The 'great struggle': Consoling the living
Bush lays wreath at Ground Zero, meets with families
(CNN) -- President Bush and the first lady spent almost two hours Wednesday evening at Ground Zero talking, consoling and sometimes hugging members of the families of those lost at the World Trade Center as New York and the world paused to mark the first anniversary of the September 11 attacks.
The event, as with many on the day, was one of few public words, an occasion for private reflection rather than high profile pronouncements.
Bush was making his third memorial service stop of the day, having attended commemorations first at the Pentagon and then at Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where the hijacked United Airlines Flight 93 plowed into the ground. (Full story)
His last stop was Ellis Island where he made a television address to the nation with the Statue of Liberty as a backdrop. (Full Story)
The president and first lady strode resolutely down the long ramp into the former site of the World Trade Center in clear, late afternoon sunlight, through an honor guard made up of rescue and recovery workers.
At the "circle of honor" at Ground Zero surrounded by the families and friends of those killed, they laid a wreath bearing the plaque:
"Every life taken here, every act of valor performed here, the nation holds in honored memory, George W. Bush."
Shortly after, a choir from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, in dress uniforms of gray tunics and white trousers, sang "America the Beautiful" as the first couple mingled with the crowd.
Long after the song ended, the Bushes were still speaking in the "circle of honor" with members of families representing 100 rescue groups. With hugs, autographs, handshakes, claps on shoulders, the president and first lady moved slowly, taking time with each person they met.
As the sun set, world leaders representing most of the 91 nations who lost nationals in the attacks on the twin towers joined New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg for a candlelight vigil in Battery Park.
Earlier in the day, thousands of people gathered at Ground Zero in a massive commemoration of the destruction of the twin towers. At the same time services were held at the new limestone blocks of the Pentagon and in the grassy pastureland of Pennsylvania.
Amid quick moments of silence that represented a long year spent grappling with the shock of September 11's terror, some people sobbed softly while others stared straight ahead, dry-eyed, remembering. Few seemed unmoved.
In New York, construction workers, firefighters and police officers, the families and friends of victims stood in "the pit," as it's called, on the vast 16-acre floor of Ground Zero in sunlight and shade -- a breeze blowing flowers and photos of lost loved ones during the service there.
"I would give anything to go back to the morning of September 11 and tell him how much I appreciate everything he has done for me," said Marianne Keane, who lost her father in New York.
"But I think he knows that now. In my eyes, he has died a hero, and how much more could you ask for?" she told those assembled around the memorial service stage.
"I miss you, and I hope you didn't hurt too much."
In Somerset County, Pennsylvania, thousands of people walked the field where Flight 93 crashed.
Punctuated by comments from Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge, a former Pennsylvania governor, the commemoration featured a soaring military flyover in "missing man" formation -- in which one plane has peeled away -- and a 21-gun salute.
A large bell was rung 40 times, its lonely sound pealing across the rolling hills in resonant evocation of the passengers and crew members who died on Flight 93. (Full story)
Blustery winds blew clouds across the Pennsylvania sky as President Bush arrived to lay a wreath at the site, where he heard a choir sing a graceful a cappella "Battle Hymn of the Republic" -- "As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free."
The president had started his day at the Pentagon outside Washington, joined by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld for a ceremony to honor the 224 people killed there on the ground and in American Airlines Flight 77.
In his comments at the Pentagon, Bush insisted that those lost a year ago on September 11 "did not die in vain. Their loss," he said, "has moved a nation to action. ... What happened to our nation on a September day set in motion the first great struggle in a new century."
His comments were preceded by music from the U.S. Marine Corps Band and the unfurling of a huge American flag draped over the damaged part of the military complex last year. (Full story)
In Manhattan, 290 bagpipers in dashing tartans had walked in from each of the five boroughs of New York, some beginning their march in the pre-dawn hours to form a "circle of honor" on the floor of the World Trade Center site.
It would take 197 readers more than two hours to read out the names of all 2,801 people confirmed dead at the twin towers.
Combined with the deaths in Shanksville and at the Pentagon, the national total for September 11's attacks stands at 3,025.
At Ground Zero, Bloomberg introduced New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey, who read from the Declaration of Independence:
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." (Full story)
Throughout the nation and in many parts of the world moments of silence were observed at 8:46 a.m. ET and at 9:03 a.m. -- the times at which planes hit the towers of the World Trade Center. A third came at 9:37 a.m., when Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon outside Washington and a fourth at 10:06 a.m., when Flight 93 plowed into the field in Somerset County.
In New York, church bells were rung to mark the times at which the twin towers of the Trade Center collapsed. By early evening, Cardinal Edward Egan had convened a special memorial Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral in midtown Manhattan.
And the prayers and harmonies heard in New York, Washington and Shanksville were being echoed all day across the nation as vigils, concerts and even a human chain became elements of the commemorations sweeping the nation. (Full story)
Global observances, and security concerns
Wednesday's services in the United States were preceded by many international commemorations.
At Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, members of the U.S. military, deployed to wipe out the remnants of the al Qaeda terrorists and the Taliban government of Afghanistan, paused to reflect on the September 11 attacks. (Full story)
In London, Prince Charles, Prince Harry and British Prime Minister Tony Blair attended a service at St. Paul's Cathedral.
French President Jacques Chirac and his wife joined U.S. Ambassador Howard Leach at the American Embassy in Paris for a quiet ceremony that included a French military band's defiantly spirited rendition of "La Marseillaise."
And in Berlin, a gathering at the Bundestag Dome included German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and readings from the New Testament's Beatitudes: "Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God." (Full story)
But despite the soul-bracing reach of these many events, a sense of peace may have been hard for some to find.
On the first anniversary of September 11, the United States is at code orange -- the second-highest threat alert level on the Office of Homeland Security's color-coded system.
As part of the heightened state of alert, every federal air marshal was deployed, armed missile launchers were situated around the nation's capital, and airport security workers were conducting extensive searches of bags and passengers.
No amount of security measures could ease all nerves on a day so reflective of such violence, especially with news of an elevated state of alert.
But messages of determined hope, however darkened by sadness, were heard in comments like those of Brittany Clark in New York.
"My father, Keefe," she said, "was a chef on the 96th floor of the World Trade Center." Clark came to the Ground Zero site Wednesday morning with a poem she said "makes me feel like my daddy is speaking to me."
"When you awaken in morning's hush," she recited, "I am the swift uplifting rush of quiet birds and circled flights. I am the soft stars that shine at night. Do not think of me as gone, I am with you still in each new dawn."
U.S. TOP STORIES:
|Back to the top|