Friday, December 18, 2009

A Quick Holiday Travel Spot on ABC News

While I was at the Newark Airport in New Jersey, reporter Phil Lipof from the ABC affiliate in New York City interviewed me for a package he put together about holiday travel. It was interesting for me to be the one answering the questions instead of asking them.

Here is the story that was on the news that night.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Pet Owners Known in Parks by the Names of Their Dogs

Brownie, DJ, and Rosie are the names of dogs that Sarah Wessler knows by heart, but she couldn’t tell you the names of any of their owners, even though she sees them at least once a week at the dog run. She says this is all part of the experience of going to the dog run.

“You just call people by their dog’s names,” Wessler said. “Being here is all about the dogs.”

Wessler lives in the Bronx but usually takes her dog, Mancha, to Jemmy’s Run since it is closer to her boyfriend’s apartment and Mancha has made friends there. Wessler says that she runs into people on the train that she has met at the dog park and often talks with some of the regular visitors, but doesn’t make a point of it to meet up with them outside of the park.

“What happens at the dog park stays at the dog park.”

While some parks don’t allow dogs at all, the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation has designated three different types of dog parks in the city—leashed areas, designated off-leash areas, and dog runs. Dog runs are large fenced in areas within larger parks where dogs are free to run around unleashed. Jemmy’s Run at Madison Square Park is a dog run where all types of relationships are developed between people and dogs.

Sometimes the freedom of all the different dogs together can cause problems. Jay Fortunato, who lives in the Flatiron District, says his dog Linus enjoys coming to get exercise at the dog park but since Linus is a small dog, he has had encounters with large dogs that haven’t gone well.

“A few weeks ago a larger dog bit Linus on the back of the neck and sat on him,” Fortunato said. “I had to fight the big dog off.”

Taylor Defelice, of Murray Hill, brings her two dogs Hershey and Ruby to Jemmy’s Run for them to interact with other dogs. Ruby is a therapy dog and spends time in hospitals with children who are sick, so Defelice likes to get her out to get exercise. The only challenge Defelice has faced with bringing her dogs to the park is having their toys stolen by other dogs, but says the overall experience is a positive one.

“Dog parks are good for the dogs and good for people,” Defelice said. “They help promote dog ownership.”

Coming to see the dogs at the park is the closest Nuttika Mahamontre can get to having a dog. Her apartment complex doesn’t allow pets, so at least once or twice a week Mahamontre comes to Madison Square Park to see the dogs. For her, it is a type of therapy.

“I feel more relaxed seeing these dogs play,” Mahamontre, of Manhattan, said. “This is what makes me feel better.”

“Dogs are the one thing we all have in common here,” Wessler said, and Mahanmontre agreed.

“Even if they don’t have one of their own, everyone here has a love for dogs.”

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Review of the Book "Prayer for the City"

In his book A Prayer for the City, author Buzz Bissinger initially describes Philadelphia mayor Ed Rendell as “one of those people who seemed destined for one of two things in life—early success or an early heart attack.”

All signs point to early success.

Rendell is now 65-years-old, current governor of Pennsylvania, and has yet to have a heart attack. Before his time as governor, Rendell was the mayor of Philadelphia and Bissinger was given the journalist/author all-access pass to witness and document Rendell’s first term in the mayoral office.

Rendell may have accomplished a lot, but it wasn’t an easy journey. When he was sworn into office, he took on the challenge of getting the entire city out of a financial crisis, which we have seen is no easy task. He also had to work to keep the people of the city happy, including union and helping to keep people in work. Reading about the day-to-day life of Mayor Rendell gives a new appreciation for the work of a politician during a crisis.

But Bissinger doesn’t just profile Rendell directly. He includes details about other people near to Rendell to capture more about what his life entails.

