World remembers 9/11
Between the ringing of bells and moments of silence, amid tender words and a sea of tears, Americans united in solemnity on Sunday to remember the 9/11 attacks that rocked their country 10 years ago.
Thousands of people attended services in New York City, Washington and Pennsylvania in honour of their 2,977 family members, coworkers and friends who were killed on Sept. 11, 2001.
They told anecdotes and read out names, sang songs and stood in quiet mourning, and communed in grief with a country forever changed when 19 men hijacked four airliners on a sunny morning a decade ago.
At a ceremony at Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan, 21-year-old Peter Negron, the son of 9/11 victim Pete Negron, said he feels his father’s absence every day.
“I’ve stopped crying, but I haven’t stopped missing my dad,” he said. “I wish my dad had been there to teach me how to drive, ask a girl on a date and see me graduate from high school. And a hundred other things.”
Ten years ago Sunday, the unthinkable happened: That diabolical cabal of 19 men — most of them 20-somethings from Saudi Arabia, many of them highly educated — commandeered four jets in the American Northeast and slammed them into the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania.
The Sept. 11 attacks changed the world. The United States invaded Afghanistan a month later and, a year and a half after that, Iraq. It began wiretapping its own citizens’ phones and jailing hundreds of other countries’ residents at a notorious base in Cuba. Around the globe, air travel constricted under new security measures, and “terrorism” became a watchword for new laws, regimes and entire mentalities.
World leaders and millions of citizens paused to reflect Sunday on the events of 10 years past, to commemorate the victims of al-Qaeda’s villainy and to memorialize a day that will be indelibly written into history. From Sydney, Australia, to Atlanta, Ga., formal ceremonies remembered those who perished.
An official memorial was unveiled at Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan to honour the dead, who included 24 Canadians. The memorial features two large reflecting pools in the footprint of what used to be the World Trade Center. The ceremony began with a procession of bagpipers before U.S. President Barack Obama read from Psalm 46. Then, victims’ families read the names of the deceased, one at a time, 334 readers in all — women, men, girls and boys.
There was a moment of silence at 8:46 a.m. ET, and another 17 minutes later. Those are the exact times when American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175, hijacked by nine of the men who conspired in the al-Qaeda plot, slammed into the twin towers.
Retired New York Police Department officer James Smith remembered his wife, fellow officer Moira Smith, the only female NYPD member who died at the twin towers. Moira Smith was on duty several kilometres away when first jet slammed into the World Trade Center, but she rushed to the scene to help, guiding an injured man out of the south tower before going back in assist others. She died when the south tower collapsed.
Obama also travelled to Shanksville, where Flight 93 crashed on 9/11 as its passengers fought to retake control from four of the hijackers. The president was to end the day by attending a “Concert of Hope” at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington.
A second service got underway later in the morning at the Pentagon outside Washington, D.C., where American Airlines Flight 77, hijacked by five of the men, smashed into the United States’s military headquarters at 9:37 a.m. on 9/11, killing 125 people. U.S. Defence Secretary Leon Panetta said that 10 years on, the emotions are “still raw.”
“There are no words to ease the pain which we still feel, at this very moment on this very spot. It is difficult to believe that 10 years ago, this was the scene of incredible devastation, of horrific fire and smoke, of heroic first responders who were struggling to bring victims to safety,” Panetta said.
The response to the Pentagon calamity exemplified the American spirit, U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden said, with thousands of people from the building and surrounding communities, soldiers and civilians alike, springing into action to save lives and minister to the injured.
“It’s a basic American instinct, to respond to crisis when help is needed,… that we see come to the fore in our darkest hours. An instinct that echoes through the ages from Pearl Harbor to Beirut, from Mogadishu to Ground Zero, from Flight 93 to right here in the Pentagon,” Biden said in his remarks. He said it was the same instinct “that galvanized an entire new generation of patriots, the 9/11 generation.”
In a reminder that threats remain, authorities in Washington and New York continued to beef up security in response to an intelligence tip that al-Qaeda was plotting a car bomb attack. Officials said Sunday that they are taking it seriously, but that they have found no evidence that any would-be attackers have entered the country. Soldiers wielding automatic weapons were deployed to New York and Washington’s streets, train stations and bridges.
It was also a reminder that al-Qaeda remains a menace, 10 years after its most heinous mass-murdering deed, and four months since its leader, Osama bin Laden, was found and killed by U.S. special forces.
Category: World News |