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Bagpipes sound doleful cry as boro marches to WTC

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Sept. 11, 2002 began in Queens with the same plaintive wail of bagpipes and steady roll of drums that already had been heard in so many memorials during a year of unfathomable loss.

The Port Authority Police Department’s Pipes and Drums set off at 1 a.m. Wednesday from the Nassau County border on a ceremonial procession along Northern Boulevard to the Queensboro Bridge, drawing a small crowd of supporters carrying candles and flags who cheered as the first beats echoed through the misty air.

They marched as part of a five-armed phalanx of pipers that began at the edges of each borough and converged on Ground Zero after dawn Wednesday, where they joined the entire city in observing the first anniversary of the terror attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center.

“It’s kind of like a nightmare that you haven’t really woken up from,” said William Fitzgibbon, a Port Authority police officer originally from Woodside who played drums in the procession. “In my entire life I never thought I’d be playing 37 funerals for one police department. The loss of life is overwhelming.”

One year later the grief is still palpable.

“I’ll never get over it,” said Marianne Blenkinsopp of Woodhaven as she stood on the edge of Northern Boulevard to send the pipers on their way. “I haven’t met one person in this city that hasn’t lost someone or doesn’t know someone who lost someone. We’re all still mourning, we’re all still grieving.”

At Ground Zero, Queens Borough President Helen Marshall was one of nearly 200 who read aloud the names of the 2,801 people who died in the assault on the Twin Towers. She joined other residents of Queens who made the pilgrimage to Ground Zero to mark the anniversary.

“I came here because it’s important to show respect and to commemorate this day,” said John Bowers of Woodside as he stood on the east side of Ground Zero in a large gathering of public observers. “In my building, we lost several people. They were not close friends of mine, but that doesn’t matter in this case.”

“I flew here last night to be here for this occasion,” said Ken Diptee, who moved from Kew Gardens to Los Angeles more than a year ago. “It was important enough to me to remember the people who died there.”

Queens observances were also planned later in the day at Borough Hall, where Marshall was to preside over a ceremony in the Veterans Memorial Garden, while a twilight gathering before the Unisphere at Flushing Meadows Corona Park was to feature the Queens Symphony Orchestra and Bayside High School Chorus.

Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 154.

Posted 7:22 pm, October 10, 2011
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