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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Remembering 9/11

Aired September 11, 2011 - 07:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you all once again. Here at the top of the hour on this CNN SUNDAY MORNING -- a special edition coming to you live from Ground Zero in New York. We are, of course on, this tenth anniversary of September 11th.

The shot you're seeing there is of the World Trade Center One Tower being erected here. And, also, you're seeing the memorial pool, those reflecting pools. The memorial being dedicated today, the official 9/11 memorial. Those two huge pools will be open to the public to see starting tomorrow. They have the names of all the people who died as a result of the attacks on this day 10 years ago.

Of course, the thoughts today are to the victims and many of the victims' families and also to many of the firefighters, 343 that died as a result of attacks on this day 10 years ago. Soledad O'Brien is standing by at Riverside Park, expecting a special ceremony there to take place any time now.

Soledad, you take it away. Tell us what you are expecting to see.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely, T.J. So, we're at the Firefighters Memorial, which is about eight miles north of your location at Ground Zero. In 1913, they dedicated this quite beautiful memorial structure here. It's wonderful. It has two sculptures. One says sacrifice and one says duty.

And it's been a place where after the first anniversary of the attacks, firefighters started to come to try to honor their dead, the 343 firefighters who lost their lives in 9/11. And they wanted a place, they said, where there would nobody speeches, no politicians. That it would be just very simple, a way to remember people who gave up, you know, everything -- who made the ultimate sacrifice because they believed very strongly in doing their job, trying to rescue people.

So, once again, they will come here today to have a memorial. But it's no longer a small memorial because it's the tenth anniversary and because, T.J., they really are not invited to where you are at Ground Zero. We're expecting maybe thousands of people to come here at 100th Street and Riverside Drive to take part in the celebration.

So, this morning at 7:00 a.m., obviously, it's going to start any minute. You can see some of the shots. They're getting ready to start a wreath laying ceremony. The fire commissioner will do that and then he will make his way downtown for the start of the official event for Ground Zero for him and probably a long day for him.

But then we're expecting after that, many people to come and, starting a little bit later this morning, to join in those moments that are sort of the key moments of remembrance here, as well as the same times, obviously at Ground Zero are very important. One of the things that we've been told by the organizers and you can see it now -- they're putting the wreath into place with the number 343, representing, of course, the 343 firefighters who lost their lives.

On the grass on either side of this memorial, T.J., it's a shot we'll show you later, they've put these little sticks. And later, we'll see flags to be placed there. It's pretty stunning when you see the sheer number, each stick, of course, representing an individual who died on that day. And that, of course, is the fire commissioner and he is bringing the wreath up the stairs.

The start of the ceremony here at the Firefighters Memorial on 100th Street and Riverside Drive.

Through all this, T.J., is the start of the official ceremonies of the day. It's very simple and it's really what the five original firefighters who started this tradition after 9/11 wanted -- just to simply remember people who made the ultimate sacrifice.

HOLMES: And, Soledad, as we watch this and it's unfortunate there has to be any controversy today and you talked to some of these firefighters today. And I didn't get a sense in listening to them necessarily that they were bitter or angry. But at the same time, a little disappointed that they're not, you know, it will almost be shocking to some people around the country to hear, wait a minute, what? The firefighters aren't invited down to the ceremony this morning?

O'BRIEN: Yes. Well, they have a moment of prayer, remembering the 343 firefighters who lost their lives. I think that's a really accurate way to put it, T.J., which is they have not been invited down to Ground Zero, which means that for some, that's just disappointing. I think other people are angry, other firefighters are angry.

We heard from the fire commissioner, though, he said, listen, this is really not where the Fire Department would go anyway. That they felt that, you know, they'd go to their firehouses or they go to another place to have a moment of silence or a remembrance. He didn't feel like it was something that was a big deal in his mind.

But we've heard from some firefighters and firefighter families, just the idea of not being invited has the tone, if you will, of an insult. Mayor Bloomberg has said there's just not room at Ground Zero ceremonies where you are, T.J., and they can't have them.

