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The "Tribute in Light" illuminates the sky in New York on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. (AFP/Getty Images)

10 Years Later, The Nation Remembers The Sept. 11 Attacks

by Eyder Peralta
Sep 11, 2011

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Eyder Peralta

Today was a day of mourning for the country. The 10th anniversary of Sept. 11 was marked by prayers, solemn ceremonies, vows to remember the victims and pledges to never let terrorists fundamentally change the American way of life.

At ground zero in New York City, the names of the nearly 3,000 people who perished were read as a painful litany. They were read by sisters and brothers; they were read by husbands and wives; they were read by daughters and sons. The families stood in front of the site as they have every year since the attack. Some of them held pictures; others held flags. All of them visited the newly opened memorial for the first time.

"We can never unsee what happened here," New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said during the ceremony. President Obama read Psalm 46, a prayer of perseverence and strength, while George W. Bush read the "Bixby letter" of condolence written by Abraham Lincoln.

President Obama also visited Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where one of the hijacked planes crashed and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

While it's been a decade since the attacks, the emotions were raw. That was evident as the family members of the victims made their way to the memorial in New York City, where two huge fountains now sit where the towers once stood. It was evident when the families ran their hands over the names carved in the memorial's stone. It was evident by the tears on their cheeks.

"It's still a raw pain that will never go away," Julie Jones, who lost her son, told the AP. "Ten years seems like 10 minutes right now."

Update at 10:09 p.m. ET. Performances:

As promised, we've added audio of the "Concert of Hope" performances in a separate blog post.

Update at 9:13 p.m. ET. The Families:

In a day of emotional tributes, NPR's Guy Raz, Don Gonyea and Ron Elving discussed what the highlight of the day was. And there seemed to be consensus that it was the images of the families at the World Trade Center, in Shanksville, Pennsylvania and at Pentagon. Some of the most of the emotional moments came from the family members reading the names of the dead and the personal stories that punctuated the ritual.

Some of the strongest images came from the new memorial in New York. The president referenced it in his address at the Kennedy Center. He mentioned the families leaning over the names engraved in the marble and stone of the memorial.

President Obama said the legacy of Sept. 11 would be one of the resilience of the people left behind.

"Over the years we have also seen a more quiet form of heroism," the president said. "In the ladder company that lost so many men and still suits up to save lives every day; the businesses that have rebuilt; the burn victim who has bounced back; the families that press on."

Update at 9:10 p.m. ET. Audio Of President's Address:

Update at 8:51 p.m. ET. A Final Musical Tribute:

Mezzo Soprano Denyce Graves sings Amazing Grace. We will add audio of that performance a little later on, too.

Update at 8:46 p.m. ET. Full Text Of The President's Speech:

We've posted full text of the president's speech in a separate post.

Update at 8:40 p.m. ET. Patti LaBelle:

Patti LaBelle performs Two Steps Away. We will add audio of the performance later.

Update at 8:23 p.m. ET. A Legacy Of Moving Forward:

President Obama ends by looking toward the future, saying the legacy of Sept. 11 will be that of the United States' "determination to move forward."

The president quoted Psalm 30, saying, "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning."

"With a just God as our guide, let us honor those who have been lost; let us rededicate ourselves to the ideals that define our nation, and let us look to the future with hearts full of hope," President Obama said.

Update at 8:21 p.m. ET. Nothing Can Break The Will Of The U.S.:

President Obama says that in the future, as people visit the Sept. 11th memorial in New York and as they stand before the white headstones in Arlington Cemetery and remember those who died in Afghanistan and Iraq, they "will know that nothing can break the will of a truly United States of America."

He added:

They will remember that we have overcome slavery and Civil War; bread lines and fascism; recession and riots; Communism and, yes, terrorism. They will be reminded that we are not perfect, but our democracy is durable, and that democracy - reflecting, as it does, the imperfections of man - also gives us the opportunity to perfect our union.

Update at 8:18 p.m. ET. America's Resolve:

President Obama says that the past decade has shown that America has "resolve to defend its citizens."

