New York Twin Towers: Remembered 11 Years Later

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Eleven years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks horrified the nation, the families and friends of the thousands who perished have gathered at Ground Zero, the Pentagon and in rural Pennsylvania to remember their loved ones.

At the World Trade Center site, relatives clasped pictures of loved ones, while others brandished signs reading names and messages of love. Bagpipers played as police watched guard over the memorial pools and a giant flag unfurled on Freedom Tower.

 

More than 1,000 relatives of those killed and others gathered for the annual reading of the list of 2,983 people killed at the three sites.

The reading began at 8:39 a.m., with pauses for moments of silence at 8:46 a.m., 9:03 a.m., 9:37 a.m. and 10:03 a.m., the time of impact for the four planes, and again at 9:59 a.m. and 10:28 a.m., the times that the north and then the south tower fell.

 

Alyson Low, 41, of Fayetteville, Arkansas, carried a picture of her sister, Sara Elizabeth Low, who was a flight attendant on American Airlines Flight 11, the first plane to crash, striking the trade center's north tower. 'I'm tired,' Low said, tearfully. 'I am just so tired.'

 

'I feel much more relaxed' this year, said Jane Pollicino, who came to ground zero Tuesday morning to remember her husband, who was killed at the trade center.

 

'After the ninth anniversary, that next day, you started building up to the 10th year. This feels a lot different, in that regard. It's another anniversary that we can commemorate in a calmer way, without that 10-year pressure.'

At the somber day's biggest venue in lower Manhattan, the observance was missing a key feature from years past: politicians' voices.

 

'We've gone past that deep, collective public grief,' Charles G. Wolf, whose wife Katherine, was killed at the trade center, told NBC. 'And the fact that the politicians will not be involved, to me, makes it more intimate, for the families. ... That's the way that it can be now.

 

In previous years, politicians including U.S. presidents, state governors and New York City mayors have participated in the reading of the names, or have read from the Bible or recited passages from literature.

This year, only the families of the more than 2,750 who were killed when militant Islamist hijackers crashed two jetliners into the World Trade Center's Twin Towers, causing their collapse, are appearing on the podium to read their names.

 

Politicians may still attend, but under event rules set down in July by the National September 11 Memorial and Museum, chaired by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, none may speak or participate in the reading of names. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano will attend the New York ceremony this year.

The restrictions will not extend to politicians at the other remembrances, however.

 

At the Pentagon outside of Washington, where more than 180 were killed when a hijacked plane was flown into it, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and President Obama spoke in a ceremony that will be closed to the public, attended only by victims' families.

 

In a moving speech, the president praised the strength of the families and reflected how the country's 'darkest day' had given way 'to a brighter dawn'.

'Eleven times we have marked another September 11,' he said. 'Eleven times we have paused in remembrance in reflection in unity and in purpose. This is never an easy day but it is especially difficult for all of you - the families of nearly 3,000 innocents who lost their lives. The rest of us cannot begin to imagine the pain you have endured.

He continued: 'But no matter how many years pass... you will never be alone. Your loved ones will never been forgotten. They will endure in the hearts of our nation - through their sacrifice they helped make the America we are today. The America that has emerged even stronger.'

 

He added that, since September 11, the country has 'dealt a crippling blow' to Al Qaeda and terrorism.

'Tragedy has brought us together,' he said. 'This anniversary allows us to renew our faith that even the darkest day gives way to a brighter dawn... Even though we may never be able to fully lift the burden of those left behind, we know somewhere a son is growing up with his father's eyes and a daughter with her mother's smile.

'No single event can destroy who we are. no act of terrorism can change what we stand for.'

 

Addressing the crowd before Obama, Penetta paid tribute to the strength of the victims' families, who he branded heroes, and lauded the service workers who lost their lives while saving the lives of others.

'Eleven years ago on a morning very much like this, terrorists attacked symbols of American strength - our economy and our commerce, our military might and our democracy and took the lives of citizens from more than 90 countries,' he said. 'It was the worst terrorist attack on America in our history.

'Today people gather across the united states, around the world to remember the events of 9/11... Coming together as one family we pause to honour and pray those who died. Family members here today know that the entire nation joins you in mourning for the loss of your loved ones.'

 

He also recounted the 'spirit of selflessness and spirit of determination' of the passengers on Flight 93 who fought the terrorists - and reflected on how it showed 'the will of Americans to fight for their country'.

Vice President Joe Biden will deliver remarks in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where 40 passengers aboard United Flight 93 were killed when that plane crashed as they revolted against their hijackers.

 

'How we handle the legacy of these 40 people and what they did, what they kept from happening, is really more of a statement about ourselves, about what we value as a society,' said Patrick White, current president of Families of Flight 93. White's cousin, Joey Nacke II, was among the passengers who stormed the cockpit.

 

U.S. authorities say the al Qaeda hijackers planned to crash that plane into the U.S. Capitol in Washington.

Like so many of the previous anniversary dates, this year's ceremonies promise to unfold beneath blue skies and cool, early fall temperatures, conditions reminiscent of those on the morning of the 2001 attacks that claimed nearly 3,000 lives at the three sites.

 

In New York, moments of silence are underway to signal the times of impact of each plane: at 8:46 a.m, 9:03 a.m., 9:37 a.m. and 10:03 a.m. Additional silences will be observed at 9:59 a.m. and 10:28 a.m., when the South and North Towers fell.

 

President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle will participate in a moment of silence on the White House lawn and then attend the Pentagon Ceremony, the White House announced last week.

 

In Shanksville, the names of 40 crew members and passengers aboard the plane will be read beginning at 10:03 by victims' families and local volunteers who assisted in the aftermath of the attacks. A bell will ring for the name of each of the 40 victims, and a wreath will be laid at the Wall of Names honoring the dead.

Last night, as the world prepared to mark the anniversary of the the 9/11 attacks, the New York skyline was lit up last night with twin lights, filling the hole left by the World Trade Center.

 

The bright beams shooting up into the sky are turned on every September 11, and today's 11th anniversary is no different.

 

Memorial services are set to take place at Ground Zero and hundreds of other venues around the globe.

One tribute to the victims comes at Highland Memorial Park in Ocala, Florida, where 2,741 American flags - one for each of the attacks' victims - have been planted in a moving act of remembrance.

 

On Monday, Leon Panetta attended a ceremony at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

The Secretary of Defense called the site 'the final resting place of American patriots', and said he was there 'to extend our nation's deepest gratitude to the heroes of Flight 93'.

 

The President has been briefed by top national security aides on what steps the government was taking to reduce the possibility of reprisal attacks on the 9/11 anniversary.

 

The White House said on Monday that Mr Obama and his advisers discussed specific measures the administration was taking to prevent related attacks. They also discussed steps that were being taken to protect Americans abroad and U.S. forces serving in combat zones.

 

The President has instructed government agencies to do everything possible to protect the American people both at home and abroad.

The attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001 killed nearly 3,000 people and led to long-running U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

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