Security was tight across the five boroughs as the nearly 3,000 lives lost in the September 11th terror attacks were remembered Sunday at the 10th anniversary ceremony on the site of the World Trade Center.
Until dawn Monday, the “Tribute In Light,” two strong beams composed of dozens of separate lights, were shining above Lower Manhattan, evoking the shapes of the Twin Towers.
The twin lights first shined from March to April 2002 and have since been an annual memorial on September 11, but this year organizers said they are critically short of funds and may be unable to operate in future years.
Sunday morning marked the opening of the National September 11th Memorial, a pair of pools in the footprint of the Twin Towers surrounded by bronze panels etched with the names of 9/11 victims.
The unveiling of the memorial after five years of construction allowed family members to see the names of the their loved ones permanently inscribed at the site, and scores of mourners lined up to pay their respects.
The memorial officially opens to the general public on Monday. Already, about 400,000 visitors have requested free time slots to visit the memorial at 911memorial.org.
Sunday's ceremony took place under heightened security following reports earlier in the week of a possible terror plot designed to disrupt the anniversary. However, the event took place without incident.
As in past anniversaries, family members read the name of each victim of the World Trade Center attacks, with the addition this year of victims of the Pentagon and Shanksville, Pa., attacks. Over the course of nearly four hours, pairs of family members read each set of names, adding personal statements at the end of each group.
"We miss you and we love you," said the daughter of Juanita Lee, who worked in the Twin Towers. "You are in our hearts forever."
"We love you and miss you so much," said the wife of Roy Michael Wallace, one of 658 Cantor Fitzgerald staff members who perished in 1 World Trade Center.
"I hope in heaven there's always cold beer and the Yankees always win the World Series," said the son of the Patrick Waters, an FDNY captain who died in the North Tower.
The nearly five-hour long ceremony concluded with the playing of taps, performed by members of the city's police and fire departments, the Port Authority and the U.S. military.
The event began at 8:35 a.m. with Mayor Michael Bloomberg delivered the opening remarks, followed by a moment of silence at 8:46 a.m. to mark the time the first plane hijacked hit the North Tower.
Moments of silence were also observed at 9:03 a.m. when the second plane struck the South Tower; 9:37 a.m. when a plane hit the Pentagon; 9:59 a.m. when the South Tower fell; 10:03 a.m. when Flight 93 crashed near Shanksville, and 10:28 a.m. when the North Tower fell.
President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, former President George W. Bush and former First Lady Laura Bush were in attendance, and all four walked around the reflecting pools and observed a private moment of silence before the ceremony.
At the start of the ceremony, Obama read Psalm 46 while Bush read a letter written by Abraham Lincoln to a mother who lost all five of her sons in the Civil War.
The ceremony also featured performances by cellist Yo-Yo Ma and singers James Taylor and Paul Simon.
Other politicians in attendance included former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, former Governor George Pataki and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
Archbishop Timothy Dolan and his predecessor Edward Cardinal Egan attended a Port Authority remembrance service immediately following the World Trade Center ceremony.
The Roman Catholic Mass was held at nearby St. Peter's Church, which was damaged in the terror attacks.
Sunday night, President Barack Obama gave a speech at a "Concert For Hope" at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., where he said that the September 11th terrorist attacks had failed to destroy the country's unity and ideals.
Obama said while Americans have since struggled through wars, debates and a recession in the past decade, they have kept a steadfast belief in the country. He also praised soldiers who went to war and praised the country for not giving into suspicion and mistrust.
"In the biggest cities and the smallest towns, in our schools and workplaces, you still see people of every conceivable race, religion and ethnicity, all of them pledging allegiance to one flag, all of them reaching for the same American dream: 'E pluribus unum' -- 'Out of many, we are one," Obama said.
The event had been scheduled at the Washington National Cathedral but was moved to the Kennedy Center because of damage to the cathedral.
Two Missing Vans Found As Terror Probe, Security Measures Continue
Security throughout the city was at its peak in the hours leading up to the ceremony at the World Trade Center site, but Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said that these extra policing measures will remain through this week.
In Lower Manhattan, trash cans were removed and checkpoints were set up for traffic headed downtown.
Police rapid response teams also blanketed the city with thousands of officers throughout the night.
The NYPD was monitoring the entire city for any suspicious activity from its new Joint Operations Center. City, state, and federal agencies sit side-by-side inside the $49 million center, which uses the latest technology in an effort to protect the city from any possible terrorist threat.
Counterterrorism officials spent the week chasing a tip that al-Qaida was sending three men to the United States to detonate a car bomb.
However, no additional intelligence has supported that information, leading some officials to question the validity of that tip.
Meanwhile, as of late Sunday police had not been able to link the stealing of two construction company vans stolen from Queens to any terror plot, according to Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.
One of the missing vans, stolen from the Tully Construction company, was found in a Queens residential street Saturday night, with about $70,000 worth of tools missing from the vehicle, according to Kelly.
Police say the other missing van was located in Queens around 5:30 p.m. Sunday.
A third van was stolen from Jersey City. Kelly said on Sunday there was no proof that the Queens thefts and the Jersey City theft were linked.
There was another security scare on Sunday when police said three men did not leave the bathroom of an airplane flying over New York after an extended amount of time. However, authorities say the men left the bathroom without incident by the time the plane landed at John F. Kennedy International Airport, and they were not charged by authorities.
Senior U.S. officials said prior to the September 11th ceremony that intelligence agencies had found no evidence that anyone linked to al-Qaida had entered the country to carry out an attack to coincide with Sunday's anniversary.
Between Friday to 4 p.m. Sunday, the NYPD had received 342 reports of suspicious packages and 1,819 reports of suspicious vehicles, according to police.
In the same period last year, the NYPD had only received 92 reports of suspicious packages and 1,330 reports of suspicious vehicles.
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