President participates in short and mostly silent ceremony at 9/11 Memorial Thursday.
Accompanied by Rudy Giuliani.
Lays wreath at foot of Survivor’s Tree at Ground Zero.
Entire NY/NJ congressional delegation lines up behind POTUS.
Meeting privately with over 50 9/11 family members.
Travel pool report 10a:
By request from some New York City reporters, we found out who supplied the wreath of red, white and blue flowers that the president laid at the site:
It was supplied by Flowers of the World, which had a shop on the ground floor of 4 World Trade Center on the day of the Sept 11 attack, according to the White House.
Travel pool 10:
Leaving Ground Zero at 1:18 p.m. the motorcade passed scores of enthusiastic onlookers waving flags, cheering and taking photos.
Pool is now holding at a deli next door as POTUS meets with families of victims inside a black, modern-looking storefront that says “9/11 Memorial Preview Site.”
Background info from the White House:
Meeting with 9/11 Families
The President will participate in a private meeting with approximately sixty 9/11 family members at the 9/11 Memorial Preview Site. The families were selected in consultation with the National 9/11 Memorial staff and represent a cross section of family members from various 9/11 organizations who have been active advocating on behalf of 9/11 families.
Travel pool #9:
We arrived at Ground Zero, where security is predictably very high. It’s an open gravel construction area with a partially built cement floor in the very center. The open area is surrounded by several buildings at various states of incompletion.
Officers in formal uniforms with hats and white gloves stood in a line. In front of them, a woman and three girls waited. To the side, one officer in a white hat held a big white wreath with red and blue roses.
POTUS entered the wide open area accompanied by NY Mayor Bloomberg, NY Gov Andrew Cuomo and NJ Gov Chris Christie. They stayed back as he greeted each officer, the sun shining brightly down on a clear day.
POTUS then helped an officer walk the wreath over to a stand. He and three officers then bowed their heads and were silent for a minute. The president then greeted the woman and three girls, embracing her and smiling.
Then a large group that included members of the NY congressional delegation and familes of 9/11 victims were escorted to the site where POTUS greeted them, stopping to admire what appeared to be one young boy’s medal worn around his tie.
Pool then escorted out now holding in vans.
Travel pool 8:
Background info from the White House on the next stop:
September 11th Memorial Wreath-Laying Ceremony
President Obama will participate in a wreath-laying ceremony on Memorial Plaza at the site of the September 11th Memorial and Museum. He will be accompanied by New York Governor Cuomo, New Jersey Governor Christie, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and Port Authority Chairman David Samson. Uniformed officers from the FDNY, NYPD and Port Authority will line the President’s path. The President will place the wreath at the foot of the Survivor Tree. Elected officials from the New York area and a group of 9/11 families will view the ceremony.
On Monday, as he does regularly, President Obama read a batch of letters including one from a 14-year old girl named Payton Hall. Payton lost her father in the World Trade Center attack and wrote the President about how she has handled the loss. President Obama asked that Payton be invited today. 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) will be at the wreath laying ceremony today. Payton’s father was Glen James Wall.
Background of the September 11th Memorial and Survivor Tree
The 9/11 Memorial and Museum occupies half of the 16-acre World Trade Center site. The memorial is currently under construction and will open for the 10th anniversary of 9/11 later this year. The museum will open in September 2012. The Survivor Tree the President will place the wreath at was planted at the Memorial in December 2010. The tree, which was originally planted at the WTC in the 1970s, sustained extensive damage during the attack. It was discovered and freed from the piles of smoldering rubble in the plaza in October of 2001. The damaged tree measured eight-feet tall when it arrived in November 2001 at the NYC Parks & Recreation Department’s Arthur Ross Nursery. It was nursed back to health and today has grown to a height of about 30 feet.
Travel pool 7:
POTUS worked the room of police officers, signed a guest book (pool was unable to view what he wrote) and was given a gift by one woman who was not in a uniform but poolers couldn’t tell what it was. He seemed flattered.
POTUS again gave brief remarks, echoing much of what he said at the firehouse. Check quotes against transcript.
“I am here basically to shake your hand and say how proud I am of all of you.”
Sunday “sent a signal that we have never forgotten the extraordinary sacrifices that were made on 9/11.”
“We did what we said we were going to do.”
America will always come together over years and differences to ensure justice is done. (Not a direct quote.)
“What we did on Sunday is directly connected to what you do every day.”
Thanked former Mayor Giuliani, says they have their political differences most days but that we’re all Americans first.
Whole thing lasted around 15 minutes.
Said “Go Bulls!” to one officer as he took pictures with them. At 12:52 we’re rolling to Ground Zero for the wreath laying.
AF1 touched down at JFK at 10:39 am. POTUS was greeted by a throng of wellwishers on the tarmac, with whom he shook hands. One man who reached out had a brief conversation that looked emotional but pool could not hear.
Now en route to Manhattan via helo at 10:51.
Highlights from brief gaggle with press secretary Jay Carney – check quotes against transcript:
The president is traveling to NYC “in order to recognize the terrible loss that New York suffered on 9/11″ and also in an effort to help Americans find a sense of closure.
Re: troop event in KY on Friday: Killing OBL is “a monumental achievement” but the fact is we’re still at war. “so it’s important to acknowledge that.”
President’s policy on Afghanistan remains unchanged.
No updates on the Sunday raid narrative and reports that the firefight did not last 40 minutes. Carney says moving quickly to disclose info required some clarification.
Had no information on whether 9/11 familes who want to see dead bin Laden would be able to. Says he is not aware of anyone bringing the photo to NYC for the families to see.
(Apologies for the brevity; it was a short flight and gaggle took place near the landing.)