Barack Obama will arrive at Ground Zero today for the first time in his presidency for a solemn wreath-laying ceremony, an important visit, some say, to help New Yorkers bring closure in the aftermath of Osama bin Laden’s killing.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said the president will not speak publicly and will spend part of the time meeting privately with selected families of 9/11 victims.
“The power of that requires no words,” Carney told reporters yesterday.
Jim Riches, a retired deputy fire chief who lost his son in the attacks, said he’ll be among the 50 family members meeting the president today.
“I’d like to tell him thank you for living up to your word,” Riches said.
Critics scoffed at Obama’s decision to set foot at the World Trade Center site, where he has already planned to visit for the 10th anniversary of the attacks this September.
“What is the occasion? ... Is it just to sop up some more glory and take a victory lap?” Fox News host Glenn Beck said on his radio show yesterday. “It’s disgusting.”
Not all Republicans agree with Beck, however.
“The killing of [bin Laden] is the appropriate time for the president to make a journey to the spot where the atrocity happened,” said GOP strategist Mike Edelman.
“It’s a very symbolic visit for Obama to come now. It’s not the end, but it is a certain chapter that is closing for some people, especially New Yorkers,” said Christina Greer, political science professor at Fordham University.
Ultimately, the events of this week — highlighted by what is sure to be a poignant visit today — will present a “turning point” in Obama’s presidency and re-election campaign, said political analyst Basil Smikle.
“It might be the first opportunity that Americans really feel this is our commander-in-chief,” Smikle said.
What's on Obama's New York City schedule today:
- The president is scheduled to arrive at Kennedy Airport on Air Force One at 10:40 a.m.
- He will then head to Manhattan to meet with members of the city's police and fire departments as well as Port Authority police.
- Obama will travel to Ground Zero for a wreath-laying ceremony starting at 1:25 p.m.
- Afterwards, he will have a private meeting at the Sept. 11 Memorial Museum with 50 9/11 victims' families selected by the White House.
- Obama will leave New York at 3:10 p.m.
Security in the Big Apple, already on high alert this week, will remain tight during President Barack Obama's visit today, officials warned.
Police yesterday would not confirm a slew of extra security measures the Daily News reported would be taken, although top cop Ray Kelly said, "You have to make sure everything possible is being done to protect the president."
The added security reportedly will include:
- Plainclothes officers mobilized along with uniformed cops.
- Sharpshooters positioned on rooftops.
- Manholes welded shut and mailboxes and garbage cans removed along the president's travel route to prevent attacks from hidden bombs.
- Suspension of PATH train service at the World Trade Center station while the president is at Ground Zero.
- Street closings throughout lower Manhattan and midtown.