| Vajpayee with Colin Powell in Battery Park. (AP/PTI)
New York, Sept. 12: While the entire world’s attention was riveted on the day-long ceremonies yesterday to mark the first anniversary of the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, India quietly grieved for its nationals who died on September 11.
Ankur Agarwal, a 10-year-old boy, read out a Hindi poem about being an Indian when relatives of those who died in the collapse of the World Trade Center met Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in his hotel suite for 40 minutes yesterday.
Surviving parents of young computer professionals from Bangalore who died at the WTC told Vajpayee of their agony at not being able to locate and retrieve any remains of their children from the rubble at Ground Zero, where the twin towers once stood.
Others told the Prime Minister how they had found some solace yesterday by sprinkling Ganga jal during memorial ceremonies at the site of the twin towers.
Some said they were taking back bits of earth from Ground Zero to be scattered in India in lieu of ashes of their kin.
The Prime Minister told the survivors that they had become part of India’s long struggle against terrorism with their sacrifice a year ago.
The events of the “dreadful day” last year had brought home to the whole world the terrible nature of terrorism and its effects, Vajpayee said.
India lost about a hundred people when the twin towers were attacked, most of them Indian citizens. Others were Indian Americans.
In October last year, then foreign minister Jaswant Singh had handed over to then New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani an ornamental urn containing Ganga water and earth from India.
Most of the Indians who died were employed by information technology firms which were located at the WTC.
Their relatives were flown in from India for yesterday’s anniversary by the American Red Cross.
Many of those who have been left behind by the tragedy have problems of various kinds.
The Democratic Congressman from New Jersey, Frank Pallone, last week introduced legislation to give permanent residence to alien spouses and children of the terrorist attacks on September 11.
“For some families, not only did they lose a loved one, but they also lost their family sponsor, who was keeping them in this nation,” Pallone said. “While families continue to cope with this tragedy, the US government should do everything possible to make the lives of those left behind easier.”
Several relatives could not make it to Vajpayee’s meeting with them as they were caught up in the web of security in New York for the anniversary and the consequent traffic jams.
At the commemorative ceremony at Battery Park here, Vajpayee stood under the Indian flag as an eternal flame was lit by New York mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Flags of all countries whose nationals died at the WTC were flown at the ceremony.
The Prime Minister then a lit a candle in memory of the Indians and, along with other world leaders, filed past the eternal flame.
Strong winds which produced a small sandstorm created a surreal atmosphere at Ground Zero.