No memorial in Central Park this weekend to honor fallen police and firefighters

Wednesday, September 19th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) _ A Central Park memorial this weekend to the police and firefighters who died heroically at the World Trade Center _ a gathering that was expected to draw as many as a million people _ will not take place, city officials said.

The city Parks Department did not immediately say why the memorial would not be held. It had been organized by a committee that includes former Mayors David Dinkins and Edward Koch and leading Protestant, Jewish, Muslim and Catholic clergy.

``There is not an event going on in Central Park this weekend,'' said Parks Department spokesman Jeff Sandgrund. ``We're not organizing an event in Central Park.''

The cancellation was news to a city that was still jittery, eight days after two planes hijacked by terrorists laid waste to the Trade Center and killed more than 5,000 people.

``People are definitely on edge,'' said Jess Spota, who walks to the stock exchange, said Wednesday. ``I wake up and get out of my building, and there are National Guards outside. I don't have a chance to forget about it.''

Even as the crews delved through the rubble of the Trade Center, another group of New Yorkers _ a federal grand jury _ assembled north of the city to seek those responsible for the airborne attack on the twin towers.

The grand jury, which would typically include 16 to 23 jurors, has been meeting in White Plains since last week. The community is part of the federal court system's Southern District of New York, which has historically led investigations related to Osama bin Laden, the prime suspect in the attacks.

News of the grand jury's activities came Tuesday as the number of confirmed dead climbed to 218, with a staggering 5,422 missing in the seven-story heap of rubble at the southern tip of Manhattan.

``We haven't changed from rescue to recovery,'' Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik said Wednesday morning on CBS' ``The Early Show.'' ``I think with every day, every hour and every minute that goes by, that hope diminishes. Right now it's not looking too good.''

On Tuesday, teams from the Federal Emergency Management Agency poked fiber-optic cameras into the gloom of what used to be a shopping concourse underneath the towers and found no one alive.

``We've got men and women down there just working their hearts out trying to get to individuals that may still be alive,'' FEMA director Joe Allbaugh said Wednesday on NBC's ``Today'' show. ``Every minute that goes by is a minute against us.''

A detective came out of the wreckage early Wednesday and described how the search crews paused for a moment to salute when the bodies of two police officers were pulled from the ruins.

But Police Department Deputy Commissioner Tom Antenen denied that. ``The report is not true,'' Antenen said. ``They have not recovered two police officers.''

Just 152 bodies have been identified _ little more than 2 percent of the dead and missing. More searchers are wearing ``Recovery'' badges on their uniforms, indicating they are looking for bodies and body parts.

``We don't have any substantial amount of hope we can offer anyone that we will find anyone alive. We have to prepare people for that overwhelming reality,'' Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said.

Giuliani led French President Jacques Chirac on a tour of the emergency command center Wednesday. The French leader, once the mayor of Paris, praised Giuliani and New Yorkers for their calm. Headlines in France referred to Giuliani as ``Rudy the Rock,'' Chirac said.

``I have special thoughts for the firemen,'' he said. ``So many of them paid with their lives. And also the police and the emergency workers.''

The day before, members of Congress, some of whom will be influential in getting more federal aid for the city, got a look at the recovery operation Tuesday from a short block away.

``I can't tell you how much this meant to us to really understand fully the dimensions of your problems,'' said Sen. Jim Jeffords, the Vermont independent.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said, ``When you see it close up, you see a completely different dimension.''

Gov. George Pataki proposed $12,000-a-year scholarships to New York's public colleges for families of victims of last week's terrorism, even those from other states and countries.

``I think the state of New York should make sure no family will suffer unduly because they happened to have been in the wrong place at the wrong time,'' state Assemblyman Edward Sullivan said. ``They were killed in our sted. They weren't singled out by terrorists, we were all singled out by terrorists.''