"But our strength is not measured in our ability to stay in these places; it comes from our commitment to leave those lands to free people and sovereign states, and our desire to move from a decade of war to a future of peace," he said.

Update at 8:16 p.m. ET. The Ultimate Rebuke:

President Obama tells the story of a mother who has raised her children on her own after her husband died in the World Trade Center. Her two daughters are doing well and are in college.

"That spirit typifies the American family," the president said. "And the hopeful future for those girls is the ultimate rebuke to the hateful killers who took the life of their father."

Update at 8:14 p.m. ET. What's Not Changed:

The president says the attacks of Sept. 11th made America change, but he said:

... today, it is worth remembering what has not changed. Our character as a nation has not changed. Our faith - in God and each other - that has not changed. Our belief in America, born of a timeless ideal that men and women should govern themselves; that all people are created equal, and deserve the same freedom to determine their own destiny - that belief, through test and trials, has only been strengthened.

Update at 8:11 p.m. ET. President Obama Speaks:

"The Bible tells us - 'weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning,'" the president says to open his remarks.

Update at 8 p.m. ET. Culminating Memorial Service:

The culminating service — titled "Concert of Hope" — is taking place at Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. President Obama will speak.

The program's first performer is country singer Alan Jackson, who is singing his Sept. 11 inspired "Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning."

We will add audio of that performance later.

The memorial, by the way, was scheduled to be held at the National Cathedral in Washington, but after earthquake damage and then crane collapse, the event was moved the Kennedy Center.

Update at 7:44 p.m. ET. Wrapping Up The Earlier Memorial Services:

We've pulled a bit of audio from our correspondents that wraps up the memorial services in New York City, Shanksville, Pennsylvania and the Pentagon:

Update at 7:41 p.m. ET. Commemorating Sept. 11 In Afghanistan:

We've added a separate post of pictures that show American service members commemorating the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11 in Afghanistan.

Update at 6:55 p.m. ET. Security Incidents On Planes:

On two different occasions today, suspicious passengers caused authorities to spring into action. We've written a separate post about the jets scrambled to escort a flight bound for New York City and another flight that landed in Detroit in which three passengers were detained.

Update at 6:02 p.m. ET. Children And Sept. 11:

We've posted a separate post about the topic. But here's a quote from an 11-year-old girl from Manhattan who NPR's Zoe Chace spoke to:

"I think grownups think it wasn't like as bad, but that was the day a lot of children realized parents and like grownups are vulnerable," Kate Bralauer said.

Update at 4:43 p.m. ET. Across The Sports World:

The Washington Redskins and the New York Giants opened their season today and Sept. 11 was very much at the center of the pre-game presentations. A huge American flag was unfurled mid-field and former Secretary of State Colin Powell was named "honorary captain."

The AP reports many NFL teams across the country commemorated the anniversary:

In a presentation relayed to video screens around the league, "Taps" was played from Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where one of
the hijacked jets crashed a decade earlier. A recorded message from
actor Robert DeNiro was broadcast on videoboards reminding fans
that "we honor those brave men and women by continuing to show our unity and strength as a country."

Update at 4:18 p.m. ET. Worldwide Remembrances:

The New York Times reports on commemorations of the anniversary across the world. For the most part, the paper reports, the ceremonies were subdued. But they spanned the globe from England to France to Indonesia and Israel.

The piece gets into how things have changed from the day after the attacks to the days and years after the U.S. launched wars in Afghanistan and Iraq:

In Germany, where the attacks were planned, there was a quiet commemoration, an interfaith service at the American Church in Berlin. Three days after the attacks, about 200,000 people had gathered near the Brandenburg Gate, but barely 200 showed up for a moment of silence on Sunday.

"I thought there would be a few more people," said Alan Benson, who helped organize the program and held an American flag. "First there was empathy with Americans, but as a consequence of the wars there are a lot of misgivings now."