That is the fire commissioner, Salvatore Cassano saying a few words. A small crowd has gathered, I would estimate several dozen people. On either side of where I am, five blocks to my south and 10 blocks to my north, they will be blocking off Riverside Drive because they're expecting thousands of people today. So, this very simple ceremony, the kickoff to the Ground Zero ceremonies and the kickoff for us as well to what we will be seeing here at the Firefighters Memorial -- T.J.

HOLMES: All right. Soledad, thank you so much. And as we see this picture of this ceremony, as she was mentioning there, this is just one of a number that will be happening today. This is really kind of starting off the day, this ceremony you're seeing here. We'll see several throughout the day. The next one, of course, is going to be starting at 8:30 here at Ground Zero.

The president we understand, President Obama is in the air on his way from Washington, D.C. here. He'll take part in the ceremony. Several moments of silence today, 8:46, the first moment of silence when the first plane hit the tower here at Ground Zero, another moment of silence at 9:03, another at 9:37, another at 10:03 -- those are the four times when the planes crashed 10 years ago.

Also, today, we will see at Washington, D.C., another ceremony taking place there. This is at the Pentagon you're seeing now. That huge American flag was unfurled just a short time ago. It will hang there throughout the day, reflecting the vice president as well as the defense secretary, Leon Panetta, to take part in the ceremony happening there around 9:30 Eastern Time.

And, of course, in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, today, they just dedicated phase one of the permanent memorial to the heroes of Flight 93 who helped bring down that plane so it wouldn't reach its intended target. President Obama after he leaves here in New York Ground Zero he'll head over to Shanksville, Pennsylvania, to be a part of the ceremony there. CNN, of course, will bring you all of the ceremonies live, right here.

Our Susan Candiotti has been joining me here this morning at Ground Zero. She joins me once again. Susan, as we're starting to see the sun come up at Ground Zero, a beautiful, cool morning this morning and families are starting to gather and it's starting to buzz, if you will, downstairs.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It really is a magnificent sight, isn't it? We've been here predawn. And now, you saw a lot of scurrying around, one of security, police gathering. And now, finally, it's a different sense as we get closer to the beginning of the ceremony.

I'm going to pan off camera just a bit now because you can see just a bit of how the streets remain closed to traffic here. That's another indication of how tight the security is around here. It is open only to foot traffic involving police officers, families who are coming here by bus and other invited guests and dignitaries. And they are escorted by bus to a certain spot. They get off the bus and walk down the street to the beginning of the platform.

Among these family members, of course, are those who have lost loved ones, also relatives and survivors. And for the very first time this morning, they will get to walk on this plaza -- many of them were here just a year ago when it looked nothing like this, the amount of progress is really stunning. But now, they see the reflecting pools finished. They see the water running and they will be able to touch and feel for the very first time the names of those who died here, etched in bronze, around the rim those reflecting pools, which of course mark the foot prints the World Trade Center towers.

That is what the families will get to experience for the very first time as well as what they do every year -- reading the names of their loved ones who passed away. Some of them carry photographs of them as well, wearing t-shirts with the name of those who died. It's a remarkable ceremony every year, even more so this year, T.J.

HOLMES: All right. Susan Candiotti, thank you so much.

And it's important to note as we are stopping to pause -- the security is quite jarring and unsettling in some ways. It's the security like really New York which has seen plenty of security scares over the years. And they're used to dealing with police presence. Well, it's even ramped up eastern more.

As you know, this is coming at a time where we are under a new threat. We are being told possibly there's a plot to coincide with the 9/11 anniversary. We just showed you a shot a moment ago. We have spotted snipers on the roof in some places. We knew that was beginning to happen.

But Ground Zero and New York in a lot of ways under security like they have never seen before because of this anniversary and also because of this new possible threat that security officials are still checking out. We'll have more on that throughout the morning.

But just a gorgeous morning as the sun begins to rise in New York and on Ground Zero, in particular. Coming up, Candy Crowley will be joining me live right here on set. She'll be taking over at 8:00 Eastern Time. But she'll join me with a preview in just a moment.

