An Israeli delegation headed by Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein arrived at Ground Zero in New York on Friday to honor victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack on the Twin Towers that left almost 3,000 people dead.
"The horrific attack was an example of the destructive capability of terrorist groups governed, motivated and supported by the terrorist capital of the world — Iran. Here, one can understand how dangerous a nuclear Iran would be to Israel and the entire world," Edelstein said at the site.
Last year's ceremony took place under heavy security. One after another, relatives of those killed took the podium and with trembling voices and tear-filled eyes read name after name. Thousands of additional family members were gathered nearby. They held photos of their loved ones, laid flowers on the monument engraved with the names of those killed, and wrapped themselves in American flags. For more than four hours, 167 pairs of family members ascended the stage and read the names of 2,977 victims.
Six moments of silence were observed throughout the ceremony — one for each time a plane crashed into the World Trade Center, another for each time a tower fell, and two others to mark the attack on the Pentagon and the plane crash in Pennsylvania. To the left of the stage stood the new Freedom Tower and behind it the huge reflecting pools where the destroyed towers stood.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who hosted the ceremony, talked about how much the deceased were an integral part of the city. "They were our neighbors, our friends, our husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, children and parents,” he said. "We will never forget them."
Standing behind a bulletproof glass shield, U.S. President Barack Obama addressed the audience and quoted Psalm 46.
Former U.S. President George W. Bush also addressed the crowd and quoted a letter written by then President Abraham Lincoln to a woman who lost five sons in the American Civil War: "I feel how weak and fruitless must be any word of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the republic they died to save."
According to a report by the New York Daily News, U.S. politicians will not be speaking at the official ceremony commemorating the victims of the 9/11 attacks.
The report said that Joe Daniels, president of the National September 11 Memorial and Museum, had written a letter to the victims' families saying that keeping politicians' speeches out of the ceremony would enable the focus to be solely on the victims’ names, which would be read aloud by family members.