Obama's precinct visit 'an honor' for NYPD

President Obama and NYPD officer Stephanie Moses bow

President Obama and NYPD officer Stephanie Moses bow their heads during a wreath laying ceremony at Ground Zero. (May 5, 2011) Photo Credit: Getty Images

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He brought a simple message of thanks.

Just before he arrived at Ground Zero Thursday, President Barack Obama made a final stop at the police precinct closest to the site of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. He arrived at the First Precinct at 12:38 p.m. and spent 10 minutes greeting about 50 officers inside. About 15 were from the citywide Emergency Services Unit; the rest from the First Precinct.

Obama signed the precinct log book with a simple "God Bless." In a brief speech, he described the killing of Osama bin Laden as a victory for teamwork among local police, the intelligence community and the military.

"We did what we said we would do," Obama said. "We never forgot the tragedy. We have never forgotten the loss of life. We've never forgotten the courage of the NYPD."

Emergency Services Unit Det. Donald Lasala said he was "very touched that he came to each individual officer to say thank you. He said the killing of bin Laden was to honor everyone that had lost loved ones on Sept. 11."

Lasal's own opinion of the death of bin Laden was that "it was very rewarding that they finally killed bin Laden."

Capt. Edward Winsky, commanding officer of the First Precinct, said Obama's visit "was an honor. He was very nice, very gracious. He thanked every police officer in the building and he didn't give any political speeches."

"He just said we're all Americans. We're all in this together."

Lt. Franco Barberio of the ESU called the president's visit "a pleasure and an honor." He said Obama delivered "a very personal thank you and handshake."

Barberio's own reaction on bin Laden: "I don't want to say we're satisfied, but it's another chapter that's behind us. It's another step forward in keeping the citizens safe."

Security for Obama's visit was tight, with a two block radius around the precinct blocked off. Police mounted on horses or with dogs patrolled the area. The press and public were kept behind barricades.

Officers scanned windows and rooftops -- anyone opening a window or on a rooftop was yelled at not to be there.

Obama left at 12:58 p.m., and got a sizable cheer from some people gathered on the street as he headed to Ground Zero.

With Bart Jones and Michael Amon


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