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Ground Zero opens to the public

Visitors have entered New York's 9/11 memorial for the first time as the site at ground zero opened its doors to the public.

The first group passed through metal detectors on their way to the huge square fountains at the centre of the eight-acre memorial plaza.

Bronze plates around the fountains feature the names of the 2,977 people killed in the September 11 attacks, as well as the six who died in the bombing of the trade centre in 1993.

Visitors have to register for tickets online. Some 7,000 people had tickets for the first day. About 400,000 have registered to visit during the coming months.

Families of victims had been able to visit the memorial on Sunday. Visitors were allowed to walk among hundreds of white oak trees on the site and gaze at the water on the exact spots where the World Trade Centre's twin towers stood.

Although thousands of building workers have come and gone from the site over the years, it was the first time that ordinary Americans without a badge, a press pass or a hard hat were able to walk the grounds where the victims were once entombed in a mountain of smoking rubble.

Admission is free, but access will be tightly controlled. Visitors need to obtain passes in advance, allowing them to enter at a specified time. No more than about 1,500 at a time will be allowed in.

Visitors will have to empty their pockets, walk through a metal detector and send their handbags and backpacks through an X-ray machine.

Much of the memorial complex is still under construction, including the museum portion. The museum pavilion, a tilting structure that evokes the sections of the trade centre facade that remained standing after the towers fell, is scheduled to open on the 11th anniversary of the attacks.

Eventually visitors to the underground portion of the complex will be able to gaze at such sights as the giant slurry wall, built to keep the Hudson River from flooding the trade centre's foundations, and the survivor's staircase that allowed so many people to flee to safety.

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From Belfast Telegraph