At Ground Zero in New York, at the Pentagon near Washington, D.C., and in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, the solemn rite of reading the names of the people who died in the September 11, 2001, attacks took place on Monday morning — five years after terrorists hijacked four planes and killed nearly 3,000 people in the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history.
In New York and across the country, moments of silence were observed at 8:46 and 9:03 a.m., the times when passenger jets struck the World Trade Center's towers, and again at 9:59 and 10:29 a.m., the times when the two buildings fell.
President Bush, whose leadership was tested and defined early on by his response to the attacks, and who continues to make frequent reference to them in speeches about the war on terror and in Iraq, began the national memorial process Sunday night, when he and first lady Laura Bush laid wreaths in the pools of water that commemorate the site of the World Trade Center.
They then attended a church service at Trinity Church near Ground Zero. The Bushes began Monday with a breakfast and memorial ceremony with first responders at the Fort Pitt Firehouse in New York.
The ceremony concluded with bagpipers playing "God Bless America," a fire department officer singing "Amazing Grace" and a police department choir's a cappella rendition of "America the Beautiful."
"It's hard not to think about the people who lost their lives on September 11, 2001," Bush said after the service, according to CNN. "You know, you see the relatives of those who still grieve, and I just wish there was some way we could make them whole. So [Monday is] going to be a day of sadness for a lot of people." Bush then flew to a wreath-laying ceremony in Shanksville and was scheduled to attend a third at the Pentagon — the first time Bush has commemorated the attacks in all three locations since their first anniversary — and give a prime-time address at 9 p.m. on Monday.
The commemorations in New York — where the rebuilding at Ground Zero has still barely begun — included the reading of the names of the 2,749 victims at the site by hundreds of the victims' spouses, partners and family. Some held framed photos of their lost loved ones in silent tribute and queued up to lay flowers at the site throughout the morning.
"Five years have come, and five years have gone, and still we stand together as one," New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said at the Ground Zero ceremony.
"We come back to this place to remember the heartbreaking anniversary and each person who died here — those known and unknown to us, whose absence is always with us. ... It surely cannot be easy to come to this site and speak out loud the name of the person that you had always thought would be next to you, the one with whom you had hoped to face the world, to stand by your side. Yet who can know what is in your hearts?"
Former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who famously spearheaded the city's response to the attacks, added, "We've come back to remember the valor of those we've lost, [including those] who innocently went to work that day and the brave souls who went in after them."
On Sunday night in Washington, D.C., thousands of people gathered for the second annual Freedom Walk from the National Mall to the Pentagon's south parking lot, near the site where American Airlines Flight 77 struck the building. The Pentagon will shine 184 lights into the sky until Tuesday, one for each of the people who died in the U.S. military's headquarters when the plane crashed into it.
Vice President Dick Cheney attended a morning ceremony in Washington Monday morning, where he escorted former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who joined senior Bush administration officials and White House staffers as they bowed their heads in silence to commemorate when the first plane struck New York, the Washington Post reported.
At a Pentagon service, Cheney praised the ongoing war on terror and the U.S. response to the 9/11 attacks. "In the conduct of this war, the world has seen the best that is in our country," Cheney said, lacking the palpable emotion that had marked the preceding speech from Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who seemed to choke up at several points. "We have shown that Americans are a resolute people, clear in our purposes, steady in difficult tasks. We have answered violence with patient justice. ... This struggle is fierce, and it will be lengthy. But it is not endless. Our cause is right, our will is strong; this great nation will prevail."
On the morning of the attacks, Bush vowed to "hunt down and to find those folks who committed this act." And as a grim reminder that al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden remains free and that the war on terror continues, a lengthy video statement from bin Laden deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri was issued on the eve of the five-year 9/11 anniversary.
Images of the chaos and fear that enveloped the country five years ago were played and replayed on news channels on Monday, with CNN running a crawl bearing the names of the victims and rebroadcasting its live footage from the morning of the attacks on its Web site.--at 4:35--