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They were us

Compiled from Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times
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published September 12, 2002

At ground zero, the names took precedence, 2,801 of them read aloud, from Gordon Aamoth Jr. to Igor Zukelman. Patriotic resolve held sway at the Pentagon. And in a field near Shanksville, Pa., grief was partly offset by pride.

At each of the three sites, and in communities across the nation Wednesday, Americans and their friends relived the staggering events of one year ago and remembered those who died.

"They were our neighbors, our husbands, our children, our sisters, our brothers and our wives. They were our countrymen and our friends. They were us," New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg told grieving families at the site of the World Trade Center.

In the evening, Bush spoke to the nation from Ellis Island, with the Statue of Liberty as a backdrop.

"In the ruins of two towers, under a flag unfurled at the Pentagon, at the funerals of the lost, we have made a sacred promise, to ourselves and to the world: We will not relent until justice is done and our nation is secure. What our enemies have begun, we will finish," Bush said.

New York

Wednesday's ritual began in the darkness. In each of the city's five boroughs, teams of bagpipers began a miles-long march toward the disaster site.

Thousands of grieving relatives converged on the site of the destroyed World Trade Center. They stood in silence under a blazing sun and listened to a roll call of the 2,801 dead and missing that began after a moment of silence at 8:46 a.m., the time when the first terrorist-piloted plane struck the trade center.

The names were recited crisply, with virtually no interruption, and it took 197 readers 21/2 hours to finish the list, 50 minutes more than planned. During the readings, mourners quietly placed flowers and other memorials to loved ones on the grounds of the dusty pit that is all that remains of the twin towers.

The first person to take a turn reading the names was Rudolph Giuliani, who as mayor was praised for his steady leadership in the days after Sept. 11. Among those who followed him as readers were survivors of the attack, relatives of those who died, New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and actor Robert De Niro.

Marianne Keane, 17, whose stepfather Franco Lalama died in the attack, spoke briefly.

"I would give anything to go back to the morning of Sept. 11 and tell him how much I appreciated everything he's done for me," she said. "But I think he knows that now. In my eyes, he died a hero. And how much more could you ask for?"

As the ceremony proceeded, a camouflaged military helicopter with a protruding gun turret circled overhead, while snipers and tactical units kept watch.

New York concluded its official ground zero events with the lighting of an eternal flame in nearby Battery Park City, honoring all those who were lost.


A booming rendition of the national anthem set the tone for commemorations at the Pentagon, where 184 people died when American Airlines Flight 77 smashed into the building.

"Though they died in tragedy, they did not die in vain," Bush declared, a fist clenched for emphasis. "As long as terrorists and dictators plot against our lives and our liberty, they will be opposed by the United States Army, Navy, Coast Guard, Air Force and Marines!"

Work inside the giant office building slowed to include only the most important tasks. Bush addressed an audience of 12,000 gathered in front of the rebuilt building and pledged to "renew our commitment to win the war that began here."

The ceremony included salutes to the construction workers who rebuilt the Pentagon within a year.

At Washington National Cathedral, several thousand people assembled at 8 a.m. for a ceremony that included prayers of the Hindu, Jewish, Buddhist and Muslim faiths, and a reading of the Beatitudes from the Gospel of Matthew.

In an emotional message, the Rev. Desmond Tutu, the legendary anti-apartheid leader and archbishop emeritus of Cape Town, South Africa, first asked, "For goodness sake, where was God on that day to let such a horrendous thing happen?"

He continued: "God was right there as the planes were hitting the target. . . . God was there as the buildings crumbled in the blinding, choking dust and the rubble. . . . God was there in the anguish of bereavement ... pouring balm on your wounded souls."


After the Pentagon ceremony, Bush flew to southwest Pennsylvania to join commemorations for the 40 people killed when United Flight 93 crashed in a field near Shanksville. A bell was rung 40 times, once for each victim of the flight.

The passengers and crew were hailed by homeland security director Tom Ridge as heroic "citizen-soldiers" for struggling to take back their hijacked plane and avert an attack on the Capitol or White House.

Ridge told the crowd gathered in the field, 400 yards from the crash site, that the attack was the first battle in the war on terrorism.

"If we learn nothing else from this tragedy, we learn that life is short and there is no time for hate," said Sandy Dahl, the wife of Flight 93 pilot Jason Dahl.

After the hourlong ceremony, Bush met privately with the families, as he had several months earlier at the White House.

Among those who came to remember the victims' gallantry -- symbolized by passenger Todd Beamer's last known words, "Let's roll" -- were a contingent of 40 or so pilots and flight attendants, wearing uniforms that represented several airlines.

Around the country

At the United Nations, Secretary-General Kofi Annan presided over an international memorial service.

"More than 90 nations lost sons and daughters of their own -- murdered that day, for no other reason than they had chosen to live in this country," he said. "Today, we come together as a world community because we were attacked as a world community."

Many Americans went to work or to school, but it was far from business as usual. Telemarketers cut back on their phone calls, politicians kept their campaign ads off the air, some dealers at a casino in Reno, Nev., even held their cards for a moment in a gesture of respect.

Major League Baseball called for a moment of silence at 9:11 p.m. local time at all night games. At Yankee Stadium, the New York-Baltimore game started nearly an hour later than normal to allow for commemorative ceremonies.

-- Information from the Associated Press, Los Angeles Times, New York Times and Washington Post was used in this report.

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