At Ground Zero and the Pentagon, Silent Celebration

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Kevin Lamarque / Reuters

President Obama made no public remarks at Ground Zero. He carried a wreath of white flowers to a stand. Then he stood, head bowed for a time. Joining him were New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, New York Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand and uniformed members of the New York City fire and police departments, as well as officials from the Port Authority. Surely, everyone was thinking the same thing.

Before arriving at the site where the World Trade Center fell on Sept. 11, 2001, Obama visited a fire station and a police station in Manhattan with former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, a fierce Obama critic. “We did what we said we were going to do,” the President said at the First Precinct Police Station. “What we did on Sunday is directly connected to what you do every day.”

“When we say we will never forget, we mean what we say,” Obama said earlier to firefighters. “You’re always going to have a President and an Administration who’s got your back.” At Ground Zero, he silently laid the wreath at the foot of a pear tree that was rescued from the smoldering ashes of the Twin Towers. It was a far cry from George W. Bush’s bullhorn address atop the rubble.

On Wednesday, White House press secretary Jay Carney said Osama bin Laden’s death marked a “significant and cathartic moment for the American people.” As Obama left Ground Zero to meet privately with victims’ families, the crowd that had gathered broke out in scattered applause.

In Virginia, Vice President Joe Biden laid a wreath at the Pentagon, standing next to Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was also in attendance. A trumpeter played “Taps.” Once again, no one spoke. There was no need.