And also this morning, we'll be looking back at some of the defining moments, really some of the moments of this day 10 years ago, including some of the news coverage of that day. Take a look and listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: American 11, turn 20 degrees right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Twenty right, American 11.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: American 11, if you hear Boston Center ident please or acknowledge.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have some planes, just stay quiet and you'll be OK. We are returning to the airport.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This just in. You are looking at obviously a very disturbing live shot there. That is the World Trade Center. We have unconfirmed reports that a plane has crashed into one of the towers of the World Trade Center.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HOLMES: Quarter past the hour now on this CNN SUNDAY MORNING, a special edition, coming to you from Ground Zero.

I'd like to say good morning to Candy Crowley.

Talk to you every Sunday and nice to be sitting next to you for a change. But, can you believe it's been 10 years? I hear that from so many people, wow, it's 10 years.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Ten years, and sometimes it seems like a century ago. And other times you think, especially being up here in New York, I have to say, it does seem a lot closer than 10 years. I'm sure it does for these families.

HOLMES: And 10 years ago, of course, you were and we all were, I guess you could say, even if we were off work, you got to work pretty quickly that day. But you were on a plane September 11th.

CROWLEY: Elizabeth Dole was announcing her Senate run in North Carolina and we were on route from Washington to Charlotte. I remember looking at my watch right as we touched down was 8:45. And, of course, the first plane hit the North Tower at 8:46, got off the plane, checked in at the desk. Keep going, there's a plane, something ran into the -- one of the Twin Towers. But keep going. By the time we got to the rental car, it was come home.

HOLMES: Yes.

CROWLEY: And, of course, you couldn't get home by plane. So, we rented a car.

The weirdest thing I have to say on that day was driving north toward Washington and we -- you know, should we go straight to New York, back to Washington, et cetera, et cetera, was all of these signs, digital signs that they can change that said Washington, D.C. closed. And we kept looking at each other thinking, how -- what do you mean Washington, D.C. is closed? Like how do you do that? It was very weird.

HOLMES: All right. On this day, we are, of course, remembering what happened. Remembering the attacks, but we're also getting a fresh reminder of how our world has changed with living under constant threat, quite frankly. This country has been on a heightened state after letter for the past 10 years, literally.

But, now, we're being told there's a possible attacks, a possible threat now, an attack on the 9/11 anniversary. How does that even change our dynamic today, not just the security dynamic but our mindset on a day we got enough to remember and think back on? But now, we have a fresh reminder of the world we live in? CROWLEY: Sure. We've had the suicide bomber in Afghanistan already toward coalition forces it seems. What strikes me is not so much that we're on alert because, frankly, most people still don't know exactly what that means. You look suspiciously at a suitcase or whatever it happens to be, but that it's so a part of the thing.

HOLMES: Yes.

CROWLEY: You know, I didn't have one relative say to me, maybe this says more about my family or anything, say to me, you're going to New York. They've got this -- it's a part of life now. And I don't think I thought twice about coming up here. I had one be careful from my son. But mostly, it's like it's just a part of the fabric now of how we live, especially on these of anniversary days, big old targets.

HOLMES: And, certainly, New York, and the people of New York, more so than anybody in this country, they live with it, day in, day out. They talk about some of the inconveniences, really, of the security shutdown over the past couple of days.

But so many others we talked to simply say, yes, did anything blow up? No, it didn't. We're safe? Block whatever street you need to block, do whatever you need to do.

CROWLEY: Somebody tweeted in New York saying, you know, I was going to come down for dinner tonight but now I'm not going to come, not because I'm scared, because the traffic is so bad. They did all of these checkpoints.

HOLMES: And a gorgeous, as you sit here, starting to see the sun hit your face here, just a gorgeous, gorgeous shot of the sun rising here at Ground Zero. We're just a few minutes away.

Candy will be back at the top of the hour, 8:00 Eastern Time, along with Anderson Cooper, to continue our coverage, showing all the remembrances around the country.

Good to see you.

CROWLEY: Good to see you, T.J.

HOLMES: And to our viewers, a quick break. But in just a moment, we'll let you hear some of the stories from the firefighters from this day 10 years ago. Those firefighters who, of course, did that heroic work and were finding people in the rubble.

Stay with us for this special edition of CNN SUNDAY MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HOLMES: Good morning once again, from Ground Zero, this special edition of CNN SUNDAY MORNING, and just a gorgeous morning.

