Across the United States, people paused on Sunday to honor the memory of those who died in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
Thousands gathered at New York’s ground zero, site of the World Trade Center, and stood still in silence, some crying as they listened to the names of victims attacks read aloud.
“They were our neighbors, our friends, our husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, children and parents,” said New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who, along with President Barack Obama, helped lead the commemoration on the 10th anniversary of the attacks.
“We have asked their families to speak their names out loud, to remind each of us about the person we lost in New York, in Washington and in Pennsylvania. They each had a face, a story, a life cut short from under them.”
A moment of silence spread across New York City at 8:46 a.m. — the time when American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Houses of worship tolled their bells.
The city observed another moment of silence at 9:03 a.m., when United Airlines Flight 175 struck the South Tower, and again at 9:59 a.m., the time the South Tower collapsed; at 10:03 a.m., the time of the Flight 93 crash in Shanksville; and at 10:28 a.m., the time the North Tower fell.
President Obama and former President Bush, along with their wives, both attended the ceremony and stood behind bullet-proof glass screens, a sharp reminder that the wound to America’s sense of security that was inflicted ten years ago has yet to heal.
Former President Bush read a letter sent by President Abraham Lincoln to a woman thought to have lost five sons in the Civil War. After President Obama had read Psalm 46 – “God is our refuge and strength,” those who lost loved ones in the attacks stepped forward to read names. In all, 2,753 people died on two airplanes and on the ground when the planes slammed into the World Trade Center towers, causing their collapse. That total does not include the 10 al Qaeda hijackers on board the planes.
In a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where Obama travelled from Ground Zero to lay a wreath, thousands of people marked a moment of silence at 10:03a.m., the moment United flight 93 flew into the ground after 40 passengers and crew lost their battle to seize control of the plane from the hijackers.
Sorrow filled the speeches in Shanksville but also celebration, at times marked with jingoism, for the “extraordinary heroism” of the 40 passengers and crew who prevented the hijackers going on to attack the Capitol in Washington.
President Obama and the first lady laid a wreath at the Flight 93 memorial, prompting cheers of “USA,” from the crowd.
In Washington, mourners observed a moment of silence at 9:37 a.m. — the moment American Airlines Flight 77 struck the Pentagon and killed 184 people. This was followed by remarks from Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen, Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta.
Biden spoke on the nation’s efforts to combat al Qaeda in the wake of the attacks, referencing the May assassination of its leader Osama bin Laden.
“Those in this building that day knew what they were witnessing,” Biden said. “It was a declaration of war by stateless actors bent on changing our way of life, who believed these horrible acts, these horrible acts of terror directed against innocents could buckle our knees, could bend our will, could begin to break us and break our resolve. But they did not know us. Instead, that same American instinct that send all of you into the breach between the fourth and fifth corridors galvanized a new generation of patriots, the 9/11 generation.”
At the ceremony, troops placed wreaths at the Pentagon memorial. En route to the Pentagon ceremony, Biden stopped by a Washington fire station.
Later, President Obama placed a wreath of white flowers on a stand at the “date line” of the memorial outside the vast building. He then paused and bowed his head in a moment of silence before he and his wife went to greet and take pictures with victims’ family members.
Obama also spoke on Sunday night during the Concert for Hope at the John F. Kennedy Center.
The total number of dead in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania was 2,977 people, not including 19 hijackers.
You can watch video of the New York commemoration here:
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