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BY ALINE REYNOLDS AND SAM SPOKONY | The last time President Barack Obama visited the World Trade Center, he was commemorating the 10th anniversary of 9/11 amid the thousands of victims’ family members and fellow politicians.
This time, he got a private tour of the site with a more modest entourage, including a host of construction workers who took breaks from their shifts to greet the commander-in-chief and the first lady.
During the visit, Obama along with Mayor Mike Bloomberg and Governors Andrew Cuomo and Chris Christie signed a steel beam that will soon belong to One W.T.C.’s superstructure once it’s completed in the coming weeks.
According to the White House Pool Report, Obama was heard to praise the reflecting pools in front of Governors Andrew Cuomo and Christie as he gazed down at them from the 22nd floor of One W.T.C.
“You don’t expect how powerful it is until you go down there and [hear] the sound of it,” the president told them.
Obama noted the difference between the Downtown of today and the deserted neighborhood of the early 1980s, when he was getting his bachelor’s at Columbia University.
“I’m glad they opened the streets back up,” he said to Cuomo and Christie. “When I lived in Manhattan in the 80s, down here nothing was here.”
At around 6:30 p.m., Obama descended back to grade level, where he was greeted by a crowd of construction workers who proudly shook hands with the president and first lady. Then, the group reportedly signed a six-and-a-half ton white beam with “One World Trade Center” emblazoned across it.
According to a photographer who was within eyeshot of the ceremony, Obama signed it and wrote, “We remember, We rebuild, We come back stronger.”
After leaving the site amid a crowd of onlookers, the president and first lady then headed up Greenwich Street to actress Sarah Jessica Parker’s home in the West Village for the first of two campaign fundraisers that night. The second event, which included a performance by Mariah Carey, was held at the Plaza Hotel.
Before his arrival at around 6 p.m., several hundred people stood behind police barricades on the corner of Greenwich Street and Barclay Street, waiting for a chance to see President Obama’s entrance. It was tough to see much, as Obama’s motorcade came up West Street, turned onto Barclay Street and made a quick right onto Washington Street to enter the W.T.C. site – but for most in attendance, that small sight was worth it.
Downtown Express spoke with a few onlookers of the motorcade to get their reaction to the momentous occasion of the president visiting the site for the third time.
Dave Brown, 27
I think his visit is significant because he wants to be re-elected! And I guess when you’re the President, and something like this is going on, you kind of have to visit. As for me, I’m just here to get a glimpse of the motorcade.
Paul Davis, 74
I think a visit from any President is important, no matter who it is. So getting a chance to see that is significant in itself. The fact that he’s signing a [World Trade Center] beam doesn’t change much, because the beam is also significant, with or without his signature.
Yauchin Lam, 20
It’s significant to me just because he’s coming here to see the building of the World Trade Center, which is accomplishing so much as it nears completion. I’m also excited that he’s meeting [New Jersey] Governor Chris Christie there, along with [New York] Governor Cuomo and [New York City] Mayor Bloomberg, so maybe they can talk about some of the important issues facing New York and New Jersey as the building goes up.
Maria Romero, 28
Well I don’t really know about the significance, but I heard that the President was going to be around today, so I figured I might as well come down to see him. You don’t see that everyday, right?