9/11 attack victims remembered

 

Americans have paused to mark the 11th anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks, but some said it is time to move forward after a decade of remembrance.

Hundreds gathered at the World Trade Centre site in New York, the Pentagon and Shanksville, Pennsylvania, to read the names of nearly 3,000 victims killed in the worst terror attack in US history.

"Our country is safer, and our people are resilient," President Barack Obama said in a ceremony on the White House's south lawn. He and first lady Michelle Obama laid a white floral wreath at the Pentagon.

But many felt that last year's 10th anniversary was an emotional turning point for public mourning. For the first time, elected officials were not speaking at the New York ceremony.

"I feel much more relaxed this year," said Jane Pollicino, who came to remember her husband, who was killed at the trade centre. "It's another anniversary that we can commemorate in a calmer way, without that 10-year pressure."

Thousands had attended the ceremony in New York in previous years, including last year's milestone 10th anniversary. Fewer than 500 family members had gathered this year.

As bagpipes played at the new September 11 memorial in New York, families bowed their heads in silence at 8.46am, the moment that the first hijacked jet crashed into the trade centre's north tower, and again to mark the crashes into the second tower, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field.

More than four million people have visited the memorial in the past year. On Tuesday, much of downtown Manhattan bustled like a regular weekday, except for clusters of police and emergency vehicles on the borders of the site.

Joe Torres, who put in 16-hour days on the site in the days after the attacks, cleaning up tons of debris, said another year has changed nothing for him.

"The 11th year, for me, it's the same as if it happened yesterday. It could be 50 years from now, and to me, it'll be just as important as year one, or year five or year 10," he said.

The terror attacks were followed by wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, where the US military death toll years ago surpassed the 9/11 victim count. At least 1,987 US troops have died in Afghanistan and 4,475 in Iraq, according to the Pentagon.

Allied military forces marked the anniversary at a short ceremony at Nato's headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan, with a tribute to more than 3,000 foreign troops killed in the decade-long war.

"Eleven years on from that day, there should be no doubt that our dedication to this commitment, that commitment that was seared into our souls that day so long ago, remains strong and unshaken," said Marine General John Allen, the top commander of US and coalition troops.

Other ceremonies were held across the country, but some cities scaled back.

The National September 11 Memorial and Museum announced this summer that this year's ceremony would include the words of family members, hoping to remember the dead and honour families "in a way free of politics" in an election year, memorial president Joe Daniels said.

Yasmin Leon, whose sister was killed at the trade centre, said there was a sense of closure this year now that the September 11 memorial - twin reflecting pools surrounded by victims' names - was open to the public.

"This year, we're just here to reflect," she said.

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