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‘Our hearts still ache’

Tribute paid to victims in the United States and around the world

By Meghan Barr and Jim Fitzgerald
Associated Press
APTOPIX Sept 11 Anniversary
Gene J. Puskar - AP
Navy Quartermaster Matthew Konchan of Johnstown, Pa., stands in a field of black-eyed Susan as he waits to participate in a wreath laying with Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell during a memorial service at the Flight 93 National Memorial on Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013 in Shanksville. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

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  • A shared sorrow

    A look at other events marking the 12th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks:

    BOSTON: A wreath-laying ceremony in the city’s Public Garden was followed by a commemoration at the Statehouse, during which participants read the names of more than 200 attack victims with ties to Massachusetts. During the ceremony, a civilian bravery award named after 9/11 flight attendant Madeline Amy Sweeney was given to Carlos Arredondo, a Boston Marathon spectator who assisted a man who lost both legs in the April 15 bombing.

    APPLETON, Newfoundland: A monument made from a piece of World Trade Center steel was unveiled to mark the area’s role in helping stranded air passengers after the attacks. Residents in the region took travelers from around the world into their homes when American airspace was closed after the 9/11 hijackings. More than 6,500 passengers and crew were diverted to nearby Gander, Newfoundland.

    KABUL, Afghanistan: About 300 U.S. and other coalition troops gathered at noon for a memorial ceremony at Bagram Airfield to remember those lost Sept. 11, 2001. The service was held near a 9-foot beam from the World Trade Center site, which many troops pass on their way to their duties. Attendees saluted as a band played “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Speeches focused on the sacrifices of troops in the years since the attacks, but also touched on progress made in rebuilding Afghanistan.

    DALLAS: About 200 military veterans observed the anniversary by fixing up the grounds of Texas Fire Museum, in one of many volunteer events around the nation recognizing Sept. 11 as a national day of public service. The group MyGoodDeed, which organizes many of the service events, said it gets about 50,000 pledges a year from people who plan to volunteer for a charitable activity on 9/11. Founders David Paine and Jay Winuk joined Alice Hoagland, the mother of Flight 93 victim Mark Bingham, in ringing the opening bell Wednesday at the New York Stock Exchange.

    ISRAEL: At a Navy graduation ceremony in northern Israel, President Shimon Peres paid tribute to 9/11 victims, saying the attack was among the worst terrorist crimes in history. “The mourning of the United States of America is also the mourning of Israel,” he said. The U.S. embassy held a ceremony in conjunction with the Jewish National Fund at the 9/11 Living Memorial in a Jerusalem forest. The memorial is among the largest commemorating 9/11 outside the United States.



NEW YORK Life in lower Manhattan resembled any ordinary day Wednesday as workers rushed to their jobs in the muggy heat, but time stood still at the World Trade Center site while families wept for loved ones who died in the terror attacks 12 years ago.

For the families, the memories of that day are still vivid, the pain still acute. Some who read the names of a beloved big brother or a cherished daughter could hardly speak through their tears.

“Has it really been 12 years? Or 12 days? Sometimes it feels the same,” said Michael Fox, speaking aloud to his brother, Jeffrey, who perished in the south tower. “Sometimes I reach for the phone so I can call you, and we can talk about our kids like we used to do every day.”

On the memorial plaza overlooking two reflecting pools in the imprint of the twin towers, relatives recited the names of the nearly 3,000 people who died when hijacked jets were crashed into the towers, the Pentagon and a field near Shanksville, Pa. They also recognized the victims of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Bells tolled to mark the planes’ hitting the towers and the moments when the skyscrapers fell.

Silence in D.C., NYC, Pa.

In Washington, President Barack Obama, first lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill Biden, walked out to the White House’s South Lawn for a moment of silence at 8:46 a.m. – the time the first plane struck the north tower in New York. Another jetliner struck the Pentagon at 9:37 a.m.

“Our hearts still ache for the futures snatched away, the lives that might have been,” Obama said.

A moment of silence was held also at the U.S. Capitol.

In New York, loved ones milled around the memorial site, making rubbings of names, putting flowers by the names of victims, and weeping arm-in-arm. Former Gov. George Pataki, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and others attended. As with last year, no politicians spoke. Mayor Michael Bloomberg watched the ceremony for his final time in office.

Carol Eckna recalled the contagious laugh of her son, Paul Robert Eckna, who was killed in the north tower.

“Just yesterday, you were 28,” she said. “Today, you are 40. You are forever young. Dad and I are proud to be your parents.”

The anniversary arrived amid changes at the United Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, where construction started Tuesday on a new visitor center. On Wednesday, the families of the passengers and crew of Flight 93 recalled their loved ones as heroes for their unselfish and quick actions. The plane was hijacked with the likely goal of crashing it into the White House or the Capitol, but passengers overwhelmed the attackers, and the plane crashed into the field. All aboard died.

“In a period of 22 minutes, our loved ones made history,” said Gordon Felt, president of the Families of Flight 93, whose brother, Edward, was a passenger.

‘A hole in your heart’

Outside Washington, hundreds of people gathered for a short, simple ceremony at an Arlington County plaza three miles from the Pentagon. First responders from the county were among the first on the scene that day.

Fire Chief James Schwartz said ceremonies like Wednesday’s, which featured an honor guard and a moment of silence, serve as a reminder of why first responders spend so much time preparing for disaster.

“I’ve often said this has been the fastest 12 years of my life,” Schwartz said. “But if you are a surviving family member, I’d imagine this has been the longest 12 years of your life because you’re waking up every day with a hole in your heart.”

Bloomberg also spoke at a remembrance for the 84 Port Authority employees killed Sept. 11 at St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church, in the shadow of where the World Trade Center once stood.

“On that terrible day, we were united in prayer and compassion for all of you who lost loved ones,” the mayor said. “As we woke up this morning, our first thoughts were with you as well.”

Dozens of family members and colleagues filled the pews as the Port Authority Police Pipes and Drums played during the posting of colors.

Working together

Around the world, thousands of volunteers pledged to do good deeds, honoring an anniversary that in 2009 was designated a National Day of Service and Remembrance.

By next year’s anniversary, a museum is expected to be open beneath the memorial plaza in New York. While the memorial honors those killed, the museum is intended to present a broader picture, including the experiences of survivors and first responders.

“As things evolve in the future, the focus on the remembrance is going to stay sacrosanct,” memorial President Joe Daniels said.

Douglas Hamatie, whose cousin Robert Horohoe, 31, worked for Cantor Fitzgerald and died on 9/11, drew applause from the crowd when he declared that the day should become a national holiday.

“The kids today, they know when the next iPhone’s coming out, and they know when the next Justin Bieber concert is, but they don’t know enough about 9/11,” he said. “So let’s change that, please.”

The organizers have said they will always keep the focus on the families, and that was evident this year as relatives gathered on the tree-laden plaza, where a smaller crowd gathered – only friends and family of the victims were allowed.

Vicki Tureski, who lost her brother-in-law Sept. 11, said the victims’ families will help each other through the years to come.

“Strangers who are now friends, friends who are now family, family who pull us to our feet each day,” she said. “I promise to continue to keep you in my prayers as we go through decade two of carrying the tragedy of 9/11 with us.”

AP writers Verena Dobnik, Jennifer Peltz, Colleen Long, Nedra Pickler, Matthew Barakat, and Kevin Begos contributed.

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