A steady, somber rain fell over Lower Manhattan Tuesday morning, as family, friends, elected officials and first responders gathered near the World Trade Center site for the annual memorial to the victims of the attacks.
Shortly before 8:40 a.m., the tattered American flag recovered from the smoldering wreckage on that September day in 2001 was unfurled as "The Star Spangled Banner" was sung by the Brooklyn Youth Chorus.
Just minutes before the dreary skies opened to a steady stream of rain, mourners observed a moment of silence at 8:46 a.m. to commemorate the exact moment the first plane struck the North Tower.
"We come together again as New Yorkers and Americans to share a loss that can't be measured and to remember the names of those who can't be replaced," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said as the ceremony began.
First responders and recovery workers then began to read the names of the 2,750 victims aloud, one by one.
"Today they are being read by those who stepped forward, who offered their arms into which those who grieved could fall. Acts of kindness and bravery were given without a second thought,” said the mayor.
For the first time, the city's memorial service took place away from where the Twin Towers fell. Instead it was held at nearby Zuccotti Park, after the mayor deemed the WTC site too dangerous, as construction crews work to fill the vast void with four new towers.
It was a decision that led some families to say they would boycott the ceremony, although in a compromise between the mayor and victim's families, they were allowed to descend into the so-called pit — the only grave site for some who have never recovered their loved one's remains.
As families laid flowers in reflecting pools symbolizing the towers' footprints, a second moment of silence was held at 9:03 a.m., marking the time the second plane struck the South Tower.
"We feel today as we felt then — that we belong to one another. Not because we are the inhabitants of the same city or same country, but because we are part of the same human story,” said Governor Eliot Spitzer.
Two more moments of silence were held at 9:59 a.m. and 10:27 a.m., marking the collapse of the South Tower and the North Tower, respectively.
For the first time, the name of a woman who survived that towers' collapse only to die five months later of lung disease, was added to the official roll. Her death has been blamed on the dust she inhaled at the site.
Felicia Dunn-Jones, an attorney, was working a block from the World Trade Center. She became the 2,974th victim linked to the four crashes of the hijacked airliners in New York, the Pentagon
and a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Her name was added to the list earlier this year.
Former Governor George Pataki and former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani also spoke during the ceremony. Giuliani, now a Republican presidential hopeful, has fielded criticism from some families who say he's trying to use the anniversary for political gain.
"In the midst of our great grief and turmoil, we also witnessed uncompromising strength and resilience as a people,” said the former mayor. “It was a day with no answers but with an unending line of those who came forward to try to help one another."
Mourners also gathered at Trinity Church in the Financial District Tuesday, where services were held to remember those who lost their lives and to honor the many volunteers who gave their time in the months following the attacks. The church served as the informal headquarters of an eight-month voluntary relief effort following the tragedy.
The Bell of Hope rang out in the churchyard of Saint Paul's Chapel, as recovery workers, family members, volunteers, and parishioners looked on.
The bell was a gift from the city of London after the attacks, and was cast from the same foundry where the Liberty Bell was made.
Clutching photos and mementos of the fallen, family members and friends who gathered near Zuccotti Park for the ceremony expressed concern that as the memorial services gradually get scaled down, the enormity of what happened six years ago may be forgotten, and they hope their presence at the site each year will keep the tragedy in the minds of people all over the world.
"We have to remember that we were attacked because we were Americans, and these people died in our place,” said a New Yorker who lost his son in the attacks. "And the world saw on that day horror, and they saw evil. Because of my son and because of my life-long friend and my son’s friends, they also saw courage, compassion and honor."
"I have to be here because my brother was here. When I knew he was here on the 11th I ran down and I got here just as the north tower fell,” added another, whose brother perished on 9/11. “And I found my brother's fire truck parked on Barclay and West and then I search all night until 11 o’clock looking for my brother.”
Many Financial District workers also said the memories of that day are still fresh in their minds.
"Today is six years, I'm still crying inside so it's very emotional for me personally,” said one New Yorker who works in the Financial District.
“I think about this every day when I pass this, because I come out of the PATH train, so everyday it's a reminder,” added another.
"Oh, I've been shaking you know. So sad, we can't even work,” added a third.
"I saw the first plane hit, I saw the second plane hit, and I saw people jumping out,” added a fourth. “I left Wall Street for six years. I've been back four weeks."
Others said it was important to move forward and not dwell on the tragedy, but simply pause and remember who were lost.
Streets surrounding Zuccotti Park — the old Liberty Plaza Park — will be partially closed until tomorrow. Click >HERE for a complete list of street closures.
Memorials were also held Tuesday morning at the sites where the other two planes crashed.
At the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Robert Gates hosted a memorial observance. General Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the anniversary serves as a day of re-commitment for active U.S. service members.
On Friday, victims' relatives toured the site of the memorial for the victims of the Pentagon attack scheduled to open next September. The $22 million memorial includes 184 benches — one for each of the victims.
A ceremony was also held in Shanksville, Pennsylvania where 40 people were killed when United Airlines Flight 93 crashed into an empty field.
The passengers on-board the jet, which took off from Newark, tried to regain control from the hijackers, before it ultimately went down.
Homeland Security Chief Michael Chertoff and Governor Ed Rendell were among those who spoke to the crowd.
President Bush, with the first lady and Vice President Dick Cheney at his side, observed a moment of silence on the South Lawn of the White House. Earlier Tuesday morning, he attended a private prayer service at St. John's Episcopal Church.
A rare moment of silence was also held Tuesday morning amid the usual bustle that precedes the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange. Traders paused during their busy morning to >remember those who died.
Members of "Tuesday's Children," who lost parents or relatives on September 11th, rang the opening bell after the minute of silence.
Mayor Bloomberg was on hand to close the day's trading, joined by members of the September Concert Foundation, which organizes free concerts around the world every September 11th.
Bloomberg, Spitzer, Pataki and New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine were all on hand Tuesday afternoon as the >Port Authority held their annual memorial for the 84 members that died on 9/11 and the six who were killed in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.
Members of the PA said they draw strength from one another.
"It's a great family. It's more than an employer, it's a family and we've been that way for years, and we always come together and pull together for each other, and that gives us the strength to go on," said Port Authority Police Captain Fran DiSeo.
Also downtown, an exhibit of flags bearing the names of the 2,973 victims of the 9/11 terror attacks is now on display and will remain open to the public until Thursday. Family members, survivors and rescue workers planted flags in the memorial field.
“It's a healing field for family members, survivors, and rescue workers, as myself, that we all can come together and comfort each other and reflect that we're here for them and remind them that we'll never forget," said Mike Hughes of the NYC 9/11 Memorial Field.
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