A Prayer for the City introduces the story with successful lawyer David Cohen looking out over the city from his law office on January 5, 1992, the night before Rendell was inaugurated as mayor. Cohen worked towards becoming a lawyer for many years and spent the years following that practicing law with a major law firm, but resigned to go work as chief-of-staff for Rendell. Bissinger compares the lives and upbringings of Cohen and Rendell, really shaping a storyline between who they were before, who they are now, and who they become as a team. The comparison of the seemingly opposite men helps to create a better image of who they are as people, and helps the reader understand more about them.

Bissinger gives readers a first-hand insight to not just all of the technical workings of the mayor’s office running of the city, but the personal challenges and thoughts of the mayor. He reveals insider details of phone calls, press conferences, and discussions between office officials. He also illustrates the personal accounts of city residents that speak to the greater issues the mayor was faced with solving. As a journalist, Bissinger knows the power behind good details and including quotes of conversation to move the story along.

There is no denying that Rendell’s job, as mayor, was high-pressure. The reader may think the early heart attack is coming for the intensity Rendell faces when he personally lobby’s against President Clinton, but it’s just another battle that Rendell takes in stride.

Through Bissinger’s profiling of other people Rendell encounters, you see the mayor get more motivated to improve the lives of those living in the city, such as when he meets Jim Mangan, a father of six, at risk of losing his welding job, or Fifi Mazzccua, a woman raising her four great-grandchildren who visits her son in prison. Bissinger shows Rendell’s drive to fight for the greater problems these individuals represent.

Bissinger shows that Rendell had a successful first term in that he never gave up on his city. He worked to do what he felt would improve it, but even when the city was in trouble, he never stopped believing that the trouble was only temporary. Success comes in many forms and Bissinger’s account of the Philadelphia mayor is certainly one of them.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

H1N1 Vaccine Clinics Help People Throughout New York

On a recent Saturday morning, a line of people, tracing around the block, waited to get inside Public School 290 in Manhattan. Some checked their watches, others flipped through the newspaper, but all of them waited to get protected against H1N1, better known as the swine flu, the most feared flu in a long time.

Lori Jackson was in line with her two children, Sarah, 7, and Michael, 9, but she was ready to give.

“This line is a joke,” Jackson said. “But I am happy that they are putting this together so we can try to stay not sick.”

Precautionary measures have been taken to prevent the spread of the virus, throughout the city by The New York City Health Department. They have set up temporary neighborhood clinics in all five boroughs, where the vaccine is offered for free.

In the beginning of November, The United States Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported almost 3,000 H1N1 flu cases and 91 deaths because of this strain of influenza, in the state of New York alone.

The swine flu has caused havoc in New York City schools because according to the CDC, children are a high risk to catch the virus. In May, 16 New York schools were closed and there have been a high number of absences this school year.

The city created a program to offer vaccinations to students at 1,342 schools. Students were given permission forms to take home to their parents in order to receive the free vaccine, which is offered as a nasal spray or injection.

The Health Department launched its public clinics on November 7, 2009. Health Department official Erin Brady said the clinic began as a way to distribute the vaccine to students from elementary schools who weren’t vaccinated by private providers or in their schools, as well as for middle and high school students wanting the vaccine.

“It’s good to get kids covered,” Jackson said. “They catch everything and pass it around.”

Teresa Martinez got her eight-year-old daughter, Rosa, vaccinated.

“We come to the park and I see the kids coughing and sneezing on each other,” Martinez said. “It is nice to know she is not going to get the swine flu from the germs.”

Brady said the community vaccination clinics did not reach capacity during the first weekend, so the Health Department decided to expand the allowed groups to more people.

Those who qualify to be vaccinated in the free clinics now include pregnant women, anyone who lives with or cares for children less than six-months-old, anyone between the ages of four and 24, and those who are 25 through 64-years of age and have underlying health conditions that increase risk of severe illness or complications.

“So many people I know have gotten sick because of this,” Nate Roberts, 33, who was in line to get the vaccine, said. “I am scared of getting super sick or dying because of the swine flu.”

