Virtually all other world news, including the royal wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton, was displaced this week by the dramatic announcement by President Barack Obama on late Sunday night that American Special Forces – widely speculated to be Navy SEALs – had stormed a mansion in Abottabad, Pakistan and killed Osama bin Laden: leader of the terrorist organization al Qaeda; mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon that killed more than 3,000 people, and the world’s public enemy #1.

Four days after the news of bin Laden’s death, President Obama visited Ground Zero in lower Manhattan, where he met with family members of 9/11 victims and laid a wreath of red, white and blue flowers at the 9/11 memorial.

National Underwriter was in the crowd, among the thousands of New Yorkers who turned out to see the President and to share in a unique event where what is often termed “the saddest part of New York” turned, if only briefly, into the happiest.

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1. Security

Security was tight with a noticeable police presence. In addition to a small army of NYPD and Port Authority uniformed officers, numerous plainclothes officers mingled with the crowd. The Secret Service was also out in force. Sharpshooters were stationed on rooftops, but were not visible from ground level.

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A uniformed NYPD officer mingles with the crowd before President Obama’s arrival.

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K-9 units were also on hand, barking mainly at photojournalists who made it past the security barrier.

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Even for New York’s finest, the scene was a bit out of the ordinary.

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As President Obama’s arrival grew near, the Secret Service appeared in force, scanning the crowds and on high alert. Even when photographed from a distance, the Secret Service agents had an almost supernatural ability to sense they were being observed and homed in on anyone paying special attention to them.

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2. The media

Television crews set up at the intersection where President Obama’s motorcade passed both on the way to and on the way from the 9/11 memorial.

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Print, radio, television and online media were out in force, filming the crowds but also getting reactions and 9/11 stories from bystanders.

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National Underwriter associate editor Michael K. Stanley interviewed a number of bystanders on how 9/11 changed their views on the need for preparedness. Several people noted that immediately after the 9/11 attacks, they reviewed – and usually upgraded – their personal life insurance. One man said that it took 9/11 to make him realize that the group life he got from work simply was not sufficient for his planning needs.

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3. Opinion

While the mood at Ground Zero was a mixture of relief, celebration and reverence, not everyone felt those emotions equally.

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“Obama got Osama! God bless the Navy SEALs!”

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This international relations student told the Associated Press that she felt Osama bin Laden should have been captured and tried, rather than killed. “It bothered me when people cheered that the Towers fell,” she said, “and it bothered me when people in this country cheered that bin Laden was dead.”

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For many of the people in the crowd, the death of bin Laden re-opened emotional wounds from the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

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Evidence still remained from the night when President Obama announced bin Laden’s death, prompting late-night celebrations in lower Manhattan.

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Handmade signs like this one were commonplace across the scene, where the mood was clearly in favor of the President.

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4. We will rebuild

Meanwhile, construction continues on the Freedom Tower, scheduled for completion by Sept 11, 2011.

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Construction crews are working around the clock to complete the Freedom Tower on time. While crews are working double shifts, stopping only for mandatory rest breaks, they are adding one floor each day to the building.

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5. The maddening crowd

Despite large numbers and cramped conditions on the sidewalks, there was no jostling or raised voices. The atmosphere was one of excited anticipation mixed with reverence, relief and remembrance.

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Street merchants did a brisk business selling small flags, t-shirts and buttons.

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NYPD crowd control was in full effect. “You know this was coming,” this officer told the crowd with a smile, “we need you to move back, please.” The crowd, which had watched people across the street move back moments earlier, laughed and complied.

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“I wouldn’t have missed this for the world,” this man told National Underwriter. “It took ten years, but we finally got him. We got him.”

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Nearby office buildings offered a unique vantage point, far above the thick crowds on the street.

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Signage for Silverstein, the owner of the original World Trade Center, was present throughout the construction area. “They own everything down here,” one observer said. Legal disputes between Silverstein and its insurers over the property claim from the 9/11 attacks took years to resolve.

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6. Memories of 9/11

“What do we do? Save lives!” shouted members of the Bedford-Stuyvesant Volunteer Ambulance Corps as they gathered to march in formation up Church St. Members of the BSVAC were on the scene during the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, saving the life of a FDNY firefighter.

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Supporters of District Council 37, New York’s largest municipal public employee union, were out to remember their members who died on 9/11. Among them was New York Fire Department Chaplain Father Mychal Judge, officially listed as victim #1 of the 9/11 attacks. Numerous DC 37 members have experienced serious illness due to their exposure to toxic materials in the immediate aftermath of the World Trade Center collapse.

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Construction workers were present in large numbers, some of whom felt their involvement in building the Freedom Tower was as much a patriotic opportunity as a professional one.

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Throughout the crowd were reminders of those lost during the 9/11 attacks. Many of those who National Underwriter spoke to had either lost someone they knew on 9/11 or were were in the vicinity when the attacks occurred. “Today, the sky looks just like it did back in 2001,” one observer commented.

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Bystanders gathered on the front steps of St. Paul’s cathedral to get a better view of the President’s motorcade as it passed. The Cathedral was where the body of Father Mychal Judge was brought after he was killed by falling debris on Sept. 11, 2001.

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The Cross at Ground Zero stood in the background, a somber reminder of the tragedy of the 9/11 attacks which took the lives of more than 3,000 people in the World Trade Center.

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The welded inscription of the Cross at Ground Zero.

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Jeff Conway (left), a plumber who survived the 9/11 attacks, remembers that when the towers fell, “it was so loud, you didn’t hear anything.” When asked to describe what he saw that morning, he answered, “Things no civilized person should ever see.”

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Jeff Conway (left), a plumber working a block away from the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, remembers running from the first tower as it collapsed. “There was a wave of hot air from behind you, and it felt like you were being sandblasted.”

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7. Mr. President

A fleet of NYPD motorcycles forms the vanguard for the Presidential motorcade as Obama leaves Ground Zero.

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President Obama’s limousine, codenamed Stagecoach, passes St. Paul’s cathedral and the Cross at Ground Zero as it traveled up Vesey Street, just one block off of the Canyon of Heroes. Loud cheering greeted the Presidential motorcade as it passed by.