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President to lay wreath at Ground Zero

President Barack Obama will participate in a wreath-laying ceremony at Ground Zero and meet with 9/11 families and first responders when he visits Thursday.
/ Source: NBC News and news services

President Barack Obama will participate in a wreath-laying ceremony at Ground Zero and meet with 9/11 families and first responders when he visits Thursday.

The White House provided the new details on the trip in a statement Wednesday.

Following the killing of Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, Obama plans to mark the occasion by visiting the most famous site of bin Laden's destruction.

The White House says Obama's trip will include a private meeting with family members of 9/11 victims, a meeting with first responders that will be open to some news coverage, and a wreath-laying at the 9/11 memorial.  

Obama invited former President George W. Bush to accompany him, but Bush declined.

"President Bush will not be in attendance on Thursday," . "He appreciated the invite, but has chosen in his post-presidency to remain largely out of the spotlight. He continues to celebrate with Americans this important victory in the war on terror."

Bush, whose presidency was defined by the al-Qaida-led Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States and the subsequent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, has largely maintained a low public profile since leaving office.

Bush plans to mark the 10-year anniversary of 9/11 at ground zero in September, NBC reported.

Flag-waving crowds have been gathering at the lower Manhattan site of the attack since Obama announced bin Laden's death late Sunday.

U.S. forces killed bin Laden during a raid on a compound in Pakistan where he had been hiding, then buried him at sea.

'Momentous achievement'
The former president did congratulate Obama in the immediate aftermath of bin Laden's death.

"This momentous achievement marks a victory for America, for people who seek peace around the world, and for all those who lost loved ones on September 11, 2001," he said in a statement.

In contrast to Bush, former vice president Dick Cheney has openly criticized the Obama administration. However, Cheney also congratulated Obama after the bin Laden news was released, saying it was a "good day for the administration."

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Tuesday that Obama also would be in New York for the 10th anniversary, at the formal opening of the national memorial to the nearly 3,000 people who died in the terrorist attacks.

"I certainly think it's terribly important for him to come on 9/11/11. And he will be there. At least the staff has told me that he will come," Bloomberg said at an unrelated City Hall news conference. "It's a very emotional moment in the country now. And I think it's perfectly appropriate for him to come."

The Democratic president visited the World Trade Center site along with Republican Sen. John McCain on the seventh anniversary of the attacks, when both men were vying for office. Since then, Obama has marked the anniversary each year at the Pentagon, while Vice President Joe Biden has attended ceremonies at ground zero.