Clinics will be moved around every weekend. The Health Department hopes that changing the location of the clinics each weekend will help encourage people to get vaccinated at a time when the location is closest to their neighborhood, saving time, money, and their health.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Eight American Soldiers and Two Journalists Killed in Iraq

The Hudson River on the West Point campus.
Photo by: Brooke Niemeyer

Our Reporting class went out to West Point in Highland Falls, New York to work with their students on a computer simulation of what happens during combat missions. This is the story I wrote about the experience. It is written as though the events in the simulation were real and we were actually in Iraq.


AL MANSOUR, BAGHDAD Eight United States soldiers were killed on Tuesday when they were patrolling Al Mansour, an administrative district in Baghdad.

Military officials said the soldiers were searching for a maroon pickup truck with a white top when Iraqis shot them. Two Pavement Pieces journalists, Brooke Niemeyer and Zanub Saeed, who were accompanying the soldiers on the mission, were also killed. 

The only surviving journalist from a convoy truck was Pavement Pieces reporter Liz Wagner. Wagner used the radio to attempt communication with the headquarters to report what happened and establish her location. The soldiers at headquarters were able to help guide her to a US helicopter, which took her to a safe location.

Convoy Commander Mike Fanelli was one of the soldiers on call to survey the Al Mansour district for the maroon pickup truck that was hijacked by insurgents. The truck had been declared a high value target ten minutes before the mission began. 

Fanelli was in command of three patrol trucks, including the one he was driving. Because of a breakdown in communication, he entered unsafe territories and was killed by Iraquis. 

Earlier in the day, he talked about the importance of communication between the soldiers. 

"If communication between us breaks down, so does our strength," Fanelli said. 

Failed radio batteries made it difficult for the soldiers to communicate with one another on the mission. Minutes after the first casualties were reported, military officials tried to get better radios out to the soldiers, but were unsuccessful in reaching all of them. 

Even with faulty communication equipment, the soldiers were able to locate and detain the maroon pickup truck. Despite this, Lieutenant Colonel Garret Guidry said that the mission didn't operate effectively because of the poor communication between the soldiers and with the headquarters. 

"There was too much cross talk happening," Guidry said. "We didn't get a good picture of what was going on."

Military officials said that the soldiers should have been able to focus on their mission instead of dealing with communication problems.

"The information coming into headquarters was too few and far between," Guidry said. 

"We couldn't pass along proper information to protect the soldiers and it cost us."

Friday, November 6, 2009

The 2009 Halloween Day Parade in Greenwich Village

I went to the Halloween Day Parade in the village and made this slideshow from the photos I took and audio I got while I was there.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Traveling Miles to Cheer on People Running Miles in the New York City Marathon

Doreen Phillips came to cheer on her friend running in the New York City Marathon.
Photo by: Brooke Niemeyer
Doreen Phillips came all the way from Atlanta, Ga. for the New York City Marathon and she's not even running in it.

This isn’t the first time that Phillips has traveled over 800 miles to come to the marathon. She has done this for several years. Her travels to the marathon originally started as a way for her to reconnect with her hometown of Brooklyn, but the past two years she has come to support a particular marathon runner: her best friend in Atlanta.

Phillips, 44, came to cheer on Christopher Reeves, named after the actor he shares a name with and who suffered from a spinal cord injury. He was running on behalf of the Christopher and Dana Reeves Spinal Cord Research Foundation.

Phillips wore a shirt with the words “Team Reeve” and held a sign with the same phrase. Running in the marathon is one of the ways Reeves is working towards bringing awareness to spinal cord research and to help people with these injuries to get the help they need to get better.

Reeves’ involvement was inspired by his brother, who is serving in Iraq and has seen many people suffering with spinal cord injuries as a result of being in combat.

As Phillips stood on the sidelines, checking her phone for word from Reeves, she cheered on the other runners, especially anyone with their names on their shirts.

“People are running by, and I don't know who they are, but I still cheer,” Phillips said. “I just want them all to do really well.”