You have heard the stories. And that's what everybody will tell you, it was a morning like no other, September 11th 10 years ago, just a gorgeous, beautiful morning -- maybe like the one we're having this morning where it looked like nothing could go wrong and then, all of a sudden, the country and the world changed and so many lives changed along with it.

Now, we have been talking a lot this morning about the families, the victims, the first responders and in fact, the firefighters.

But, now, I want you to listen to some of the firefighters telling some of the stories in their own words of what they went through that day going through the rubble.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIM RICHES: March 25th, 2002, we're down there and we had found the helmet, my son's helmet was crushed. It had the 114 on it and he had his name on it. So, we knew he'd probably be nearby. With that, a whole crew of us got down there on our hands and knees and dug, you know, with our hands.

And usually, we had the big grapples, once we found that, we came in and that's we would move in and found his turnout coat, his turnout pants and his boots. Decomposition had set in. It was naturally six months later. And we wrapped his body in an American flag, put him in a body bag, wrapped him in an American flag, just like we did all the people that died down there.

We wrapped him in American flags and put them on their stretchers and we had a procession out and we lined up all the men, everybody stopped. There was no digging. My three sons came, my one son Timmy was in the fire department then. They brought him down. My other two sons were young and were at home. And I called up and they came over.

TOMMY RICHES: We were actually (INAUDIBLE). My dad brought us down there and we were all actually able to carry him out.

DANNY RICHES: There was a lot of emotion and it was sad and everybody at the site, we went down and everybody was very respectful. You feel the love there from a lot of the guys, the cops, port authority cops, everyone. Everyone was just together like family. You know, you could feel the support.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My dad was there at next day after the funeral making sure he could help the fathers and help the other people, find them. He didn't just give up. We made sure everyone got to go home, you know?

TIMMY RICHES: They stayed until the end. They got every last person out of there. Some days I just couldn't go down there. My body was just -- emotionally and physically you were destroyed. And he -- I don't know how he did it for the year that he did do it.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

HOLMES: That is from "9/11: Portraits of Resilience." That is an HBO special that will be airing a little later this morning.

Also a little later this morning, actually coming your way at the top of the hour, CNN's special live coverage of 9/11 will continue. The main ceremony, I guess you could say here at Ground Zero will take place at 8:30. President Obama expected to land here in New York shortly. And he will make his way here to Ground Zero to take part in the ceremony.

Former President George W. Bush will be here as well.

But, right now, we just have a gorgeous sun rising on Ground Zero on this September 11th morning, on this tenth anniversary. We can see the family members gathered for the ceremony. And this is the day the memorial will be dedicated today here at Ground Zero.

Also, a live picture we're showing you as well of the capitol, Washington, D.C., ceremonies taking place there as well.

Stay with us for our live coverage of this September 11th anniversary.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HOLMES: Good morning once again on another gorgeous September morning -- September 11th, 2011 now, 10-year anniversary of those attacks.

The sun is coming up on what is just a gorgeous, gorgeous New York morning. Many people will tell you it was just like this. It was a gorgeous September morning, 10 years ago today when it looked like nothing in the world could go wrong and then, all of a sudden, the world changed.

Because of what happened here at Ground Zero and Washington, D.C. and Shanksville, Pennsylvania, the world changed, and the course of the lives of many American men and women changed, our military men and women.

Our Suzanne Malveaux has been visiting with our troops in Kabul, Afghanistan. She joins me once again.

Suzanne, hello and how do they plan on marking this day?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: T.J., it's a beautiful sunny day here as well in Kabul, Afghanistan. It's been kind of a quiet day for many soldiers. We've seen many of them have come up to this circle here. There are flags behind here, about 35 flags representing the nations of the international coalition.

This is where they'll be holding a formal ceremony. They've had several rehearsals. It's clear that they're taking this day very seriously.

It's going to start in earnest about 5:00 p.m. That is local time, about 8 1/2 hours ahead of you. And there will be a moment of silence at 5:16 local time. That is the time that the first plane hit the first Twin Tower.

And what does this mean for the men and women here? For a lot of them, it is the reason they are here. It's the reason they join the military.