Update at 3:44 p.m. ET. President Obama Meets Families:

President Obama, along with first lady Michelle Obama, have spent the last 20 or so minutes meeting the families of Sept. 11 victims. The president shook hands and posed for pictures and stopped for short conversations with dozens of people.

Update at 3:26 p.m. ET. President Obama At The Pentagon:

President Obama arrived at the Pentagon, where he laid a wreath to commemorate the 125 who died at the Pentagon and the 59 passengers who perished aboard Flight 77. After laying the wreath, the president stepped back and stood in silence for a moment.

Afterward, under a bright blue sky, a band played Amazing Grace. At a distance, there was reminder of that day: A large American flag had been draped over the side of the Pentagon where the plane made impact.

Update at 3:21 p.m. ET. Remembering The Four-Legged Heroes:

NPR's Joel Rose sent in a bit from a tribute to the almost 1,000 dogs that served on Sept. 11. We've added a separate post with that story.

Update at 2 p.m. ET. VIDEO — Family Members Remember:

The Associated Press offers this video report on the thoughts of some who lost family members on Sept. 11, 2001.

Julie Jones, who lost her son, says "it's still a raw pain that will never go away. ... Ten years seems like 10 minutes right now."

Update at 1:35 p.m. ET. What Were You Doing On Sept. 11? Some Responses:

Our colleague Andy Carvin asked people on Twitter to tell him what they were doing on Sept. 11, 2001. He's used Storify to collect the responses. Here's a sampling:

— "I was the pregnant Muslim mom of a 1yr old, horrified by what I was seeing on TV and worried about my children's lives."

— "Rushed into London to spend evening with American MA student I'd been dating for less than 2 weeks. Been married 9 years now."

— "I was teaching physics and then had to explain something far more complicated."

Update at 1:25 p.m. ET. Memorial Is Ending In New York:

The solemn strains of Taps just brought the memorial service at Ground Zero to a close.

Update at 1:15 p.m. ET. In Shanksville, "Thanks For Getting Bin Laden":

The Associated Press writes that in Shanksville, Pa., earlier, "as President Obama walked to a security barricade to shake hands, there were chants of 'USA! USA!' One man called out, 'Thanks for getting bin Laden." The Obamas also visited the Wall of Names, where each of the 40 marble slabs is inscribed with the name of someone killed in the crash of United Flight 93."

Update at 1 p.m. ET. After The Attacks, A New Yorker Felt The Nation's Embrace:

There are other Sept. 11-related memorials to visit in New York City, NPR's Margot Adler tells us:

"At St. Paul's, hundreds of people are tying white ribbons to the gates and steams of people are going into the church — which was such a living memorial to 9/11 that first year. There are incense, banners and a welcoming feel, no matter your faith

"In Bryant Park, the lawn has been roped off nearly 3,000 chairs — one for each person who died in the attacks — have been placed on the grass. They are facing south toward the World Trade Center, in stark simplicity.

"At the park, visitors can fill out cards saying what they remember from Sept. 11, 2001, and the days afterward. Here's what I might have said: there was an incredible feeling of unity in the city, and it was a rare moment when we New Yorkers were not seen as some crazy outsiders. We were seen as part of America and we felt as much a part of the country as the heartland."

Update at noon ET: The President And First Lady Are At The Shanksville Memorial:

President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama just laid a wreath at the memorial near Shanksville, Pa., where 40 passengers and crew members from United Flight 93 died after they fought back against hijackers.

Update at 11:45 a.m. ET. Families Are Exploring The Memorial's Quiet Space:

From New York, NPR's Brendan Banaszak filed a post on how families of those killed at the World Trade Center are already making use of the new 9/11 Memorial's green, quiet space in the middle of the city.

Update at 11:20 a.m. ET. At Pentagon, Biden Hails Those Who "Sprang To Action":

What happened at the Pentagon after American Flight 77 slammed into the building is "far more remarkable than the damage inflicted in the building behind me," Vice President Biden said this morning at the memorial service there.

"Those who worked in this building, many of you in front of me, [and] 1,000 more first responders from across the region ... sprang to action" and risked their lives to save others, he said.

