At 2 a.m., while most of New York slept, Fire Department bagpipers dressed in their ceremonial kilts skirled their way down Broadway.
With the Stars and Stripes hanging from the pipes, they marched proudly, not sadly, as they played "America the Beautiful," "Yankee Doodle Dandy," and old Irish tunes like "A Nation Once Again." New Yorkers lit candles, walked behind the cordon, or waved flags from the dark curbs.
The procession, one of five starting in each of the city's boroughs and ending at the World Trade Center site, marked the start of a long day in the city that commemorated the 2,801 people lost there last Sept. 11.
For New York, the epicenter of the attacks, today's ceremonies again bared for all the world to see the vulnerable side of this huge metropolis. The simple power of the proceedings underlined the depth of the grief that still grips the city.
Family members for the first time were able to touch the actual ground where their loved ones died. For millions of others, it was a way to cap a long, painful year, and to start looking beyond 9/11.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg said this was a day to honor in "our hearts and minds those who perished on this site one year ago, and also those who came to toil in the rubble and bring order out of the chaos, and those who throughout these 12 months have struggled to help us make sense of our despair."
One of those was former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who began reading victims' names to the somber strains of a single cello, wind echoing in the microphone like distant thunder. As each name reverberated through the dusty 16-acre pit, signs of grief punctuated the mostly silent crowd: a burst of sobs, a hugging family, a rising cluster of balloons.
Thousands of family members and friends crowded the western perimeter, some clutching photos, others flowers. Carlos "Rey" Lillo's family and friends more than 20 strong all wore white T-shirts with a picture of the fallen FDNY paramedic. His funeral will be next week, but yesterday, as they laid a rose at the base of the trade center site, was a time of respect. "For him, and for all of those who died," says his cousin, Delia Lamberty.
For Kit Mak, whose sister Yupking Wong was killed, the laying of the rose not only symbolized moving on, but also sent a message. "To let my sister know that we remember her," says Ms. Mak.
Joseph DiMartino, meanwhile, was placing a rose for his wife, Debra Ann. They met in 1981 in Brooklyn when she started working for him on his ice-cream truck. Ms. DiMartino eventually became a stockbroker at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, which was on the 89th floor of the North Tower.
For Mr. DiMartino, the past year has been one of therapy sessions and support groups. He lost his faith, then found it again. Still, this anniversary has been a "nightmare," he says, full of disturbing flashbacks and painful reminders of their life together.
"It's going to take a lot more than a single rose to heal me," he says. "But the ceremonies are part of the healing process, for me and the whole city."
Not all the relatives, however, decided to participate. Frank Crifaso, whose sister Lucy died in the attacks, decided to forgo the public ceremony in the morning for a private family mass said by a cousin visiting from Italy. "I'm more worried about how I am going to feel the day after, because everything is coming to a peak now," he notes. "Then I'll have to deal with the aftereffects."
Like Mr. Crifaso, many New Yorkers turned to prayer. On the Great Lawn of Battery Park, just south of ground zero, Muslims gathered and read from the Koran, prayed for all the victims, and read aloud the names of the 70 followers of Islam killed in the attack. The American Bible Society gave hundreds of free CDs of a musical version of the 23rd Psalm.
"We want to thank God for helping us get through this year and point to the future instead of dwelling in the past," says Roy Lloyd, a Bible Society spokesman. "We want to provide comfort and hope."
Even Wall Street took time out for reflection. The trading day was shortened, and almost every business planned to have a moment of silence at 8:46 a.m.
Many went beyond that. Prudential Securities held workshops with themes such as "Helping You and the Family." For the entire week, the securities firm has had counselors on hand. "We are going to let people do what they need to do," says Jim Gorman, a spokesman.
For some, what they need to do is work. At Morgan Stanley, Bill Sullivan told the people who work for him that they could take the day off. But he says everyone decided they needed to be at their desks in Jersey City.