Politics, health of ground zero workers hover over 9-11 memorial ceremonies
Copyright 2007 The Associated Press
NEW YORK — Relatives of World Trade Center victims bowed their heads in silence at a small park Tuesday to mark the moment exactly six years earlier when the first hijacked plane struck the towers. The dreary, grey skies created a grim backdrop, and a sharp contrast to the clear blue of that morning in 2001.
"That day we felt isolated, but not for long and not from each other," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said as the ceremony began. "Six years have passed, and our place is still by your side."
Construction equipment now fills the vast city block where the World Trade Center once stood, and work is under way for four new towers, forcing the ceremony to be moved away from the twin towers' footprints for the first time.
Kathleen Mullen, whose niece Kathleen Casey died in the attacks, said the park across the street was close enough.
"Just so long as we continue to do something special every year, so you don't wake up and say, 'Oh, it's 9-11," she said.
Presidential politics and the health of ground zero workers loomed over the sixth anniversary of the terrorist attacks this year, perhaps more than any other Sept. 11.
The firefighters and first responders who helped rescue thousands that day in 2001 and later recovered the dead were to read the victims' names for the first time.
Many of those rescuers are now ill with respiratory problems and cancers themselves, and they blame the illnesses on exposure to the fallen towers' toxic dust.
Also for the first time, the name of a victim who survived that towers' collapse but died five months later of lung disease blamed on the dust she inhaled was added to the official roll.
Felicia Dunn-Jones, a lawyer, was working a block from the World Trade Center.
She became the 2,974th victim linked to the four attack sites where hijacked airliners hit the two towers, the Pentagon and a field near Shanksville, Pa., where federal investigators say the passengers of United Airlines Flight 93 fought the hijackers on the rallying cry "Let's roll!"
A memorial honoring Flight 93's 40 passengers and crew began at 9:45 a.m., shortly before the time the airliner nosedived into the empty field.
"As American citizens we're all looking at our heroes," said Kay Roy, whose sister Colleen Fraser, of Elizabeth, N.J., died when the plane went down.
In Washington, U.S. President George W. Bush, with the first lady at his side, held a moment of silence on the South Lawn of the White House.
In Toronto, relatives of the Canadian victims of two terrorist attacks were gathering Tuesday to mourn the loss of their loved ones. Twenty-four Canadians died in the Sept. 11 attacks, and 329 people perished in the 1985 Air India bombing off the coast of Ireland.
In Boston, where two of the hijacked airplanes took off that morning, church bells rang to the tunes of Amazing Grace and America the Beautiful on Tuesday.
At the Pentagon, Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke at the wall where the plane crashed and told the victims' families that their loved ones will be remembered.
"I do not know the proper words to tell you what's in my heart, what is in our hearts, what your fellow citizens are thinking today. We certainly hope that somehow these observances will help lessen your pain," he said.
Pace also spoke of the military, calling the anniversary "a day of recommitment."
In New York, firefighters were to share the stage with former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who many victims' families and firefighters said should not speak because he is running for president. Giuliani has made his performance in the months after the 2001 terrorist attacks the cornerstone of his campaign, but he said last week that his appearance wasn't intended to be political.
"I was there when it happened and I've been there every year since then. If I didn't, it would be extremely unusual. As a personal matter, I wouldn't be able to live with myself," Giuliani said.
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, seeking the Democratic party presidential nomination, also planned to attend the ceremonies at ground zero.
National intelligence director Mike McConnell said Tuesday that U.S. authorities remain vigilant and concerned about "sleeper cells" of would-be terrorists inside the United States.
"We're safer but we're not safe," McConnell said in an interview on ABC's "Good Morning America."
As in past years, moments of silence were planned to mark each crash and the collapse of each tower in New York.
Even though the World Trade Center ceremony gathering was in the park, thousands of family members were still allowed to descend briefly below street level to lay flowers at a spot near the twin towers' footprints.
Family members upset that they might not be allowed in at all pressured the city to at least allow the short visits to the dusty bedrock.
In addition to the firefighters and first responders reading victims' names during the ceremony, city workers who participated in the cleanup, construction workers, volunteers, and medical examiner's officials who recovered remains were involved.
In all, 2,974 victims were killed by the Sept. 11 attacks: 2,750 at the World Trade Center, 40 in Pennsylvania and 184 at the Pentagon. Those numbers do not include the 19 hijackers.
A timeline of events on Sept. 11, 2001. All times are eastern, some are approximate:
8:00 a.m. - American Airlines Flight 11, a Boeing 767 with 92 people on board, takes off from Boston's Logan International Airport for Los Angeles.
8:14 a.m. - United Air Lines Flight 175, a Boeing 767 with 65 people on board, takes off from Logan for Los Angeles.
8:21 a.m. - American Airlines Flight 77, a Boeing 757 with 64 people on board, takes off from Washington Dulles International Airport for Los Angeles.
8:40 a.m. - The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration notifies the North American Aerospace Defence Command's northeast air defence sector about suspected hijacking of American Flight 11.
8:41 a.m. - United Air Lines Flight 93, a Boeing 757 with 44 people on board, takes off from Newark International Airport for San Francisco.
8:43 a.m. - FAA notifies Norad about a suspected hijacking of United Flight 175.
8:46 a.m. - American Flight 11 crashes into the north tower of the World Trade Center in New York City.
9:03 a.m. - United Flight 175 crashes into the south tower of the trade centre.
9:08 a.m. - FAA bans all takeoffs countrywide for flights going to or through its New York centre airspace.
9:21 a.m. - All bridges and tunnels into are Manhattan closed.
9:24 a.m. - FAA notifies Norad about a suspected hijacking of American Flight 77.
9:26 a.m. - FAA bans takeoffs of all civilian aircraft.
9:31 a.m. - President George W. Bush, in Florida, calls crashes an "apparent terrorist attack on our country."
9:40 a.m. - American Flight 77 crashes into the Pentagon.
9:45 a.m. - FAA orders all aircraft to land at nearest airport as soon as practical. More than 4,500 aircraft are in the air at the time.
9:48 a.m. - U.S. Capitol and the White House's West Wing are evacuated.
9:59 a.m. - South tower of trade centre collapses.
10:07 a.m. - United Flight 93 crashes in a Pennsylvania field.
10:28 a.m. - North tower of trade centre collapses.
11:00 a.m. - New York mayor orders evacuation of lower Manhattan.
1:04 p.m. - From Barksdale Air Force base in Louisiana, Bush announces the U.S. military is on high alert worldwide.
2:51 p.m. - U.S. navy dispatches missile destroyers to New York, Washington.
3:07 p.m. - Bush arrives at U.S. Strategic Command at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska.
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