Update at 10:58 a.m. ET. Paul Simon:

As promised, here's the audio of Paul Simon singing The Sound of Silence.

Update at 10:50 a.m. ET. Piles Of Coffee Cups Underscore Extent Of Security:

From lower Manhattan, NPR's Robert Smith tells us he was a bit confused at first when he saw "piles of coffee cups" on street corners this morning.

"But then I realized," he writes. "The police have removed all the trash cans. Every one close to Ground Zero is gone — obviously to keep anyone from planting a bomb in one. But the practical effect are tiny hillocks of debris."

Trash cans aren't the only thing missing in the area this morning due to heightened security. Robert says "all the parked cars are also gone from the streets."

Update at 10:38 a.m. ET. Paul Simon Sings The Sound of Silence:

Singer/songwriter Paul Simon just sang his classic The Sound of Silence. We'll add the audio shortly.

Update at 10:33 a.m. ET. Giuliani Reads From Ecclesiastes (Or Turn, Turn, Turn):

Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani reads "A Time For Everything" from Ecclesiastes — perhaps better known to many for Pete Seeger's Turn! Turn! Turn! (made into a hit by the Byrds).

Update at 10:26 a.m. ET. Last Moment Of Silence.

The north tower at the World Trade Center fell at 10:28 a.m. ET. There will be a moment of silence at the ceremony in New York.

Update at 10:25 a.m. ET. Psalm 46:

Earlier, we noted that President Obama read Psalm 46. Different versions of the Bible offer slight variations on that passage. According to the White House, this transcript shows what the president read:

God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.

Therefore, we will not fear,
even though the earth be removed,
and though the mountains be carried
into the midst of the sea.

Though its waters roar and be troubled,
though the mountains shake with its swelling,
there's a river whose streams shall make glad the City of God,
the holy place of the Tabernacle of the Most High.

God is in the midst of her.
She shall not be moved.
God shall help her just at the break of dawn.

The nations raged, the kingdoms were moved.
He uttered his voice.
The earth melted.

The Lord of Hosts is with us.
The God of Jacob is our refuge.
Come behold the works of the Lord who has made desolations in the Earth.
He makes wars cease to the ends of the Earth.
He breaks the bough and cuts the spear in two.
He burns the chariot in fire.

Be still and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations.
I will be exalted in the Earths.
The Lord of Hosts is with us.
The God of Jacob is our refuge.

Update at 10:15 a.m. ET. New Jersey Remembers:

NPR's Joel Rose sent along word about a dawn service in New Jersey this morning, across the Hudson River from the World Trade Center.

Update at 10 a.m. ET. "Each Year There Are Fresh Poignant Moments."

NPR's Margot Adler, who is at the ceremony in New York, writes:

"I have been at many of these 9/11 memorials. And much of it is always the same. But each year there are fresh poignant moments.

"The bagpipes play. A Brooklyn chorus sings The Star Spangled Banner. The reading of the names themselves — such a bountiful salad of every ethnicity from every part of the world.

"This time two video screens show the readers and moving faces in the crowd. And then, while the readings are formal, there are individual moments when a family member speaks personally of a father, mother, brother, sister, son, daughter, uncle ...

"President Obama, former President George W, Bush and their wives stand behind a screen. Each goes to the podium to read. The sound is too low. Mayor Michael Bloomberg hosts the ceremony as he has done so many times. He will never have the sonorous tones of President Obama, but for many there is something reassuring and lovely in his spare simple words.

"For the first 45 minutes the families stand packed together as tight as in a crowded subway car. Then, we can see on the large screens, many family members — lead by President Obama and former President George Bush — begin the walk to the memorial plaza."

Update at 9:57 a.m. ET. Two More Moments Of Silence:

There will be pauses at 9:59 a.m. ET to mark the collapse of the World Trade Center's south tower and at 10:03 a.m. ET to mark the crash in Shanksville, Pa.

