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9/11 families to Obama: 'Thank you for doing what you promised'

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“Without a doubt, it certainly helps,” Alexander Santora, who lost his son, a firefighter, on 9/11 told the Monitor. “People keep asking, is there any kind of closure? There is never closure when you’ve lost a child, especially when you lose a child in such a horrific way. There is always a hole in your heart.”

It was a sentiment repeated by Obama. When he met with members of the New York Police Department, he told them he understood how hard it would be “to fill the hole that occurred as a consequence of losing folks you had worked with for so long.”

Some political observers say Obama got the tone right by keeping his New York visit low key and by concentrating on the families. He hugged women and men equally. He gave no formal speeches, although he did speak to the firefighters and police officers.

“This is the chief-of-state function, neutral, apolitical,” says Larry Sabato, a political commentator at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville.

“This is not a time to play politics,” agrees Leslie Sorrell of the Magnolia Group, political strategist in Dallas. But, she says, getting the tone just right is difficult. “We are in unprecedented waters here,” she says. “You’re not sure about the protocol.”

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