When the text came that he was close to where she stood, she hoisted her sign into the air. As he came into view, her screams and shouts got louder than they'd been all morning.

“Woo hoo!” Phillips yelled. “Yay Chris!”

When he found her in the midst of the large crowd, he leaned over the barricade for a quick hug. There was just enough time for her to tell him she was proud of him and she'd see him at the finish line before he was off running again.

“You can do it! Keep going!” she shouted.

She cheered and clapped for him until he was long past her standing point in the crowd.

“That's my best friend and I am proud of him.”

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Advocates Rally in Manhattan to Save Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation

Those in favor of saving Brooklyn A gather together with posters
and flyers outside of the LSNYC central office in Manhattan.
Photo by: Brooke Niemeyer


MANHATTAN -- Despite the cold winds, a crowd rallied outside the central offices of Legal Services New York (LSNYC) in Manhattan yesterday to protest the consolidation of legal services in Brooklyn.

Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation, also known as Brooklyn A, is a civil legal service, providing legal assistance to low-income residents in North and East Brooklyn. They help with cases involving disability projects, rights for those affected by HIV/AIDS, community and economic development, domestic violence cases, fraud, and preserving low-income housing. LSNYC is working to find ways to make financial cutbacks and is considering consolidating all offices into one Manhattan location as a way to cut back on costs. 

One protestor, Maria Alvarado, said nothing could stop her from coming to stand up for her mother, who relies on the disability services provided by Brooklyn A. 

"My mother don't drive and she doesn't speak English, so she has no way to go (to Manhattan) or communicated," Alvarado, 28, of Greenwood Lake, said. "She would be without help if they close Brooklyn A."

Alvarado and hundreds of others who oppose the closing of Brooklyn A gathered in front of the LSNYC central offices to show their opposition the possibility of eliminating Brooklyn A which is outlined in the Brooklyn Planning Process. Brooklyn A has assisted the poor and working-class people in Brooklyn since 1967, providing assistance with legal services. 

"We are demanding that they save the office that has been helping our community for so long," Catherine Pinto, 37, of Williamsburg said. "So many people don't speak English or can't travel to the central office in Manhattan, so they will be out (of luck) if the one in Brooklyn closes."

"Taking away Brooklyn A is not fair for those without money," Alvarado said.

At the rally, people marched with signs and repeatedly shouted, "We want Brooklyn A!" Protest organizers spoke on a megaphone to reiterate their intentions. 

"We must remind them the importance of helping people with Brooklyn A," Councilwoman Diana Reyna told the protesters. Reyna is an advocate for saving the Brooklyn location of LSNYC and has been helping organize petitions and the rally. 

Those in favor of keeping Brooklyn A are hoping the restructuring committee will see the value of keeping multiple offices open. 

"They need to leave it the way it is," Alvarado said. "Keeping all offices open spreads the word across the state instead of just having it in one central place."

"They want to save money and cut funds so it doesn't hurt their business," Pinto said. "But what about them hurting people?"

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Children's Hope India Black Tie Event is One Step Closer to Success


MANHATTAN -- Imagine being a young child in a country where the water you drank was the same color as the dirt you slept on. This is the reality for many children in parts of India and other parts of the world. Volunteers from a New York City based organization, Children's Hope India, work together year after year to gather funds to help in making changes for children suffering throughout the world and bring them a better life.

The annual black tie fundraising event for Children's Hope India was held today at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Manhattan. Tickets to the event ranged from regular seating for $250 per ticket to preferred seating for $350 per ticket. According to representative Lori Feigin, all of the tickets were sold out and they were having to turn people away who wanted to attend the event.

Since all of the work done by Children's Hope India is volunteer work, all of the proceeds from the event go towards Children's Hope Health and Education program.

Children's Hope India was founded in 1992 by Indian women who had a passion for helping children to have a safe, happy, and healthy childhood. It is based out of New York and has raised money for various causes which effect children, from those who have suffered natural disasters to any living in areas of India without clean water supplies. The organization helps fund over 20 programs in India.

