Monday, September 12, 2011

Pictures: US unites in grief at 9/11 remembrance ceremony

Americans united in grief on Sunday's 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks which killed almost 3,000 people and plunged the country into an era of war and bitter internal division. -- PHOTO: AP

Malaysian Bloggers l NEW YORK (AFP) - Americans united in grief on Sunday's 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks which killed almost 3,000 people and plunged the country into an era of war and bitter internal division.
President Barack Obama and his predecessor and political foe George W. Bush stood together at Ground Zero in New York for the main ceremony at the site of the destroyed Twin Towers. Obama was then due to pay homage at 9/11's other crash sites in Pennsylvania and at the Pentagon.

With federal officials warning of a new terrorism scare, New York was on lockdown and security in other major cities was also tight, with Mr Obama calling for a 'heightened state of vigilance and preparedness'.
The ceremony began in New York with a procession of bagpipers and singing of the national anthem, before pausing for the first of six moments of silence marking the times when the four hijacked airplanes hit their targets and the two towers came down.
The sky over New York was clear, recalling the brilliant backdrop to the horrific surprise attack on the World Trade Center, where 2,753 of the day's 2,977 victims died in the subsequent inferno of collapsing skyscrapers.
As every year since Sept 11, 2001, relatives of the dead took turns reading out the names, a heartbreaking litany accompanied by virtuoso cellist Yo-Yo Ma.
President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, former President George W. Bush and former first lady Laura Bush bow their heads during a moment of silence at the Sept. 11 10th Anniversary Commemoration Ceremony at Ground Zero in New York, Sunday, Sept., 11, 2011 in New York. -- PHOTO: AP

Readers fought to keep emotions in check as they pronounced loved ones' names. 'I've stopped crying but I haven't stopped missing my dad. He was awesome,' a young man said.
Reflecting a growing sense that it is time to turn a corner from 9/11, the Ground Zero ritual this time was accompanied by signs of optimism.
Instead of the chaotic-looking construction site and vast pit that scarred lower Manhattan for years, the ceremony now features a gleaming, three-quarter-built One World Trade Center tower and other signs of progress.
Sunday also saw the dedication of a simple, but moving monument consisting of massive fountains sunk into the footprints of the former towers, with the names of the dead written in bronze around the edges.
Even as United States intelligence agencies chased down what officials said was a credible but unconfirmed threat of an Al-Qaeda attack around 9/11, Mr Obama assured terrorism would never win.
'We will protect the country we love and pass it safer, stronger and more prosperous to the next generation,' he said earlier. 'Today, America is strong and Al-Qaeda is on the path to defeat.'
Mr Obama and Mr Bush were attending the ceremony together for the first time, along with victims' family members, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his predecessor Rudolph Giuliani - who led the city 10 years ago.
In addition to the carefully stage-managed Ground Zero ceremony, Mr Obama was to pay respects at the Pentagon, and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where one of the four hijacked planes fell into a field, apparently after passengers overpowered the assailants.
The 9/11 remembrances unite Americans like almost no other event. According to a poll last week, 97 per cent of people remember where they were when they heard the news, on a par with John F. Kennedy's assassination.
The country was thrilled - with young people spilling onto the streets in Washington and New York - at the news in May that US Navy Seals had flown into Pakistan and shot dead Al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden.
Yet while Al-Qaeda is severely weakened and New York is recovering, the anniversary still finds a nation struggling to overcome the longer-term impacts of the last decade.
In Afghanistan, where US forces will also hold ceremonies on Sunday at the Bagram air base, with a similar event at the US embassy in Kabul, troops are stuck in a seemingly unwinnable war against a Taleban guerrilla movement few Americans understand.
'Some back home ask, why are we here? It has been a long fight and people are tired,' US Ambassador Ryan Crocker said at a ceremony at the US embassy in Kabul. 'The reason is simple: Al-Qaeda is not here in Afghanistan, and that's because we are.'
Early on Sunday, the US Army said 50 American soldiers were among 89 people wounded when a suicide bomber driving a truck attacked an advance Nato combat post in central Afghanistan on Saturday.
Though US troops have a reduced presence in Iraq, their occupation of the country, years of vicious inter-Iraqi violence and a host of torture scandals have bled the US economy and sullied Washington's image abroad.
And as unemployment and next year's presidential election become the focus for most Americans, those already distant wars - launched in the wake of 9/11 - can seem a world away.
In a time of growing political rancor, Sunday was at least a chance for brief reflection, and ceremonies were being held around the world to honour those killed on 9/11.
In the first of the global memorials, the US rugby team attended an emotional service in New Zealand hours ahead of their opening World Cup match against Ireland.
And British Foreign Secretary William Hague declared that Al-Qaeda 'is now weaker than at any time in the decade since 9/11'.
But the Taleban hit back on Saturday saying the post-9/11 invasion of Afghanistan by the United States and its allies 'will remain a permanent stigma on the face of Western democracy'.


No comments: