In Lower Manhattan and across the five boroughs, New Yorkers paused to remember the tragedy of 9/11 Thursday with words of prayer and songs of reflection.
The second-anniversary commemoration of the September 11 terror attacks began in the morning with a recitation of the victims' names at the city's official memorial ceremony, and culminated in the evening with the rekindling of the Tribute in Light memorial on the spot where the World Trade Center once stood.
At Manhattan's Riverside Church, Vice President Dick Cheney joined state and city officials at an afternoon service for the 84 Port Authority employees who perished in the attacks. Earlier in the day, members of the New York Police Department honored the 23 officers killed on 9/11 with a roll-call at the 13th Precinct. At St. Peter's Church, Edward Cardinal Egan led a memorial mass.
And in homes and businesses big and small, there were expressions of grief both public and private.
"Today again we are a city that mourns,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said at the official ceremony on the site of the Twin Towers. Two bagpipers and a drummer, representing the hundreds of dead from the Police and Fire departments and the Port Authority, marched into the site where the city’s tallest buildings once stood, bearing an American flag that once flew over their ruins. The relatives, many clutching pictures of the victims, followed them down the ramp and laid flowers at the bottom of the huge pit in the heart of the city.
“We come here to honor those that we lost and to remember this day with sorrow,” the mayor said. “But we also remember with pride, and from that comes our resolve to go forward. Our faces and hopes turn towards the future. In keeping with this, the children of our city and the children who lost loved ones will lead our ceremonies. It is in them that the spirit of New York lives, carrying both our deepest memories and the right promise of tomorrow.”
Dozens of children whose parents and other relatives were among the 2,792 people who died read the victims’ names aloud for nearly three hours. The ceremony fell silent four times, at the exact times that each of the twin towers was struck by the airliners and then again when each tower fell.
Other than the mayor’s introduction, there were no speeches. Instead, Bloomberg, New York Governor George Pataki and New Jersey Governor James McGreevy each read a poem, while former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani recited quotations from Winston Churchill.
Bloomberg said that he and other politicians were taking care not to overshadow the victims' families.
The crowd at the WTC site was considerably smaller than last year's ceremony, as many families chose to mark the day elsewhere. An event whose aftereffects are still daily news defies closure, but signs of healing were reflected in the drier eyes and even a few smiles among the family members.
Senator Hillary Clinton said she thinks Americans have made a lot of progress towards normalcy. “I think a lot of the pain and heartbreak that was caused by 9/11 two years ago is never going away — you're never going to get beyond it,” Clinton said in an interview with NY1. “But we owe it to those who perished and we owe it to everyone who survived to make sure we do everything possible to prevent something like this ever happening anywhere again.”
Around the city, a reflective tone has overtaken what was long an open wound.
Many commuters on their way to work paused in front of the September 11 memorial in Battery Park, an eternal flame and bronze sphere that once stood in the plaza between the twin towers. “It's a hard day for a lot of people who work in the city,” said one woman. “Pretty much everybody's heart is a little heavy today.”
Police stations and firehouses around the city held their own ceremonies to remember the 23 city police officers and 343 members of the Fire Department who died trying to save others.
“Before September 11, these folks rode in the same radio cars each and every day,” Pat Lynch, the president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, said at a roll call for the NYPD victims at the 13th Precinct station-house in Gramercy. “They enjoyed each other’s families after work. It’s a true family within the NYPD. So this is the place to come, as well as the site, to show the members to show the members of the New York City Police Department that we’re all together.”
The Tribute in Light, a pair of spotlights turned skyward to evoke the image of the twin towers, will return at sundown this year — and every September 11 thereafter, city officials say.
In Washington, D.C., the president attended a church service and observed a moment of silence at the White House.
“The nation remembers a sad and terrible day, September 11th, 2001,” the president said. “We remember lives lost. We remember the heroic deeds. We remember the compassion, the decency of our fellow citizens on that terrible day.”
At the Pentagon, a moment of silence marked the time the third hijacked plane struck the nation’s military headquarters, and a stained glass window was dedicated to the 184 victims of that attack. A wreath was also laid at Arlington National Cemetery in honor of the victims of the attacks and the soldiers killed in the war on terrorism.
“Let us remember all those who died in New York, in Pennsylvania, here at the Pentagon, in the mountains of Afghanistan and in the deserts of Iraq and let us recommit ourselves to their cause and to our mission: the triumph of freedom over tyranny,” Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said.
Bells also tolled in the field in southeastern Pennsylvania where the fourth airliner crashed after a revolt against the hijackers, killing all 40 passengers and crew.