9/11 families grateful for Obama meeting

President Barack Obama greets families of victims of President Barack Obama greets families of victims of the 9/11 terrorist attack during a wreath-laying ceremony at Ground Zero. (May 5, 2011) Photo Credit: Getty Images

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Payton Wall took it upon herself -- without telling her mother -- to write a letter to President Barack Obama about how she felt when her father was killed on 9/11 and her efforts to cope with the loss.

Thursday, as Payton, 14, and her mother, sister and a friend stood near the president for a wreath-laying ceremony at Ground Zero, she said she was honoring her commitment to Glen Wall's memory.

"I was really proud and I felt like I was doing right by my father," Payton said. "This day will help me move on."

Payton said the president told her he was honored to meet with Payton, her younger sister, Avery, 12, and their mother, Diane. The Walls were with a friend, Madison Robertson, 14, whose father, Donald Robertson, was killed with Glen Wall at Cantor Fitzgerald in Tower One.

"I told him how honored I was to be in his presence and I was so thankful that he gave me this amazing opportunity," said Payton, of Rumson, N.J.

In the letter to Obama, Payton wrote about the morning her father died, and how she tries to cope with his death by attending bereavement camps with her family, talking about the loss openly -- and even listening to Justin Bieber songs.

"We were really proud of Payton," said Diane Ammirato, of Flanders, a sister of Glen Wall. "As much as we miss Glen, we are so grateful to have Payton, Avery and Diane in our lives and we see so much of Glen's spirit, humor and love in them."

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Though nothing can replace those killed on 9/11, for some of their relatives, meeting with the president Thursday provided some comfort.

Obama met with relatives of 50 victims' at Ground Zero after he laid a wreath at the World Trade Center Memorial site, gathering privately with them in a room at the 9/11 Memorial Preview Site and moving from table to table to greet them.

"He was great, he shook my hand, he gave me a hug, took a picture and said 'We never forgot you,' that is what he said," said Margie Miller, 61, of Baldwin, whose husband, Joel Miller, worked on the 97th floor of Tower One. "I gave him a hug back and said, 'Thank you, thank you for being here.' "

John Cartier, 43, of Queens, whose brother James Cartier was killed in the attacks, said he wasn't sure how to handle the president's visit. "You wonder in a situation where you meet the president what the protocol is. There was no protocol. He was very warm. He talked to everyone."

Cartier added that he asked Obama to "thank everyone who had anything to do with" finding and killing Osama bin Laden. He told the president he had refurbished a motorcycle in his brother's honor, and brought Obama over to see it in the World Trade Center Memorial Center. Cartier said Obama seemed to like it.

His sister, Jennie Farrell, 49, of Wantagh, said all the families applauded when Obama came into the room. "I told him I was the oldest of seven. He said something about being a big sister. I asked him to convey my gratitude to the military and to the Navy SEALs."

She added: "I don't think there is ever closure to having a void in your heart. It becomes a part of everyday life. But there's relief that monster is gone."

Patricia Reilly, of Staten Island, whose sister Lorraine Lee, 37, was killed on the 101st floor of the Tower Two, said, "I'm just glad that my sister and those who died got justice. And that the last thing Osama bin Laden saw was an American soldier coming to get him for what he'd done."

Marian Fontana, whose husband, David Fontana, a firefighter with Squad 1 in Brooklyn, was killed in the attack, said, "I told the president it was my anniversary that day and our son was 5. It was all very emotional. He just gave me a hug. I told him how I was grateful for his leadership."

They didn't discuss bin Laden's death. but she said she hadn't felt a sense of celebration as others had. "Celebration hasn't been part of my repertoire this week. There's relief -- a muted relief."

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Alison and Jefferson Crowther, of Upper Nyack, N.Y., lost their son Welles Remy Crowther, 24, who was working as an equities trader in the south tower. "I was a little star struck," Jefferson said of the meeting with Obama. "It is very intimidating to meet the president of the United States of America. But he is a man just like you and me; he puts his pants on one leg at a time. . . . He is open and sincere."

Alison said she was the first in the house to learn of bin Laden's death on Sunday. "Ten years of pent-up emotion came forth. . . . I called him [her husband] upstairs and told him Osama bin Laden is dead, we got him. . . . That night I was just a wreck, all of the emotion, the anger and frustration."

With Anthony M. DeStefano,

Kery Murakami and Tania Lopez

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