Mr. Obama, after a 90-minute lunch with former President Bill Clinton in Harlem, traveled far downtown to the former site of the World Trade Center and met Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg near the pit just before 4 p.m. A short time later, Mr. McCain and his wife Cindy arrived and shook hands with Mr. Obama and Mr. Bloomberg.
Then the two presidential nominees walked shoulder-to-shoulder down a long ramp toward the site, occasionally chatting along the way, as Mrs. McCain and Mayor Bloomberg walked behind. Michelle Obama was home in Chicago with the couple’s daughters on Thursday.
At the end of the ramp, the two senators greeted a small receiving line; each took a rose — Mr. Obama, a pink one, and Mr. McCain, a yellow one — and laid the flower on a reflecting pool at the bottom of the site. They stood silent for a few moments, each clasping his own fingers, and then shook hands with officers of the New York police and fire departments.
The four then walked back up the ramp, which was decked with flags of dozens of nations; Mr. McCain took his wife by the arm, while Mr. Obama walked with his hands behind his back as Mr. Bloomberg appeared to point out sights. Near their separate motorcades, the two men shook hands with several uniformed officers and thanked them for their service. They also posed separately for a couple of photographs by children and other onlookers, chatted with some of them, and accepted a couple of roses and notes.
At the end, Mr. McCain and Mr. Obama shook hands, and Mr. McCain could be heard saying to his rival, “All right sir, see you soon.” Both appeared cordial but somber.
The idea for the two rivals to appear together at ground zero originated last week during a telephone conversation between the men. When Mr. Obama called Mr. McCain to congratulate him on accepting the Republican presidential nomination, aides to both men said, Mr. Obama proposed the idea and Mr. McCain accepted.
The Republican and Democratic presidential nominees were also scheduled to speak and take questions separately at a televised forum on public service at Columbia University in New York City tonight.