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The Beams of Renewal

September 11, 2005 began at Ground Zero with a reading of the names of those who were killed four years ago in the terrorist attacks on New York City. This year, siblings read the names.

Watching this annual tribute unfold on television, where all the local channels preempted national programming, we recognized the faces of friends and colleagues, both among those who recited the names, and among those who were killed.

Four years have come and gone, and the sadness of that day never truly dissipates.

In the evening, like last year, we marked the anniversary by going to see the Twin Towers of Light. I'd seen these up close in Manhattan, birds looking like sparkles flying within the glowing light. But there is something almost ghostly about these beams when one views them from afar.

This time, we viewed the tribute not from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, as we did in 2004, but from the 69th Street Pier, which has been renamed the Veteran's Memorial Pier. Every night, since its debut in May 2005, a 25-foot tall bronze sculpture called "Beacon" has shone a similar beaming light from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. On this night, the beam reached to the heavens, as if to meet the two beams from Manhattan Island. And the pier was illuminated further by the glowing candles held by those who had come to remember. It was, after all, from this pier that so many Brooklyn neighbors saw the horror of that day unfold ... while the Lady in the Harbor stood within their field of vision, holding her torch as if in defiance.

Last night, the tribute on the pier featured a color guard, military-gun salute, and a number of speeches, including one by the daughter of one of those killed on 9/11, who spoke tearfully of her mother's last moments.

Like last year, at 9:11 p.m., the Empire State Building dimmed its lights.

Coming together with other New Yorkers on this night, once a year, allows for a certain poignant solidarity. Looking into each person's eyes, there is a bond of shared tragedy. But there is also a common strength.

We left the pier feeling a sense of renewal.

The beams shone all night; I walked my dog Blondie at 4:15 this morning, and still saw them comforting the north sky. I threw a kiss to them. Till next year.

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