There are others I spoke to who were in elementary school on that day. And they just remember getting out of school early and watching TV and having their parents explain to them what terrorism means and what terrorism is. And there are many of these guys, some who were in the Pentagon at the time of the attacks who have feelings that are very raw, very real, as they talk about every day, thinking about that day, thinking about that moment of the attack and what it means to them professionally as well as personally, T.J.

HOLMES: All right. And also a reminder on this day as well, Suzanne, of what they are fighting for. There was an attack in Eastern Afghanistan. Tell us about that.

MALVEAUX: You're right, because there's a certain sense of anxiety, anticipation, what to expect today, if there was going to be nay kind of retaliation.

Well, it happened on the eve of September 11th. It was just last night about 5:30 local time. We are told it happened about 60 miles west of where we are. It was a combat outpost, a truck bomb that exploded, two Afghan civilians were killed. There were a lot of injuries, T.J., you're talking about 77 from the international coalition, about 25 Afghan civilians. Mostly minor injuries, but nevertheless, a lot of people involved in this.

We had an opportunity this morning to talk to General John Allen. He is the head of the U.S. and NATO mission here in Afghanistan. It was an exclusive interview. And he told us what he believes this attack means and also the threat, the mission that is taking place here in Afghanistan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEN. JOHN ALLEN, CMDR. U.S. AND NATO FORCES, AFGHANISTAN: I think it really indicates much more about what the Taliban are unable to do than what they're able to do. This attack was a high-profile attack. It was a pretty significant suicide vehicle bomb. But they had been ejected from the population in so many places around the country, that their only ability to influence the battlefield in many cases, on many occasions, is simply high-profile attacks.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: And T.J., the general also acknowledged that, look, this is a long fight. It is a long haul. That there are still threats around the world. That the Taliban if they are going to try to get to Americans or others, that there are ways to they can do that. So they're still very much in the fight.

The main goal now here is to try to get the Afghans up to speed to make sure that they can have their own security, provide and protect their own people. That by the end of 2014, that is the goal when U.S. and NATO combat troops come home.

But General Allen also said, look, we're going to be in this for the long haul. We're going to have a huge civilian effort. There are going to be trainers here. There's going to be military here for years and years to come, to make sure that this country is stable, that the Taliban and al Qaeda do not gain power again and use this country as a safe haven and that there will be other hot spots in other places that the U.S. military is going to be critical - T.J.

HOLMES: All right. Suzanne Malveaux for us in Kabul. Thank you this morning.

And as we continue our coverage on this 10th anniversary of 9/11, starting to hear bagpipes in the distance. The ceremonies are well under way here. We are seeing a number of them take place already this morning.

And then at 8:30, that is when the president is expected here. President Obama along with the former President George W. Bush taking part in the 9/11 memorial ceremony here at Ground Zero. We will bring you all of those ceremonies throughout the day, here in Washington, D.C. as well as in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

But coming up next, we'll join our Soledad O'Brien once again, talking to one of the survivors of this day 10 years ago. Stay with us.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): There as you can see, perhaps the second tower, the front tower, the top portion of which is collapsing. Good lord. There are no words.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOLMES: Welcome back to this Special Edition of CNN SUNDAY MORNING on this 10th anniversary of September 11th.

Going to give you a look down at the memorial site. The memorial, those huge reflecting pools dedicated today at a ceremony that starts at 8:30 Eastern Time. You can see people starting to collect. Many of the family members of people who were lost were invited today. They will be there for the ceremony.

Also, President Obama will be delivering remarks, as well as former President George W. Bush. That gets under way at 8:30 Eastern Time. And then at 8:46, of course, the moment when the first plane crashed into the tower here at Ground Zero. And we'll stop for a moment of silence. And we will hear bells toll across the city.

There are so, so many stories from this day 10 years ago. I want to join our Soledad O'Brien once again standing by with one of the survivors of this day.

Good morning to you once again, Soledad.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, T.J. Good morning to you. Yes, over my shoulder, they are starting to lay out the flags for the Firefighters Memorial Celebration that's going to happen here. It's going to begin in a couple hours. They have the first wreath laying not long ago. And they're putting those flags up, one to represent each firefighter, 343 who lost a life on 9/11.

