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Archive for Saturday, September 22, 2001

Residents return to World Trade Center area; mayoral candidates resume campaigns

September 22, 2001

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— Lugging their bags behind them, teary residents of eight newly reopened buildings in lower Manhattan made their way home Saturday, as crews blocks away continued picking through the debris of the World Trade Center.

The homecomings marked yet another baby step toward normalcy for this city, where mayoral candidates also gently resumed campaigning Saturday.

Joined by former President Clinton at a news conference, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani continued to stress the need for New Yorkers to return to their daily lives.

"We've got to get back to normal," Giuliani said.

As displaced residents returned to Battery Park City, Elli Fordyce stood at a police checkpoint and cried. "Everything is coming out," she said. "It's just this mushroom cloud of emotion."

The number of people missing and feared dead beneath the rubble of the twin towers stood at 6,333. Of the 261 bodies recovered so far, the coroner's office had identified 194.

Giuliani said the recovery efforts would continue for "some time," although he acknowledged the chance of finding survivors continues to diminish.

He described seeing a team of firefighters pull out one of their "brothers" from the site.

"It was a very beautiful scene to see how they treated him and how they all stood at attention when he was brought in and then when the priest blessed him," he said.

The mayoral primary was originally scheduled for Sept. 11, but that was the morning hijackers slammed two jets into the towers. The city was paralyzed and the election postponed; it has been rescheduled for Tuesday.

Giuliani, barred by law from seeking a third term, has been praised worldwide for his calm, sensitive leadership the past 11 days. Clinton agreed the crisis has been "brilliantly handled."

Earlier in the day, Democratic mayoral candidates participating in a forum Saturday added their thanks. But they still rejected Gov. George Pataki's idea of a write-in campaign for the mayor.

"Don't waste your vote with a write-in," candidate Mark Green said. "That is really frivolous."

Memorials and fund-raisers far outnumbered campaign events Saturday. Bagpipes skirled as funerals were held for at least five more firefighters, just a fraction of the more than 300 listed as dead or missing.

Cardinal Edward Egan presided over a Steuben Day Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral. A parade usually held on the same day was canceled.

"We have been hurt," Egan said during his homily. "We have not been shaken."

At Battery Park City, the checkpoint residents had to pass through resembled an airport counter, with entrants bearing duffel bags, backpacks and rolling suitcases and presenting picture identification.

Paul Collins and his wife, Linda, returned to an undamaged apartment but a devastated neighborhood.

"The World Trade Center was our Main Street," said Collins, who was in London at the time of the attacks.

Some residents weren't ready to move back, but instead picked up valuables and started the long cleanup process.

Sharon Schlenker's apartment was dusty and smelled of rotting food, said her mother, Grace Schlenker, who came to help remove some belongings.

"Some of the stuff was just not worth taking," said Schlenker, standing by her teary-eyed daughter.

With the city still in a state of watchfulness, the air traffic control tower and a terminal at Kennedy International Airport were evacuated temporarily Saturday because of a bomb threat, halting departures for 10 minutes and delaying 12 flights, officials said.

Diane Spitaliere, an FAA spokeswoman, said the threat was received at 1:20 p.m. The terminal and tower reopened at 4:50 p.m.

The city also prepared for an invitation-only interfaith prayer service Sunday that was expected to draw more than 60,000 people to Yankee Stadium.

Oprah Winfrey and James Earl Jones were to serve as masters of ceremony and featured performers were to include Bette Midler, Placido Domingo and country singer Lee Greenwood.

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