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An 'inspirational' drive-by

Szjuval Joseph, a student from the Bronx, talks about seeing President Barack Obama's motorcade pass by in New York City following the wreath laying ceremony recognizing the death of Osama bin Laden.

 

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David Friedman / msnbc.com

Steve Archipolo waits for President Obama's motorcade at Ground Zero in New York City on Thursday.

By Miranda Leitsinger, msnbc.com

 “I wouldn’t be anywhere else but here. … I haven’t slept since then, in peace,”  Steve Archipolo said Thursday, as he stood in the crowd gathered outside the World Trade Center memorial site for President Barack Obama’s wreath-laying ceremony.

Archipolo was referring, of course, to the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks orchestrated by Osama bin Laden, who was killed Sunday by U.S. forces in his hideout in Pakistan.

That conjured up fresh memories for the 44-year-old Archipolo, who lives just a few hundred yards from the World Trade Center site. On Thursday, he recalled that he was first alerted to the 9/11 attacks by his son,  who saw one of the planes strike a building from a window in their home.

“This is a little closure in my life to remember the victims who died,” said Archipolo, who was carrying a large American flag he borrowed from his church. “(But) the nightmare is still there.

“It’s 10 years, but we’re never going to be at peace. We’re never going to have that feeling where, ‘we’re safe. We’re always going to be on alert. … We know that we can be attacked at any time.”

Still, he said Thursday’s gathering gave him a “good feeling.”

“I’m proud to be here,” he said. “… Our freedom, they can’t take. It’s just nice to see people out here.”

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David Friedman / msnbc.com

Malynda Irby, in yellow, reacts with the crowd on St. Peter's Church steps as President Barack Obama''s motorcade passes by at Ground Zero in New York City on Thursday. "I just really admire him as a leader," said Irby, who is visiting New York on a work trip from Buffalo. "I've never been so proud of any president in my life as I am of him."

David Friedman / msnbc.com

Irby, in yellow, is emotional after seeing President Obama waving and smiling toward her from the passing motorcade. Speaking about this week of Obama's presidency, Irby said,"This is just a high mark so far."

 

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President Barack Obama laid a wreath at ground zero in New York City to honor the people who lost their lives from the attacks of the World Trade Center on September 11th, 2001.

 

From the pool report on the wreath-laying ceremony:

Attendance at the wreath-laying ceremony was tightly restricted. Among those attending were New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Port Authority Chairman David Samson.  Uniformed officers from the FDNY, NYPD and Port Authority also stood at attention along the pathway to the site of the ceremony, the Survivor Tree. Other elected officials from the New York area and a group of 9/11 families also viewed the ceremony.  

One of the youngest in attendance was 14-year-old Payton Wall.

As is his habit, Obama read some of the letter sent to the president on Monday, including one from Wall. Payton lost her father, Glen James Wall, in the World Trade Center attack and wrote about how she has handled the loss.  

So Obama asked that she be invited to the ceremony.  When White House staff called Payton's mother, she had no idea that Payton had written the president.  Payton, her mother, her sister and her friend (who also lost her father on 9/11) all were in attendance.

The president is now meeting privately with family members of 9-11 victims.

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Out of sight of the crowd gathered outside, President Barack Obama soberly laid a wreath Thursday at New York's Ground Zero and declared, "When we say we will never forget, we mean what we say."

Returning to the site where Osama bin Laden inflicted his greatest damage, the president closed his eyes and clasped his hands at the outdoor memorial where the twin towers of the World Trade Center once dominated the Manhattan skyline. He shook hands with 9/11 family members and others dressed in black at the site where the skyscrapers were brought down by planes commandeered by bin Laden's followers. Nearly 3,000 people were killed. (The Associated Press provided this reporting.)

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As President Barack Obama’s motorcade arrived at Ground Zero, the more than 1,000 people gathered outside screamed, jumped up and down, waved and flashed “V” signs with their fingers.

Obama waved back from behind his limousine’s closed window.

David Friedman / msnbc.com

Carl Cumberbatch, left, and Adam O'Neil on St. Peter's Church steps, waiting to see the president's motorcade arrive at Ground Zero in New York City.

A few people in the crowd held up signs referring to the killing of Osama bin Laden on Sunday by U.S. special operations forces . “Congratulations! America and the world celebrates,” “Mr. President, America thanks you!” read two of them.

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 A crowd of several hundred people gathered outside Ground Zero Thursday in advance of President Barack Obama’s arrival, even though they weren’t going to be able to see the wreath-laying ceremony at the World Trade Center memorial site in memory of 9-11 victims.

The ceremony was taking place near the center of the plot where the Twin Towers once stood, and the view from beyond the police barricades was blocked by cranes and other construction equipment.

But members of the crowd said they felt it was important to be there nonetheless.

Australian Peter Dunstan, 55, a civil servant from Perth, said he and his wife planned their vacation trip across the U.S. long before they knew about the ceremony, but made sure they were there for it after learning that Obama planned to honor the victims.

“One of the reasons we’re here is Australians died in the World Trade Center,” he said.

He described his emotions as “mixed, bittersweet … just the fact that people died unnecessarily.”

Dunstan said the death of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden also was on his mind.

“The perpetrator is dead … he can’t do us any more harm. I think it was justice done. He probably ranks up there with Hitler and his ilk. … I hope it puts the demise of al-Qaida a step closer.”

Adam O’Neil, 70, a retired New Yorker, stood on a nearby corner, in front of St. Peter’s Church.

O’Neil, originally from Trinidad, said one of his third cousins died in the subway station beneath the World Trade Center on 9-11.

He said he decided to stand in front of the church so he could offer a prayer for him as Obama was laying the wreath.  He said that he was doing so on behalf of his entire family – 11 brothers and sisters still in Trinidad.

“I think of him all the time,” he said of his cousin, adding that the memory leaves him “very sad.” “This feeling will be with me the rest of my life.”

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David Friedman / msnbc.com

Tyrone and Gayle Stallings took their great-nieces out of school to attend Thursday's wreath-laying ceremony at Ground Zero to commenorate the victims of the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

 

More than an hour before President Barack Obama was due to arrive at Ground Zero to lay a wreath in memory of the victims of the Sept. 11 terror attacks, several hundred people were gathered outside police barricades in hopes of catching a glimpse of the president.

Among them were Tyrone and Gayle Stallings from Roselle, N.J., who said they took their great-nieces, Brielle Campbell, 6, and Jaylaah Lee, 10, out of school to attend the ceremony at the site of the fallen World Trade Center.

“I thought this was better history than a history class,” Gayle said. She said she hoped the girls would come away with the understanding “that the country is still together …  our spirit is alive.”

She said she delivered the first piece of the lesson as they walked out of the subway, telling the girls that: “The souls of innocent people are in the building. It was full of life. Now we’re just coming through a hole.”

Tyrone said that the death of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden on Sunday provided added impetus for the trip, adding, “Today feels good. … It did give some closure at least.”

David Friedman / msnbc.com

A flag seller works the crowd waiting outside the site of the fallen World Trade Center, more than an hour before President Barack Obama's arrival for a wreath-laying ceremony.

But he echoed the words of U.S. counterterrorism officials in warning that the war on terror is not over. “We’re going to have to remain vigilant still ... probably forever,” he said.