Nicole Simpson, though, is a survivor. She was working on the 73rd floor of Tower Two when the first plane hit Tower One. And so, she started making her way out of the building, going out the stairs.

After that, of course, the story changes. Nice to have you, thanks for talking with us.

NICOLE B. SIMPSON, 9/11 SURVIVOR: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: They made an announcement that the building was secure and started telling everybody to go back up to their offices. So you started heading back upstairs. What happened?

SIMPSON: Well, they made at announcement but they didn't indicate that we could go back upstairs. But I thought, well, if it was secure then I didn't have to evacuate at that time.

And so when we got down to the 44th floor, because my two assistants and my receptionist was with me, then we made the decision to go back upstairs, got on the elevator and instinctively got off the elevator. And I'll just say it was really a divine intervention, an act of God that pulled us off of that elevator.

O'BRIEN: Why did you decide not to get on the elevator?

SIMPSON: Well, I just instinctively felt that we didn't need to get on the elevator. I'm really, again, I attributed it to being a miracle in my life and being an act of God.

O'BRIEN: What happened to that elevator?

SIMPSON: Well, the elevators came crashing down not even 30 seconds later. And the door that I was standing in front of didn't open.

But people alongside of me, they perished, because when the Tower Two was hit, the elevators, when they came crashing down, fire walls began to explode just based off of the impact. So people alongside of me did not fare well because the elevator I was standing in front of did not open.

O'BRIEN: You have said that you feel like there has not been a lot of attention given to survivors' stories over the last 10 years.

SIMPSON: It hasn't. I mean, much information has been given and compassionate empathy to the families of the deceased and the first responders, justifiably so. But the survivors have had endured some trauma and some personal issues themselves that that story has not been addressed. And my concern is that every year when 9/11 rolls around, there's attention that's granted to it. But we're still trying to heal. We're still trying to get our lives together again. Many people are significantly depressed, have lost their jobs, lost their places of residence because they've not been able to cope with just the trauma of what they've endured, the images that are forever etched in my mind.

O'BRIEN: So anniversaries like this, is it just brutal for you to make it through this month?

SIMPSON: Well, I think it depends on the given year. I mean, some years are easier for others to cope with. And I think it's really based off of what's going on in their lives.

Like I can tell you, year five, there was a lot of media attention given to it. But year seven was my absolute worse year. And then, of course, this year it started a lot earlier because a decade is a long time to evaluate what's been going on in an individual's life. So it's a perfect opportunity to reflect and we do that in our own lives.

O'BRIEN: T.J., Nicole has written a book, it's called "9-11-01, A Long Road Towards Recovery," where she wrote a lot about her experiences. And I should mention that the survivors, also, people who did not lose a family member on 9/11, those survivors also are not invited to the ceremonies at Ground Zero where you are, which I think some of them have found very, very difficult.

The only thing I'll add to you is, you know, I remember that day so clearly. And it was actually - there was not a cloud in the sky. It was much warmer than today. It was literally the most perfect day. And, of course, everything would change not long after 8:30 in the morning.

Back to you, T.J.

HOLMES: Yes. Another gorgeous day. Certainly a little cooler today. But just a picture here and we're trying to share, Soledad, with our view areas across the country as much as we can, this picture and trying to bring them in and be a part of this ceremony.

So many people will be a part of it down there today. Thousands of people expected down here at Ground Zero today to be a part and many of them, no, they wouldn't be right up to the podium. Many of them wouldn't be able to get close. Many of them not invited to the official ceremony.

But still, people just want to be down here and be a part of what's happening today for this country. But it is just a gorgeous, gorgeous morning once again.

Now, so much attention will be focused on New York, but also the Pentagon and Washington, D.C., as well as Shanksville, Pennsylvania. We'll be checking in at the Pentagon and in Washington, D.C., here in just a moment on this Special Edition of CNN SUNDAY MORNING. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HOLMES: Now, we're at about a quarter to the top of the hour here on this CNN SUNDAY MORNING.

Coming to you live this morning from Ground Zero in New York, where just about 45 minutes we're expecting a ceremony to start, a ceremony that will include President Obama and former President Bush as the nation stops to remember those who died in the attacks of 9/11. Two thousand seven hundred fifty-three people died as a result of the attacks here, on the Twin Towers in New York.

