Somber Ceremonies Mark 9/11 Anniversary

New York: Relatives of Sept 11 victims bowed their heads on Tuesday to mark the moments exactly six years earlier when hijacked planes crashed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field.
Against a grim backdrop of dreary skies near New York’s Ground Zero, four moments of silence were observed to remember when the two planes struck the World Trade Center towers, and when each tower fell.
“That day we felt isolated, but not for long and not from each other,” New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said as the first ceremony began. “Six years have passed, and our place is still by your side.”
Hours before, a video from al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was released, calling for sympathizers to join a “caravan” of martyrs. It served as a stark reminder that the United States has failed to catch the man believed to be behind the attacks that killed almost 3,000 people.
The firefighters and first responders who helped rescue thousands that day in 2001 and later recovered the dead were to read the victims’ names for the first time. Many of those rescuers are now ill with respiratory problems and cancers themselves, and they blame the illnesses on exposure to the fallen towers’ toxic dust.
With heads bowed, holding photographs of the dead and fighting to hold back tears, relatives listened as the grim roll call was read out. A memorial honoring Flight 93’s 40 passengers and crew began at 9:45 am, shortly before the time the airliner nose-dived into the empty Pennsylvania field.
In New York, drums and bagpipes played as an American flag saved from the collapse was carried toward a stage. Firefighters shared the platform with Rudy Giuliani (the New York mayor at the time of the tragedy), who many victims’ families and firefighters said should not speak at the service to keep from politicizing it given his Republican presidential bid.
Sen Hillary Rodham Clinton, seeking the Democratic Party presidential nomination, also attended the ceremonies. Democratic candidate Barack Obama called for the country to “recapture the sense of common purpose,” while saying the “threat to America has only grown.”
The New York ceremony was more muted than in past years. Last year, President George W. Bush laid a wreath at Ground Zero but this year attended a private memorial service and observed a moment of silence in Washington. In Washington, Bush paused for a moment of silence outside the White House, while at the Pentagon, Gen Peter Pace spoke at the wall where the hijacked plane broke through.
In a speech to family members of some of the Pentagon victims, Defense Secretary Robert Gates vowed, “The enemies of America... will never again rest easy, for we will hunt them down relentlessly and without reservation.” But, the release of the Osama bin Laden video on Tuesday underscored the US’s failure to find bin Laden despite Bush’s vow in the wake of the attacks to take him “dead or alive”.
The video featured an audiotape introduction by the al-Qaeda leader and showed hijacker Waleed al-Shehri addressing the camera. “We shall come at you from your front and back, your right and left,” al-Shehri, one of the hijackers on American Airlines Flight 11 which hit the World Trade Center, warns Americans.


Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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