall.
Whereas last year politicians vied for space on the stage and time to speak, this year only family members participated during the reading of their loved one’s names.
Woodside resident Edwin Morales carried around a framed photo of his cousin Ruben “Dave” Correa dressed in his FDNY uniform.
“I try to come every year,” he said. “This is his burial site.”
Many visitors to the memorial were asked if the 10th anniversary gave them a sense of closure, if a milestone had been passed that made the 11th easier.
“No, not easier,” said Eugeneia Bogado.
A mother from Flushing said her 29-year-old son, Carlos Alberto Samaniego, worked for Cantor Fitzgerald, the financial firm that lost 658 employees in the World Trade Center, and she missed him every day.
“That is forever,” she said.
Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4574.
©2012 Community Newspaper Group
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