This year's theme was "Evening in Rajasthan," with the slogan "A Royal Celebration of its people, music, dance, and cuisine." The two featured guests were the Princess of Rajasthan, Padmaja Kumari Mewar, and the Consul General of India, Prabhu Dayal.

Three awards were given out throughout the evening. The Lotus Award was given to the founders of Telebrands and Philanthropists, Poonam and AJ Khubani, and also to the former chairman and CEO of Mackay Shileds and Philanthropist, Ravi Akhoury. The "Making a Difference" award went to Surendra Kaushik, founder of Helena Kaushik Women's College in Rural Rajasthan.

The mission of the organization states that they want to "give disadvantaged children in India a chance for a brighter future." Tonight's fundraising event makes it one step closer to achieving their goal.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Political Profile on Whorunsgov, a branch of The Washington Post

For my writing and reporting class at NYU, we wrote a political profile for Whorunsgov, a political site created by The Washington Post. Mine is about Glenn Thompson, a Congressman from District 5 in Pennsylvania. It has been a lot of research, edits, and late nights getting it all right, but now it is done and published. Check it out! Glenn Thompson Whorunsgov Profile

And my profile is on there too...

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Burmese Hunger Strike at United Nations 2009 General Assembly

My first experience shooting and editing video at NYU. Check it out and let me know what you think! :)

Falconry Extravaganza Spotlights Large Birds Living Right in Central Park

Sienna, a five year old Eastern screech owl, was on display
at the Falconry Extravaganza in Central Park.


MANHATTAN—It seems unlikely for people to think of wildlife living in a city full of cabs and buildings that seem to touch the sky, which is why the City of New York Parks and Recreation Urban Park Rangers put on the 7th annual Falconry Extravaganza in Central Park today.

“I never knew there were birds of this size in New York,” said Tom Parker, 37, of San Francisco. “I always figured pigeons were the only ones here.”

The event featured 13 different species of falcons, hawks, owls, and other large birds. All of the birds were brought in from a sanctuary in Buffalo. The Wildlife Department estimated that there were about 1,000 people in attendance of the shows and birds of prey exhibit in the park today.

“We do this yearly to educate people about birds of prey,” said Sarah Aucoin, Director of the Urban Park Wildlife Department. “Each year the crowds get bigger and we bring more birds.”

The free bird show went from 1:00 to 3:00. During this time, there were three shows where members of the Urban Park Rangers flew the eagles and hawks for audience members to witness. They also had sections that included audience participation. Additionally, there was an up-close viewing area for people to see the different birds.

“It's cool to see these birds soaring overhead,” Aucoin said. “But it's even cooler to see them up close.”

Sienna, a five year old Eastern screech owl, was one of the birds out on display for people to see. Sienna was found injured and was brought into an animal hospital. Veterinarians found that she is deaf, so she will never be released back into the wild. There are screech owls just like her that reside in Central Park. Urban Park Ranger Mohammed Alomeri said that five Eastern screech owls have recently been released into the park.

There were stations set up for children to experience searching for things like birds do and also to feel the different feathers of all the birds that were part of the show.

“I want to be a bird saver like them,” said Elanore Martinez, 10.

The Wildlife Department not only wanted attendees to see these birds fly and get close to them, but also learn about the good things the birds do for people and other facts about them.

“These birds are good rodent population controllers,” said Richard Simon, Captan of the Urban Park Wildlife Department. “The paragon falcon is also the fastest animal and can dive at a speed of 200 miles per hour.”

All of these predatory birds can be found throughout the city, most of them nesting in the parks or in overhangs of buildings. Simon said there are also some that nest at the local Riverside Cathedral. Both Simon and Aucoin felt that this years Falconry Extravaganza was successful in educating people about some of the birds of prey in the city and bringing awareness of these birds.

