Fourteen-year-old Payton Wall really wanted to meet teen pop heartthrob Justin Bieber. She settled for Barack Obama.
The Rumson, N.J., teen and her family earned an invitation to Thursday's wreath-laying ceremony at Ground Zero after writing to the president about how she lost her father in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center.
"Justin Bieber inspired me to share my story," Payton told Manhattan news website DNAinfo.com after meeting the president.
"I wrote a letter to the president a few months ago. I talked about how I lost my dad on 9/11 and how I like Justin Bieber."
On Monday, as he does regularly, Obama read a batch of letters including the one from Payton. The president arranged for Payton to be invited to Thursday's ceremony.
When staff called Payton's mother, Diane Wall, she had no idea that Payton had written the president, the White House said. Payton, her 12-year-old sister, Avery, their mother and Payton's friend Madison Robertson, 14, who also lost her father on 9/11, attended the wreath-laying event.
Payton's father was Glen James Wall, a senior vice president at financial services firm Cantor Fitzgerald. He was among nearly 3,000 people who were killed when terrorists hijacked planes and crashed them into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a rural Pennsylvania field.
Obama soberly laid a wreath Thursday at the World Trade Center site, marking Osama bin Laden's death where his al-Qaida followers inflicted the greatest damage. The president gave no triumphal speech.
Obama then walked over to the Hall entourage, hugged the girls and shook hands with their mother and kissed her cheek.
"I was practicing my handshake all day, but he gave me a hug," Payton told DNAinfo.com.
"He told us he knows Justin" and that she could meet him some time soon.
"He said it was an honor to meet us. He's really cool," added Avery, according to DNAinfo.com
Obama spokesman Jay Carney told reporters traveling with the president on Air Force One that the trip was intended in part "to perhaps help New Yorkers and Americans everywhere to achieve a sense of closure with the death of Osama bin Laden."