Update at 9:50 a.m. ET. James Taylor Performs:

In New York, singer/songwriter James Taylor just sang You Can Close Your Eyes. And as promised, we've added the audio of Yo-Yo Ma's poignant performance. It's at the top of this post.

Update at 9:30 a.m. ET. Ceremony Begins At The Pentagon:

A memorial service just started at the Pentagon, which was struck by American Airlines Flight 77 at 9:37 a.m. ET on Sept. 11, 2001. The attack killed 184 people on the plane and in the building. Vice President Biden is at the service.

Update at 9:25 a.m. ET. In Pennsylvania, "A White Mist Rose Like A Halo" This Morning:

"The tenth anniversary of 9/11 dawned clear and bright today, just as it had 10 years earlier," The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes from near Shanksville, Pa. "As the first visitors to a morning ceremony streamed down the walkway of the newly dedicated Flight 93 National Memorial, a white mist rose like a halo above the crash site but didn't touch the surrounding field of grass and yellow wildflowers."

Update at 9:16 a.m. ET. Yo-Yo Ma:

Cellist Yo-Yo Ma just performed Sarabande from Bach's First Suite for Cello Solo. We'll add audio of that shortly.

Update at 9:07 a.m. ET. Bush Reads Lincoln's "Bixby Letter":

Former President George W. Bush just read the "Bixby letter" of condolence that President Abraham Lincoln wrote in 1864 to a mother who he had been told lost five sons in the Civil War:

"Dear Madam: I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant-General of Massachusetts that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle. I feel how weak and fruitless must be any words of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering to you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save. I pray that our heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom."

Update at 9:01 a.m. ET. Second Moment Of Silence Coming Up:

There's a moment of silence scheduled for 9:03 a.m. ET — to mark the time when a jet hit the south tower of the World Trade Center.

On the NPR broadcast, correspondent Don Gonyea just noted that even a decade later, "it's a very powerful thing" to hear the names of the victims read aloud. And, he noted it's a powerful image to see Presidents Bush and Obama together at the Ground Zero memorial.

Update at 8:51 a.m. ET. The Reading Of The Names:

The focus of the Ground Zero ceremony — reading the names of all those killed in New York, Pennsylvania and at the Pentagon — has begun.

Update at 8:50 a.m. ET. Obama Reads Psalm 46:

President Obama just recited Psalm 46. It reads, in part: "Though the earth be removed and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea ... God is in the midst of her. She shall not be moved."

Update at 8:47 a.m. ET. "A Chance To Reflect And Remember":

In introducing the first moment of silence, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said it is a "chance to reflect and remember."

Update at 8:45 a.m. ET. First Moment Of Silence:

The first jet hit the north tower of the World Trade Center at 8:46 a.m. ET. At Ground Zero, a moment of silence is to be observed. Houses of worship, though, have been asked to toll their bells.

Update at 8:41 a.m. ET. Singing Of The National Anthem:

With an honor guard holding an American flag that flew above Ground Zero in the days and weeks after the attacks, the Brooklyn Youth Chorus is singing the national anthem.

Update at 8:38 a.m. ET. About The 9/11 Memorial:

The website of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum at the World Trade Center is here. It includes a "memorial guide" where you can search the names of those who died there on Sept. 11, 2001.

Update at 8:30 a.m. ET. Ceremonies Begin:

In New York and Shanksville, Pa., memorial services are about to begin. NPR's Robert Siegel says the ceremony in New York will start with a bagpipers, drummers and the singing of the national anthem by the Brooklyn Youth Chorus.

Update at 8:26 a.m. ET. "A Beautiful, Beautiful Sight:"

On NPR's broadcast, correspondent Robert Smith just echoed Robert Siegel's words about the memorial at Ground Zero. It was "a beautiful, beautiful sight" to see this morning, he said, as the sunlight played off the water in the pools and the young trees stood nearby.

Update at 8:20 a.m. ET. The Presidents Are At Ground Zero:

Former President George W. Bush and his wife Laura, along with their daughters, and President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, are now at Ground Zero. We're about 10 minutes away from the start of the ceremony there.

