Putin was scheduled witness the first step in construction of the new memorial honoring those who died on during the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks and the attack on the World Trade Center in 1993 - a gift to Bayonne from the people of Russia.
Ophelia was at the same time making its way up the East Coast, stirring up clouds with threat of rain, and more than one of the 250 guests who attended the ground breaking looked to the sky to see if the clouds had darkened and whether people should seek cover against rain.
Fortunately for the event, the rain never came. But Putin, under heavy security and in a convoy of more almost a dozen vehicles, swept on the former Military Ocean Terminal to take his place among other dignitaries that included Acting Governor Albio Sires, U.S. Senator (and Democratic candidate for Governor) Jon Corzine, State Senator and Bayonne Mayor Joseph Doria and others - that included the designer of the memorial and world famous Russian artist Zurab Tsereteli.
The monument known as "To Struggle Against World Terrorism" is expected to become one more significant features on New York Harbor along with Statue of Liberty -- and is scheduled to be complete in time for fifth anniversary next year of the Sept. 11 attacks.
Tsereteli said he decided to create the piece after watching the 9/11 tragedy unfold on television and he saw people crying on the streets of Moscow.
Roland Kaplan, a Russian friend of the artist who lives in the United States, came to the event to support Tsereteli.
"He is the pride of Georgia, but he is an internationally recognized figure," Kaplan said. "He is in a class of his own."
Putin said the monument will serve as a symbol of Russian American unity against the threat of Terrorism.
"The perpetrators (of the attack) believed they would leave America, indeed, the entire world in chaos, but they miss-stepped," Putin said - through a translator. "On the contrary, the human race consolidated. We set up a very vigorous world-wide anti-terrorist coalition."
In an interview later, Former Bayonne Mayor Leonard Kiczek was impressed by Putin's stand, saying the terrorists campaigns had not stopped as witnessed by the attacks in London.
"The terrorists want to stop us from living our lives," he said. "We can't let that happen."
Bayonne helped Russia fight World War II
Doria in greeting Putin cited the historic connection between Bayonne and Russia.
"It is appropriate that we are here to thank you and the citizens of the Russian Federation and Zurab Tsereteli for the gift of this magnificent monument," Doria said. "We thank you for your friendship and for your sharing of our grief on the tragedy of 9/11.
Doria pointed out that the site where the memorial will be mounted is a former Naval base developed in World War II through which shipments of war materials were sent to Russia in the joint effort to defeat fascism.
"During World War Two this port sent materials and armaments to Europe and Russia, so it is appropriate that you as the president of the Russian Federation are here at a site where we worked together to destroy fascism and we will work together to destroy terrorism."
"I fully concur with the Mayor, that as we defeated Nazism together, we will defeat terrorism together," Putin said.
Doria presented Putin with two gifts, a proclamation that recognized Putin's contributions and the artist, and making Putin an honorary citizen of the City of Bayonne and a key to the city.
Turning a bad situation into good
Sires, serving as acting governor, welcomed both Putin and Tsereteli.
"This memorial certainly serves as an enduring testament of friendship and cooperation between our countries," Corzine said, and honored Putin for creating an opportunity for dialogue between the two countries. Corzine said he was grateful to be apart of it.
"I look forward to coming back next year to honor the 17 Bayonne residents who lost their lives, the honor all three 3,000. We must make a better world for our children as we go forward," Corzine said.
Corzine called this a special moment, and praised those who have turn tragedy into good for mankind, such as family members of 9/11 victims who have worked hard to create good. He also praised Putin and Tsereteli.
New Jersey Commerce Secretary Virginia Bauer, who lost her husband in the attack, represented the Sept. 11 families. Jennifer Jacobs, whose husband was also a victim of 9/11, spoke representing U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg.
Building the park won't be a problem
The monument to honor the victims of 9/11 will be situated in a 2-acre park on the north east corner of the former Military Ocean Terminal. Although Tsereteli designed the monument, the park is being designed by Dresdner Robin Engineering.
Fred Worstell of Dresdner Robin said the monument and park will be very impressive.
"This will have a very important place on the harbor," he said, though he predicted no major problems except for the larger than usual crane necessary to lift the 175-ton monument into place. The monument, he said, will have an unobstructed view of lower Manhattan, and because of the monument's height it will stand out for those passing by on boats - and will be a feature that greets newly arriving cruise ships to nearby Port Liberty.
While the cost of shipping the work and erecting it is being paid by the Russian government and the artist, the park is being paid for through a combination of funds that include a donation from Royal Caribbean International, which sails cruise ships out of Port Liberty within a few yards of the park, possible state funds and revenue from the city.
"We will over the next year build this memorial park and will dedicate it on Sept. 11, 2006," Doria said.
Vice President of the Bayonne Local Redevelopment Authority Henry Sanchez said, "The BLRA has spent the last seven years planning and preparing this property for redevelopment... I can think of no better way to improve the quality of life of our friends and neighbors than by giving them permanent access to this marvelous piece of property with its unparalleled views of New York Harbor."
Doria paid tribute, too, the Sept. 11 Bayonne Remembers Committee and its chairman, Frank Perucci.
Contact Al Sullivan at email@example.com