But also, at 9:37 that morning, 10 years ago, another plane struck at the Pentagon, 184 people were killed there. We'll also see ceremonies taking place there today and in D.C. for us this morning is our own Wolf Blitzer. Wolf, good morning to you and what are we expecting to see?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN LEAD POLITICAL ANCHOR: We're going to see a very moving ceremony here at the Pentagon, T.J. Later this morning, the Vice President Joe Biden will be here. In the afternoon, the president of the United States will come over here to the Pentagon as well. But that will be much later in the day.

That American Airlines Flight 77 that have take - that took off from Dulles - Washington Dulles International Airport right outside of Washington, 8:20 A.M. it was on its way to Los Angeles, to L.A.X. It made an unexpected u-turn, as we all know, hijacked by five terrorists, al Qaeda terrorists and crashed into the Pentagon behind me at 9:37 A.M. That's when there will be a moment of silence.

There were 125 victims on board - at the Pentagon, I should say, 59 people were on board. And in addition, there were those five hijackers, 184 victims of this terrorist attack, exactly 10 years ago today.

And there will be a very moving ceremony, the U.S. Military, the Army and the Navy will be performing renditions of "Amazing Grace," "Battle Hymn of the Republic" and we will hear from the Vice President of the United States.

So many of those family members who survived, so many of the victims' family members will be here as well. And there's a memorial, a series of benches, honoring all those who died here at the Pentagon 10 years ago on this very day.

So we'll be watching it, T.J., very closely. We'll have live coverage, obviously of all of the events here in New York, in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. It's going to be one of those days a lot of us remember.

And certainly as we look back 10 years ago, almost everyone watching I'm sure remembers exactly where they were when they heard that very, very disturbing news. So our coverage will be extensive throughout the morning here - T.J.

HOLMES: All right. Wolf, thank you so much. We'll check in with you again.

And to our viewers, we are getting close to the top of the hour, getting close to the first ceremony that will be taking place here. And that includes the president. The president is stopping here, but also he's going to be making his way to Shanksville, Pennsylvania, that, of course, where those 40 brave passengers took that plane down to make sure it didn't reach its intended target.

But also, another big part of the story of 9/11 has not just been what happened that day but what happened afterwards and some of the health effects for some of the firefighters and other, the first responders who responded right down here to Ground Zero. We'll be checking in with our Sanjay Gupta for that part of the story in just a moment.

Stay with us for our Special Coverage of this CNN SUNDAY MORNING, the 10th anniversary of September 11th.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HOLMES: Now, as we approach the top of the hour on this CNN SUNDAY MORNING, the 10th anniversary of September 11th, and it is turning out to be a beautiful September morning once again. A little cool this morning, but the sun has come up on Ground Zero.

We have families and other people coming down here to take part of the ceremony. The president is on his way here. He'll be taking part in the ceremony that starts at 8:30, Eastern Time. We'll certainly see it right here in CNN. But many people starting to collect, coming down to remember, to reflect. Also to dedicate today the 9/11 memorial, those huge reflecting pulls that are now going to be opened to the public starting tomorrow.

Now, in all of the stories that came out of 9/11, one of them that also came out was about the health effects of some of the first responders. Our own Sanjay Gupta, who's also here in New York at Ground Zero, joins me now.

Sanjay, good morning to you. And this story is one we didn't know about immediately after 9/11. It took us some years to figure out, really.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, but a lot of people suspected it at the time, T. J. Because, you, like me and so many others saw so much of that toxic dust that over Lower Manhattan, and there was obviously this real push to try and do as much work as possible at that time, even search and recovery missions.

But there was also a lot of people breathing in that dust. They suspected there might be health problems, but as you say, we now have better evidence 10 years later than we've had in the past of exactly what that dust did to some of the people.

One of the most contentious issues, T. J., is the issue surrounding cancer. You know, if you talk to workers around here, they'll tell you that they believe there is a link such as Ernie Vallebuona. I sat down with him over the last year to try and document what's been happening. Take a listen, T. J.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ERNIE VALLEBUONA, FIRST-RESPONDER TO GROUND ZERO: Camp right to the top of that mountain up there, a couple of -

GUPTA (voice-over): Why him and not me? That question often crosses the minds of these two friends - Ernie Vallebuona and Bernie Kelly. Former vice cops with the New York City Police Department. Partners, they arrived at Ground Zero within hours of the collapse.