Update at 8:15 a.m. ET. "A Very Remarkable, Quiet Space":

From his vantage point above the site of today's ceremony at the World Trade Center, NPR's Robert Siegel just reported that the memorial site there is "a very remarkable, quiet space" in the middle of lower Manhattan.

Update at 8 a.m. ET. In Lower Manhattan, A Son Remembers The Father He Lost:

"Lower Manhattan is locked down," NPR's Margot Adler tells us. To get to the site of this morning's service, she had to go through two security checkpoints.

Now, she says, "at the World Trade Center site, everyone is waiting. The families are standing in front of us. As always, some have brought pictures of loved ones. Some hold flags. The new One World Trade Center building — already some 80 stories high — is next to us on the left. It was lit red, white and blue early this morning. A large flag hangs down from the building."

Margot has spoken to several of the family members, including 17-year-old Elijah Portilo. His dad, an architect, died at the World Trade Center. Now a high school senior, Elijah hopes to study psychology when he goes to college. Losing his dad opened him up, Elijah says. He learned to care for others in a way might not have otherwise.

"My dad," Elijah adds, "was a really great guy."

Update at 7:40 a.m. ET. Obama's Message — Terrorists Are No Match For Americans' Character:

In his weekly radio and Internet address this weekend, President Obama says that "a decade after 9/11, it's clear for all the world to see — the terrorists who attacked us that September morning are no match for the character of our people, the resilience of our nation, or the endurance of our values."

The president is not scheduled to make remarks at the ceremony this morning in New York, but is expected to repeat that theme this evening at a memorial concert in Washington, D.C.

Update at 7:25 a.m. ET. No Sign Of Terrorists Having Entered U.S.:

"U.S. intelligence agencies have found no evidence that al-Qaida has sneaked any terrorists into America for a strike coinciding with the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks," The Associated Press reports, citing "senior officials" as its sources.

The tip, which Homeland Security officials first reported Thursday, has always been described as "credible" but unconfirmed intelligence. It concerned a possible plot to attack New York or Washington, D.C.

Update at 7:10 a.m. ET. President Clinton, Speaker Boehner Join To Raise Money For Shanksville Memorial:

At a dedication ceremony Saturday in Shanksville, Pa., former President Bill Clinton (D) announced that he's joining with House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) to host a fundraiser aimed at collecting the $10 million still needed for the $62 million project.

Also Saturday, Clinton, former President George W. Bush and Vice President Biden unveiled a "Wall of Names" at the site. As the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes, "40 marble blocks [are] lined up beneath the plane's flight path and engraved with the names of the victims" — passengers and crew members who fought back against the highjackers.

From our original post:

Today's focus will be on memorial services:

— In Shanksville, Pa., where United Flight 93 crashed after passengers fought back against the highjackers. The service there is set to start at 8:30 a.m. ET.

— At the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan, where 2,753 people were killed when two passenger jets struck the twin towers. That ceremony begins around 8:40 a.m. ET.

— At the Pentagon, where 184 passengers and people inside the Defense Department's headquarters died when American Airlines Flight 77 slammed into the building.

Some of the key moments on this day that marks the worst terrorist attacks ever on U.S. soil will be recognized with moments of silence at the ceremony in New York:

— 8:46 a.m. ET; when the first plane hit the World Trade Center.

— 9:03 a.m. ET; when the second plane hit the WTC.

— 9:37 a.m. ET; when the Pentagon was struck.

— 9:59 a.m. ET; collapse of the south tower at the WTC.

— 10:03 a.m. ET; the crash in Shanksville.

— 10:28 a.m. ET; collapse of the north tower at the WTC.

President Obama and former President George W. Bush are among those who will be at the ceremony in New York. President Obama is also due to visit Shanksville and the Pentagon today.

We'll be using this post to follow events all day, so be sure to hit your "refresh" button to see our latest updates. And as related stories come up, we'll add other posts to The Two-Way as well.

There's also going to be streaming coverage at NPR.org and on many NPR member stations.

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