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WTC memorial: Remembering what is lost forever

Last updated on: September 12, 2011 14:21 IST

WTC memorial: Remembering what is lost forever

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George Joseph in New York

George Joseph speaks to families of Indian Americans who lost their lives on September 11, 2001, terror attack on New York's World Trade Centre. 

Looking at the incessant flow of water at the Reflecting Pools, Indira Bhukan said it was majestic, befitting the memory of the great loss.

"It was not there last year. The water flow, depth of the pool and the settings in a park make it an ideal memorial," said the Union, New Jersey native, whose young daughter Bella Bhukan, died at this spot a decade ago. Bella was just 24 and was working at the human resources department, Cantor Fitzgerald, on the 104th floor of North Tower. Bella was the youngest of three sisters.

Raised in a Gujarati family from Zambia, she embraced both Indian and western cultures.

She was well-liked by fellow workers, especially the foreign-born. This was evident at the Cantor Fitzgerald memorial service where many employees thanked her for her help.

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Image: Bella Bhukan's mother Indira at the memorial
Photographs: George Joseph/Rediff.com
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'National September 11 Memorial a befitting honour'

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The tenth anniversary of the World Trade Centre attacks saw a diversity of humanity converging at Ground Zero. It was a show of the unity of mankind, at least in death. The only spot on earth where people from almost all nations lost their lives once again witnessed tears and sobs, flowers and smiles and above all hope for another day.

Amidst reports of a credible terror threat, New York was flooded with police, which resulted in fewer people attending the event. More people attended the 9/11 ceremonies in earlier years, though they were less high profile. This year, US President Barrack Obama, former President George W Bush and a host of other national leaders attended the ceremony.

Families of the victims agreed that the National September 11 Memorial is a befitting and magnificent one truly honoring the dead.

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Image: Tenth anniversary of the World Trade Centre attack
Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com
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Curious visitors among sombre families of victims

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For Vasantha Velamuri of Woodbridge, New Jersey, the site only brought more tears and sobs. In a crowd, more curious to see the newly opened memorial, her sobs and prayers attracted many. Some even came forward to ask if she was okay and needed any help.

She placed flowers on the panel on row S 47 where her husband Sankara Velamuri's name was etched. She stood still and prayed as if the world around did not exist. It was a rare sight considering that many families brought relations or friends making the event look like a picnic than a solemn event.

Velamuri, manager and auditor at the taxation department for the State of New York, worked at the 86th floor of the South Tower. It was his birthday on September 11 and a small party was arranged in the evening which never happened.

"When the North Tower was hit he called me and told me not to panic. He said it was an accident. He and his colleagues hurried downstairs, but when they reached the 42nd floor, authorities announced that there was no need to panic and all should go back to their places," said Vasantha Velamuri.

They all went back. He had been working at WTC for more than two decades and he knew every nook and corner, so he was not afraid. By nature too he was not a timid person, said Vasantha.

After the second plane hit the tower, evacuation started in full swing. Velamuri waited for others to leave. "His secretary, who sustained severe burns, said that she hurried down the stairs. She told me how he helped others," said Vasantha.

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Image: Vasantha Velamuri remembers her husband Sankara Velamuri, one of the many victims
Photographs: George Joseph
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'Memorial a true honour to the memories of the departed'

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"On his way down Velamuri saw a close friend Yeshvant Tembe, working for the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance and helped him and a staff - Diane Gladstone - to come out from the rubble. Both were badly injured but managed to reach the 76th floor. There was a call to inform that they had reached there. After that nothing was heard of them. Most others in his office escaped. But he did not," said a somber Vasantha.

Vasantha, who worked at the New York State Insurance Fund in Church Street, 2-3 blocks away from WTC, recently retired.

Dr Ron Lieberman, husband of Dr Sneha Ann Philip, whose name was added to the list after a court's order, came to the site for the first time. Lieberman, who lives in California now, agreed that the memorial was befitting one to remember the tragedy.

Dr Philip's younger brother, Kevin, who lived near the site at the time of the WTC tragedy, visits Ground Zero every year. His elder brother, Ashwin, came for the second time. Their mother Ansu too visited the place earlier. All agree that the memorial was a true honor to the memories of the departed.

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Image: Dr Sneha Ann Philip's brother at the memorial
Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com
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600 employees of Cantor Fitzgerald lost their lives

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Baldev Narula from Kings Park, New York, remembered his younger daughter Mannika, 22, an employee of Cantor Fitzgerald, who lost her life on that fateful day. Mannika's elder sister and husband along with relations and friends turned up at the ceremony wearing T-shirts with her name on the front and her pretty face printed on the back.  

Manika, who was called by family and friends as Mona, was a data processor. Her office was on the 101st floor of the north tower.

On that day, she and her elder sister Eva K Gujral took the Long Island rail road to Penn Station. Gujral walked to her office, while Mannika took a subway train to World Trade Center.

Once she knew about the attack, Gujral took a taxi to WTC. When she arrived there, the towers were burning. She tried to push her way through the crowd but the towers soon collapsed. She was helped by others to save herself from the falling debris.

Bharti Parmar from New Jersey came with her two sons to honor her husband Hasmukh Parmar, 48, who worked on the 103rd floor. He was a computer systems manager for Cantor Fitzgerald, which suffered the most causality, with more than 600 people dead.

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Image: Mannika's father, Baldev Narula (2nd from left), at the memorial
Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com
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In memory of nearly 3,000 killed in the 9/11 attacks

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The memorial is a tribute to remember and honor nearly 3,000 people killed in the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, at the World Trade Center site, near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, and at the Pentagon, as well as the six people killed in the World Trade Center bombing in February 1993.

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Image: Bharti Parmar, wife of Hasmukh Parmar, with her two sons
Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com
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Memorial design selected from a global competition

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The two reflecting pools are each nearly an acre in size and feature the largest manmade waterfalls in North America. The pools sit within the footprints where the Twin Towers once stood. Architect Michael Arad and landscape architect Peter Walker created the memorial design selected from a global design competition that included more than 5,200 entries from 63 nations.

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Image: Remembering lost ones
Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com
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Victim's names inscribed into bronze panels

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The names of every person who died in the 2001 and 1993 attacks are inscribed into bronze panels edging the Memorial pools, a powerful reminder of the largest loss of life resulting from a foreign attack on American soil and the greatest single loss of rescue personnel in American history.

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Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com
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Museum near memorial to open next year

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The memorial is on approximately half of the 16-acre site. More than 400 white oak trees are on the plaza, surrounding pools. Its design conveys a spirit of hope and renewal, and creates a contemplative space separate from the usual sights and sounds of a bustling metropolis.

Though the memorial was opened, the nearby museum will be opened next year only, as it is still being constructed. The pools look like a natural fall. In the middle of the pool a void without water represents what is lost.

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Image: Families of victims' at the memorial
Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com
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1WTC, when completed, will be NY's tallest tower

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The construction of the new towers is in full swing. The One World Trade Center (1WTC) continues to rise in the City skyline, reaching the 74th floor. When completed it will be New York's tallest tower with antenna mast rising to 1,776 feet.

 


Image: 1WTC under construction
Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com
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