09/11/2006

Ground zero falls silent and US holds remembrances for fifth 9-11 anniversary

By AMY WESTFELDT
Associated Press Writer

NEW YORK- The United States solemnly observed the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks Monday with moments of silence timed to mark the World Trade Center jetliner crashes and quiet remembrances held around the country.

The 16-acre (6.5-hectare) trade center site in lower Manhattan fell quiet at 8:46 a.m. (1246 GMT), five years after American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the north tower, and 9:03 a.m. (1303 GMT), when United Flight 175 slammed into the south tower.

Family members at ground zero held up signs reading "You will always be with us" and "Never forget," and quiet sobs could be heard as the moments of silence were observed. Some victims' relatives crossed themselves and wiped away tears.

"Five years have come, and five years have gone, and still we stand together as one," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said. "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."

The sorrowful task of reading the names of the 2,749 victims of the trade center attacks fell to spouses and partners.

"My love for you is eternal," said Maria Acosta, who began the annual reading of the names, including her lost boyfriend, Paul John Gill. "And we all love you very much."

President George W. Bush opened the day at a historic New York firehouse, mingling with firefighters and police officers who were among the first to rush to the burning skyscrapers. He was to visit the attack sites in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, and the Pentagon later in the day before giving a prime-time address from the Oval Office.

At ground zero, family members held bouquets of roses and framed photos of their loved ones.

"I think it's important that people remember as years go on," said Diana Kellie, of Acaconda, Montana, whose niece and niece's fiance were killed on one of the planes. "The dead are really not dead until they're forgotten."

At the Pentagon, where 184 people died when American Flight 77 plowed into the building, Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld walked side-by-side to a platform. They sang along to "Battle Hymn of the Republic," and observed a moment of silence at 9:37 a.m. (1337 GMT), the time the plane struck.

In Shanksville, where United Flight 93 crashed to the ground, killing 40, hundreds of people gathered at a temporary memorial _ a 10-foot (3-meter) chainlink fence covered with American flags, firefighter helmets and children's drawings. They opened the ceremony with prayer.

At Logan International Airport in Boston, where the two trade center flights took off, security screeners stopped checking passengers for a moment and turned to an American flag. Passengers in line joined in the silent tribute.

"It's a difficult moment for everybody," said National Guard Cpl. Christopher Jessop, who joined the Guard on Sept. 12, 2001.

Elsewhere around the country, firefighters in Akron, Ohio, planned to display 3,000 American flags on a 10-acre (4-hectare) plot. In Virginia Beach, Virginia, firefighters and members of the public planned to form a human flag.

Bush on Sunday had marked the eve of the anniversary with somber gestures and few words as he and his wife, Laura, set wreaths in small, square reflecting pools in the pit of the trade center site, one each for where the north and south towers stood.

The Bushes had descended the long ramp from street level into ground zero accompanied by New York Governor George Pataki, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Rudolph Giuliani, hailed for his work as mayor in the months after the attack.

"It took about 30 years for this terrorism to develop," Giuliani said Monday morning on ABC's "Good Morning America" as he stood at the site. "It's going to take more than five years to deconstruct them."

"I'm kind of surprised at the progress we've made," he said. "We haven't been attacked in five years. I thought we would be. I thought for sure we would be. I thank God we haven't. But we have to prepare for it."

The anniversary dawned on a nation unrecognizable a half-decade ago _ at war in Afghanistan and Iraq, governed by a color-coded terror alert system, newly unable to carry even hair gel onto airplanes.

Bush administration officials mounted a vigorous defense Sunday of the measures they had taken to protect the country, even as the nation remains divided on the Iraq war, treatment of terror detainees and surveillance measures.

"There has not been another attack on the United States," Vice President Dick Cheney said on "Meet the Press" on NBC. "And that's not an accident."

And there was a fresh reminder of the terrorist threat: An hourlong videotape posted online Sunday showed previously unseen footage of Osama bin Laden, smiling, and other commanders apparently planning the New York and Washington attacks.

An unidentified narrator said the plot was devised not with computers and radar screens and military command centers but with "divine protection" for a brotherly atmosphere and "love for sacrificing life."

Al-Jazeera aired a new videotape Monday in which bin Laden's top deputy warned that Persian Gulf countries and Israel would be al-Qaida's next targets, and urged Muslims to intensify their resistance of the United States.

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