On 9/11, day of mourning becomes day of service
By Suzanne Ma
NEW YORK — With familiar rituals of grief and a new purpose to honor those who rushed into danger to help, the nation marked eight years since the Sept. 11 terror attacks Thursday, with volunteers reading the names of the World Trade Center lost.
Memorials in New York, at the Pentagon and at the crash site of United Airlines Flight 93 in Pennsylvania all took place under gray skies, and those reading names at ground zero spoke under tents to protect against rain.
"We miss you. Life will never be the same without you," said Vladimir Boyarsky, whose son, Gennady Boyarsky, was killed. "This is not the rain. This is the tears."
President Barack Obama, observing his first Sept. 11 as president, had signed an order declaring it a day of service. He had first lady Michelle Obama marked a moment of silence outside the White House as a bugler played taps.
The president said the nation came together after the attacks, "united not only in our grief but in our resolve to stand up for the country we love."
In Shanksville, Pa., bells tolled for the 40 victims of the fourth hijacked jetliner that crashed there eight years ago.
At the World Trade Center site, volunteers - from soup kitchens, advocacy groups, the Red Cross, the United Way - joined relatives of the lost to read the names of those killed in the twin towers.
Renewing what has become a poignant tradition, the relatives called out greetings and messages of remembrances when they reached the names of their own loved ones.
"We love you, Dad, and we miss you," said Philip Hayes Jr., whose father, long retired from the Fire Department, rushed to the site that 2001 morning and ultimately gave his life.
Umbrellas bloomed and whipped inside-out at ground zero, where moments of silence were observed at 8:46, 9:03, 9:59 and 10:29 a.m. - the precise times that jetliners struck the north and south towers of the trade center and that each tower fell.
"From this day forward, we will safeguard the memories of those who died by rekindling the spirit of service that lit our city with hope and helped keep us strong," New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said at the ceremony.
Vice President Joe Biden, speaking during a break in the list of names, told the several hundred gathered that "there's a special fraternity for those of us who've lost spouses and children." Biden's daughter and first wife died in a 1972 car accident.
Biden also joined families who laid flowers in a reflecting pool on the site where the towers once stood.
Relatives and friends of victims visited a partially built, street-level Sept. 11 memorial plaza that had not been there a year ago. The twin, waterfall-filled pools surrounded by victims' names are expected to be built by the attacks' 10th anniversary in 2011.
Adding tension to an already emotionally charged day, the Coast Guard conducted a training exercise in the Potomac River near the Pentagon, with vessels circling in the water near a bridge where Obama's motorcade had passed.
In the confusion, departures from Reagan National Airport were halted for 22 minutes. They resumed at 10:30 a.m., Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Diane Spitaliere said. Federal agents also scrambled to the river, said a law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to discuss the Incident.
George W. Bush, whose presidency was defined in part by that day, had no public appearances planned. A spokesman said he would be working in his office. In a statement, he said he and his wife, Laura, were thinking of the victims and their families.
He also honored members of the armed forces and law enforcement. "Their courage, service, and sacrifice is a fitting tribute to all those who gave their lives on Sept. 11, 2001. On this day, let us renew our determination to prevent evil from returning to our shores."