Monday, September 21, 2009

An 11-Year-Old Boy is Planting Trees to Save the Future

Felix Finkbeiner with a poster of Wangari Maathai at Washington Square park.
Photo by: Brooke Niemeyer


MANHATTAN - Felix Finkbeinger was working on a routine research project in his fourth-grade class in Paehl, Germany. He was reading about the Nobel Peace Prize winner, Professor Wangari Maathai, who started the Green Belt movement, a tree planting program in Africa, when he got an idea.

"I thought, if she can plant that many trees on her own, we children can do it too," Finkbeiner said. 

And so his group, Plan-for-the-Planet, was born.

Finkbeiner, now 11, travels all around the world as a spokesman for the organization that he started with the help of parents, teachers, and other community leaders in 2007. 

Today he was one of the child advocates at Washington Square Park in Manhattan for the first annual Global Climate Week, promoting activism and awareness to any of the approximately hundred people in attendance who would listen. He was joined by Girl Scout troupes who wore life vests at the rally to represent the concerns of rising oceans. 

The words "Stop Talking, Start Planting" adorned Finkbeiner's t-shirt and he stood next to a large poster of Maathai. 

"Each tree [planted] is a symbol for climate justice," Finkbeiner said. "We need to stop talking and start planting. 

Plant-for-the-Planet is now the branch of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) that is exclusively for young children. It encourages children to help in planting trees to improve the environment and to prepare for the future. The Plant-for-the-Planet program unites children from all parts of the world to achieve a common goal. 

"We need to think as a global community, not as many different places," said Finkbeiner.

The current goal of UNEP is to plant seven billion new trees in the world by the end of 2009, To help do their part, the goal for the Plant-for-the-Planet volunteers is to plant over 200,000,000 trees. Hundreds of children, in over 50 different nations, are working together to plant one million trees in each of their countries. 

"We children are working to save our futures," Finkbeiner said. "Adults talk too much. It's time for us children to do."

Also at today's event was model Gisele Bundchen, who was appointed Goodwill Ambassador for UNEP. She is expecting her first child in December and put emphasis on the importance of a clean environment for upcoming generations. 

"It's important on a global scale to secure a healthy future for the next generation, wherever they are in the world," said Bundchen.

Governmental leaders are also focused on these environmental issues. Representatives from almost 200 countries will gather for the United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Copenhagen, Denmark on December 7 to discuss a climate agreement. 

"We need our leaders to act now," said Finkbeiner. "If they only want to get re-elected, they are not good [leaders]."

"Seal the Deal" is the slogan for campaigns leading up to the conference in Denmark. Petitions encouraging leaders to create an agreement about mandating the levels of greenhouse gas emissions in their country were available for people to sign today. Supporters want leaders to come to an agreement that will protect the planet and everyone on it successfully and then "seal the deal."

What all began as a class project for a young boy has now turned into an international campaign for children. Over 365,000 trees have been planted by children in Germany alone since Finkbeiner began his campaign and he continues to gain support every day from around the world.

"If we children can each plant trees," said Finkbeiner, "we can change the world." 

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Broadway's Finest Come Together for Back2Broadway Event

The ladies of "Jersey Boys" on stage at Broadway on Broadway.
Photo by: Brooke Niemeyer

MANHATTAN-- Theater students dream of it. Tourists flock to it. Culture junkies obsess over it. Nothing in the world compares to it.


Yesterday was a day for musical enthusiasts to catch a glimpse of Broadway's finest, free of charge. New York City Mayor, Michael R. Bloomberg, The Broadway League, Times Square Alliance, and NYC & Company kicked off the 2009 - 2010 Broadway season with their annual free public outdoor concert in Times Square, entitled Broadway on Broadway. The popularity of the shows on Broadway has continued to rise year after year.

"Broadway has had more hits than Derek Jeter," Mayor Bloomberg told the crowd.

