NEW YORK, Ny (FOX) - On a mission to bury the memory of Osama bin Laden by honoring those who died in the fiery Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, President Barack Obama on Thursday visited firefighters and police who lost colleagues at New York's Ground Zero and laid a wreath at the site.
"When we say we will never forget, we mean what we say," he said in brief comments to the firefighters and others at the station he visited in New York's theater district. The station lost 15 men during the attacks.
Obama plans to meet SEAL team members from the bin Laden operation at Fort Campbell, Ky., on Friday, sources told the AP.
In his brief New York remarks, the president never mentioned bin Laden's name.
"This is a symbolic site of the extraordinary sacrifice that was made on that terrible day," the president said at Engine 54, Ladder 4, Battalion 9.
At the First Precinct police station in lower Manhattan, the first on the scene on Sept. 11, Obama alluded to bin Laden's killing and said of those who died in the Sept. 11 attacks, "We keep them in our hearts. We haven't forgotten."
At Ground Zero, Obama laid the wreath at the foot of the so-called Survivor Tree, which sustained damage during the attack but was freed from the rubble.
.The president closed his eyes and clasped his hands at the outdoor memorial where the twin towers of the World Trade Center once dominated the Manhattan skyline.
He shook hands with 9/11 family members and others dressed in black at the site where the skyscrapers were brought down by planes commandeered by bin Laden's followers. Nearly 3,000 people were killed.
Among those attending the wreath-laying ceremony were New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Port Authority Chairman David Samson. Uniformed officers from the FDNY, NYPD and Port Authority also stood at attention along the pathway to the Survivor Tree. Other elected officials from the New York area and a group of 9/11 families also viewed the ceremony.
Obama was greeted by more than 1,000 well-wishers when his motorcade arrived at Ground Zero. Some screamed, jumped up and down, waved and flashed “V” signs with their fingers. The crowd was cordoned off from the site of the wreath-laying.
The president later held private talks with some 60 families of 9/11 victims.
At the Pentagon, Vice President Joe Biden led a similar wreath-laying ceremony at the site where another hijacked plane crashed into the nation's military headquarters.
Obama's New York visit comes after he sharply rejected calls to release photos of a slain bin Laden so the world could see some proof of death.
The president said he would not risk giving propaganda to extremists or gloat by publicizing grotesque photos of a terrorist leader shot in the head.
To those who keep on doubting, Obama said earlier this week, "You will not see bin Laden walking on this earth again."
His government, meanwhile, insisted the shooting of an unarmed bin Laden during a daring raid in Pakistan was lawful and in national self-defense.
Obama's New York visit was intended to have a measured tone — not a bookend to President George W. Bush's bullhorn moment, but more somber and private.
.White House spokesman Jay Carney called it a "cathartic moment for the American people."
At Ground Zero, Obama visited a bustling construction site that bears little resemblance to the pit that became ground zero in the months after Sept. 11, 2001.
The emerging skyscraper informally known as Freedom Tower is more than 60 stories high now. Mammoth fountains and reflecting pools mark the footprints of the fallen twin towers.
Thousands of people climbed street signs and waved flags in celebration after hearing that bin Laden was killed in Pakistan on Monday, which was Sunday night in New York.