The Wreaths were placed in front of The World Trade Center Sphere, one of the most heart wrenching architectural corpses, placed in Battery Park as a temporary memorial to the events of 9/11. "The Sphere," a sculpture by Fritz Koenig that stood at the World Trade Center as a symbol of world peace, was relocated to Battery Park on March 11, 2002, six months after the Muslim terrorist attacks. An eternal flame was added -- and lit -- on September 11, 2002, "in honor of all those who were lost." The Sphere, the plaque adds, "endures as an icon of hope and the indestructible spirit of this country."
Atlas reader Jack was at the Wreaths Across America ceremony yesterday. Here are his observations.
Wal-mart sponsors Wreaths Across America in New York's Battery Park
Walmart was sponsoring the third national rollout of Wreaths Across America, a placement of Christmas wreaths in 100 cities across the US (including Arlington National Cemetery and Valley Forge, PA), in twenty-four locations overseas, and on ships at sea. It had originally been the idea of a Maine wreath manufacturer who, nineteen years ago, had extra wreaths in inventory at the end of the Christmas season which he took to Arlington. This would the third year of the national event, the second year that Walmart had come to New York City, a city whose government today considers Walmart as anti-labor and "unworthy" of having a store in New York. How many Walmart workers who worked there way up to full time employees with enough stock options to retire comfortably - or who quickly got their first job at Walmart after they fled the chaos of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina - is another story.
The wreaths placed in Manhattan on Friday for Saturday's ceremonies by soldiers from Ft. Hamilton in Brooklyn, Boy Scouts and civilian volunteers were for the approximately 2872 people who lost their lives on 9/11 at the World Trade Center and for 90 New York soldiers who had died since 9/11 in the service of their country. There were also wreath stands layed out on the park grounds where family members and service men and women from both groups could personally place a wreath, handed out from the Walmart truck,in honor of people close to them who died on 9/11 or in military service.
One of the people placing a wreath shortly after the ceremonies was New York Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano. He is a Vietnam Veteran who earlier had spoken of the over 300 firefighters who lost their lives on 9/11 with their 4400 years worth of experience in the NYFD. I walked over the Commissioner in the field of wreaths because I was compelled to tell him a true story, one I previously chronicled in a blog piece years ago.
"Mr. Commissioner, I have to tell you this. Shorty after 9/11, a group of New York City firefighters were given a holiday in Jupiter, Florida. I was in the (West Palm Beach) Florida airport when they arrived in their dress uniforms. Suddenly, some woman recognized them and asked out loud if they were the New York firefighters - and the whole airport (around them) broke into applause."
"Thank you for telling me that story," Commissioner Cassano said.
Another person who came to Battery Park on Saturday morning was an Army veteran volunteer, a black man who told me his name was Clyde. He was part of a veterans' group who goes around the country supporting the troops. Clyde will be going to Walter Reed Hospital in February, the Fisher House for families of veterans visiting them http://www.fisherhouse.org/ and to shopping malls, and nearby monuments.
The ceremonies started with an introduction and an invocation by a young woman, a Command Sergeant Major from Fort Hamilton. Then Deputy NY Police Commissioner James Shea, head of the Joint Terrorism Task Force, spoke about those that died on 9/11 and said, "As time passes, you remember how blessed you are to have known them." Yet "nothing can relieve that loss."
The President of the United War Veterans Council, Vincent McGowan, said, "Our Liberty is something we have to defend every day." When New York Fire Commissioner Cassano spoke, he talked about how the City is now better trained and equipped. He also spoke of how he visited Walter Reed Hospital and many of the soldiers told him they had joined the military because of what happened on 9/11 and the bravery and sacrifice of the uniformed city officers and firefighters at the World Trade Center.
Commissioner Cassano then read an official Proclamation from Mayor Bloomberg, declaring Saturday, December 11th as "Wreaths Across America Day" in New York. The proclamation was presented to the main Walmart official there, an Air Force veteran who had come down from Worcester, Massachusetts. Mayor Bloomberg, in his proclamation, talked about New York's military history and had said that "No words are adequate to replay our fallen heroes," calling on New Yorkers to reflect on the "selflessness of our soldiers."
Gold Star Mom and illustrator Kathryn Cross spoke. Her son was training as a Navy SEAL, having lost his life in stormy conditions in Iceland. She gave the history of Wreaths Across America that I detailed above and spoke of her coming twice a week to Manhattan to lay flowers for her son.
The ceremonies ended quietly and the crowd began to disperse. Tourists who had stopped to listen on their way to get tickets for a boat ride to the Statue of Liberty continued on their way. One could say that Walmart had gathered the best greeters they could find, even though they have no store in New York City.