On the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001, as the nation reflected on its losses, thousands of families gathered at the new World Trade Center rising in Lower Manhattan, at the Pentagon and on a field of wildflowers in Pennsylvania to commemorate nearly 3,000 killed on that infamous morning when jetliners were turned into missiles and a new age of terrorism was born.
There were four silences marking the impacts of the airliners that day, the third, American 77 at the Pentagon and the fourth, United 93, at Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Two more followed marking the collapse of the towers.
The name of every person killed in al Qaeda’s hijacked plane attacks was read on Sunday in the nearly five-hour-long centerpiece of a heart-wrenching ceremony where the World Trade Center twin towers stood.
“Ten years have passed since a perfect blue sky morning turned into the blackest of nights,” New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said at New York’s Ground Zero.
“Since then, we’ve lived in sunshine and in shadow, and although we can never unsee what happened here, we can also see that children who lost their parents have grown into young adults, grandchildren have been born and good works and public service have taken root to honor those we loved and lost.”
On Sunday, with the opening of the memorial at Ground Zero, there was finally a place to go for those who lost their loved 10 years ago, to a name carved in bronze, one among almost 3,000.
They could not keep their hands from them, tracing the letters with their fingers, lingering over the one remaining physical token of the loved ones they lost forever in the explosive force of the 9/11 attacks.
For many – particularly the more than 1,100 families who received no remains of their dead – Sunday was the closest they came to a funeral for their loved ones. With the memorial complete, it offered for the first time something resembling a final resting place and a formal place to mourn.
“When we came out here 10 years ago there was a hole in the earth and that’s how we felt,” said Dakota Hale, 25, of Denver, who lost his stepfather, flight attendant Alfred Marchand.
August Larsen, just nine years old, was one of those making a crayon rubbing, in his case of the name of his father, Scott Larsen, a firemen who died when the South Tower collapsed. August was born only a few days after his father’s death.
The New York memorial includes two plazas in the shape of the footprints of the twin towers with cascading 30 foot waterfalls. Around the perimeters of pools in the center of each plaza are the names of the victims of the 2001 attacks and an earlier attack at the trade center in 1993.
President Barack Obama, who visited all three attack sites, read from Psalm 46 in New York: “God is our refuge and strength.”
Speaking at an evening concert in Washington that closed out a day of memorial observances, Obama said much had changed for Americans in the 10 years since September 11, 2001.
“We can never get back the lives we lost on that day, or the Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice in the wars that followed,” Obama said. “Yet today, it is worth remembering what has not changed. Our character as a nation has not changed.”
There were smaller ceremonies in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, and at the Pentagon, the other sites were 19 men from the Islamic militant group al Qaeda crashed hijacked airliners on the sunny Tuesday morning of September 11, 2001.
The commemorations Sunday were the culmination of weeks of cultural and civic events that revisited 9/11 and its global consequences, a national outpouring of music, films, plays, visual arts, books, television documentaries and symposiums that reflected America’s rich diversity and grew into an avalanche of introspection and analyses unrivaled since the turn of the millennium.
Around the world, smaller commemorations were held in many capitals, with political and religious leaders voicing renewed commitments to democracy and the fight against terrorism. The global scope was a stark reminder that the victims of 9/11 had come from more than 90 countries.
In the Adriatic city of Ancona, Italy, Pope Benedict prayed for September 11 victims and appealed to those with grievances to “always reject violence.” [via Reuters, The Telegraph and The New York Times]