'The Wind Blew All Day Long'

September 11 memorial anniversary
CBS/AP
CBS News State Dept. Reporter Charles M. Wolfson offers some finals thoughts about the pomp and circumstance of commemorating 9/11.


The wind blew all day long.

As a giant-sized American flag was unfurled over the just completed renovations at the Pentagon, it was quickly caught by the breeze. The tall grass in the rural Pennsylvania countryside near tiny Shanksville swayed as the wind blew through, almost as if it were an orchestra being led by a conductor. At ground zero the wind gusts were so strong they easily toppled many of the touching mini-memorials -- flowers and photos mostly -- left by mourning family members who had come to pay their respects.

Overlooking the sixteen acre site in lower Manhattan are are several office building damaged a year ago which have been covered by construction scaffolding and a screening material to hide the ongoing repair work. How fitting, it seemed, that the large swatches of screening material were black, exhibiting to one and all the size and depth of America's mournful mood.

Through the long day Mr. Bush made his way to and through one memorial ceremony after another, each marking one of the three sites where terrorists struck America one year ago.

His words were few and most of what the President had to say was in his capacity as consoler-in-chief. Mr. Bush seemed to spend as much time as needed at each stop. In Pennsylvania, after a military chorus sang The Battle Hymn of the Republic, Mr. Bush, accompanied by his wife Laura, laid a memorial wreath and then moved into the crowd of several hundred. At one point some laughter was heard, but it was mostly handshakes and hugs reporters were able to see from a distant vantage point. At one point, a woman comforting her young child wandered away and strolled alone through the waist high grass, skirts and tall brown stalks billowing together to the tune of the wind.

In New York City, the President made his way slowly down the ramp into the pit at ground zero and into a circle around which had gathered hundreds of survivors' family members. More handshakes, hugs and pats on the back. And there were tears, lots of tears. A military ensemble played music appropriate to the occasion, though much of its sound was lost in the emptiness of the vast space. Many adults and a few small children held small American flags against the swirling winds.

At day's end the wind was still in charge, causing another oversized flag next to the Statue of Liberty to salute stiffly as the President sailed across New York harbor to Ellis Island to deliver a speech to the nation.

The air was clear and cool all day long. A year after 9/11, the winds of the past twelve months have easily removed the smoke and dust and acrid fumes from America's newest war memorial sites. If only it were so easy to remove the memories which still linger in our minds and in our hearts.

By Charles M. Wolfson

  • David Hancock

    David Hancock is a home page editor for CBSNews.com.