September is Back2Broadway month, which showcases the new season with free events, like Broadway on Broadway, and also Broadway Open Call Karaoke and Kids Night on Broadway. The promotions also include offers for deals on ticket and dining prices throughout the month, along with many other activities.

Spectators filled Broadway from 43rd to 47th Streets to see the concert. According to The Broadway League, Broadway had one of its best years ever last year, with record ticket sales and the highest number of new show openings in more than 25 years.

"This season looks to be another success," Bloomberg said.

The show began at 11:30 a.m. and ran for about two hours. Michael McKean, who is starring in the upcoming Broadway play "Superior Donuts," hosted the event. John Stamos, who is starring in "Bye Bye Birdie" also spoke to the crowd.

"It was my third time coming to this," said Susan Marks, 54, of Chicago. "Every year it gets better."

Attendees were entertained by performances from over 20 musics, ranging from long-running shows like "The Phantom of the Opera" to the new shows of the season, including "Next to Never," "Fela!" and "Memphis."

One of the main goals of the event was to give a glimpse of the new shows expected to begin by the end of the year.

"I come back and see this so I know which plays look good to go see," said Marks. "I've already made my list."

Another goal of Back2Broadway month is to promote entertainment venues in downtown Manhattan and diversify New York City's economy.

"There are so many restaurants, clubs, and shows that benefit from this [event]," said Jim Glaub, 30, of Chelsea.

After the confetti had fallen and the last musical number was finished, Glaub concluded that Broadway on Broadway 2009 was a success.

"People seem excited about Broadway," he said. "That's what it's all about."

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Mourners Gather for Eighth Anniversary of 9/11 Terrorist Attacks

Officers carry flags to honor firefighters lost on 9/11.
Photo by: Brooke Niemeyer


MANHATTAN -- Eight years later, mourners still flock to the site where the twin towers once stood. Most come to remember the lives lost, but some come holding banners announcing conspiracy theories about what happened that day.

"Justice for the victims of 9/11," one man repeatedly shouted, while holding a sign with the same phrase.

Mourners passed by these protestors, who were watched carefully by officers and held back by barricades.

Family members placed flowers in the memorial reflecting pool at Zucotti Park as relatives and volunteers read names of the more than 2,700 people who lost their lives on 9/11. Those who weren't directly connected to someone lost in the towers still came to the site, some placing flowers or other mementos on the steps of St. Paul's Chapel.

"I come from England every two years, but this year I planned my trip around September 11," Brett Hartland, 26, of Birmingham, England said. "I brought these white roses to show my respect to the innocent victims of terrorism."

Kathy Robert, 49, of Dallas, Texas, was living in New York City when the attacks happened and can vividly recall how she felt that morning.

"I was driving into town and was listening to the reports on the radio," Robert said. "I knew I wouldn't get into the city with all the kayos. I knew this event would change everything."

Hartland said he experienced the ramifications of the attacks, even from across the Atlantic Ocean.

"The terrorist attacks didn't just affect Americans. It affected the world. That day changed all of our lives forever."

Strangers embraced and shared stories about their memories of the morning of 9/11. Many had their hands clasped together in prayer and even those headed to their Wall Street offices slowed down as they walked by, despite the somber weather.

"It doesn't matter how much time goes by, this event will always bring people together," Robert said. "Eight years later, the pain is still there. It will still be felt eighty years from now."

A woman, whose son was in the North Tower, said nothing keeps her from coming to the memorial service every year.

"This is a resting place for my son. We never found him, but I can feel him here."

This mother, who wouldn't identify herself, held tightly to the framed photo of her son.

"Today is a day about those who lost their lives in an honorable way and are no longer here with us," she said. "They gave us so much and we are here to respect and remember them, not make a name for ourselves."

Despite the negativity coming from the protesters just down the block from where she stood, she said she has no bitterness about what happened to her son.

"My son died happy," she said. "He wasn't doing something bad, like selling drugs or getting shot by a gang. He was working in a job he loved. He was lucky."