VALLEBUONA: We were watching the teams of firemen go in with their tools and their scout packs, and they would just disappear right before our eyes and -

GUPTA (on camera): So like the distance I am to you?

VALLEBUONA: Yes. Yes, that would - pretty much your hand would be like where your partner would disappear as you walked into that dust. And, as we were walking in, and I had to hold onto his - the hood of his - his jacket, and he would disappear and I would lose him, and I wouldn't even know where I was going.

BERNIE KELLY, FIRST-RESPONDER TO GROUND ZERO: We - nobody had any kind of respirators, any - in the police department, anyway. We didn't have any kind of respirators. So we were trying to just like wrap bandannas around our faces.

GUPTA (voice-over): In a statement, the City of New York said emergency management experts and contractors, "Quickly implemented safety protocols, including the requirement that respirators be worn, and that despite overwhelming logistical challenges, several hundred thousand respirators were made available to workers within a week." But the reality for Vallebuona and his partner is that they never got one.

Three years after 9/11, Vallebuona was sick.

(on camera): You're pretty convinced that your partner got sick because of what he saw and what he went through at Ground Zero?

KELLY: I'm not a scientist. I'm not a doctor. But there were too many of my friends, including Ernie, who were getting these strange diseases that nobody could say where they came from or -

GUPTA: Do you wonder why you didn't get sick?

KELLY: Yes. All the time. You know, I mean, Ernie's standing here, another guy's standing here. Both these guys got sick, and I didn't.

GUPTA (voice-over): There was that question again - why him and not me?

And another mystery that lingers as persistently as the memories of the dust that enveloped them 10 years ago, could that dust cause cancer?

VALLEBUONA: I called him from the hospital and I said, Bernie, I'm not going to be coming back to work. They found an 11-centimeter mass inside my abdominal area, and they believe it's cancer.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GUPTA: Reality of the lives, T.J., for so many of these responders and, again, we're seeing more studies than ever about this association between dust and cancer.

T.J., there is some of the dust here and thankfully it's one of the few reminders that are left of what happened here 10 years ago, but this was a whole unique substance, T.J. That was sort of the point and you had this amalgamation of chemicals, benzene and titanium, jet fuel, all of it lingering over the city for so long, people breathing it in. Oftentimes you just heard they're unprotected and that's a problem.

And people have analyzed this dust and it's a mixture like they have never seen before, T.J.

HOLMES: All right. Sanjay Gupta, thank you so much. Good to see you.

I'm going to be handing this over to Anderson Cooper and Candy Crowley here in just a moment. As we approach the top of the hour here on this special edition of CNN SUNDAY MORNING on this 10th anniversary of September 11th.

We are getting set for a ceremony taking place at the bottom of the hour, 8:30 eastern Time, that's when the president and former President George W. Bush, will take part in the 9/11 memorial ceremony here at Ground Zero. Stay with us for the special coverage.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HOLMES: A day of remembrance is under way on this 10th anniversary of September 11th here at Ground Zero where I am.

The families are starting to gather, the firefighters, first responders are gathered here to remember what happened here 10 years ago today. But it's not just here in New York. Also in Washington, D.C. as well as in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, and really all across the country, the country will stop to remember what happened on this day.

I want to thank you for being with us for this Special Edition of CNN SUNDAY MORNING. Stay with CNN now as our continuing coverage and our special coverage of the 10th anniversary of September 11th continues with Candy Crowley and Anderson Cooper.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can't breathe much longer. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I copy that.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The images still shock. The heart break still hurts. For 10 years, we've lived with the scars, the fear, the proud moments. 9/11/2011, this morning we take time to remember to hear stories seldom told -

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anyone who want to help with the evacuation along Manhattan, report to (INAUDIBLE) island.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When that call came on the radio, they were coming.

COOPER: To look at how we've started to rebuild and to witness the determination, the resilience of America 10 y ears later.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon.

(END VIDEOTAPE)