NEW YORK – The World Trade Center site fell silent four times as Americans paused in airport security lines, at churches and at quiet commemorations Monday to mark the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
At ground zero, a cavernous pit still largely unchanged from the first anniversary, family members of the 2,749 people lost there held photos of loved ones, crossed themselves and sobbed quietly.
The 16-acre site went quiet at 8:46 a.m. and 9:03 a.m., the moments American Airlines Flight 11 and United Flight 175 hit, and again at 9:59 a.m. and 10:29 a.m., when the south and north towers fell.
“We’ve come back to remember the valor of those we’ve lost, those who innocently went to work that day and the brave souls who went in after them,” former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said.
Spouses and partners of the trade center victims read their names in a roll call that lasted nearly four hours, some adding brief personal tributes to their loved ones.
“Honey, I want you to have a happy grandparents’ day in heaven,” said Elaine Moccia, addressing her late husband, Frank Moccia Sr, as she released a balloon gently into the sky where the towers once rose 110 stories above the New York skyline.
President 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 later laid a wreath on the Pennsylvania field where United Flight 93 crashed, and was to visit the Pentagon later in the day before giving a prime-time address from the Oval Office.
At ground zero, family members clutching bouquets of roses had descended to the lowest level of the trade center site, gathering around two small reflecting pools that marked where the two towers once stood.
The scene has played out on each of the five anniversaries of the al-Qaida attack. And the landscape has remained mostly the same: Construction on a Sept. 11 memorial and on the 1,776-foot Freedom Tower began only this year.
“I think it’s important that people remember as years go on,” said Diana Kellie, of Acaconda, Mont., 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., the time the plane struck.