Four years later: United in grief, they share a day of pain

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Some walked burdened with grief. Others smiled broadly at the unexpected sight of a loved one found in a picture at the memorial.

There was no one way for relatives of those killed Sept. 11, 2001, to remember. They wore black clothes befitting a funeral or patriotic T-shirts.

They carried flowers or pictures or sometimes no mementoes at all.

But among the thousands who returned to Ground Zero yesterday, certain trends emerged. Most entered and left the former World Trade Center site through a path lined with metal barriers and ringed by police officers visiting from London.

From there, the relatives descended a steep ramp into the sandy pit. At the base, some read names aloud at the prepared podium. Others prayed by a pair of reflecting pools arranged to reflect how the Twin Towers once stood. And then they returned to the top - much of the time appearing spent.

"It has gotten a little better - we don't cry as much," said Dorothy Walker Blanding, whose son Harry was killed. An insurance specialist with Aon Corp., he was 38 and left behind a wife and three children.

On construction scaffolding by the site, the names of the dead were written on several large posters, on which relatives were invited to pen thoughts.

Those from Blanding's mother and father were simple. "Love You," they both read.

Time hadn't healed Frances Patti, whose daughter Cira Marie, 40, a trader's assistant from Staten Island, was killed.

"Not when you lose a daughter," she said.

Richard Booms, of Cincinnati, whose daughter Kelly Ann, 24, an accountant, was aboard American Airlines Flight 11, had a similar aching feeling.

Asked if the pain has diminished, the tears swelled.

"Not really," he said. "Not really."