New York stops in silence to pay tribute to its dead

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The Independent US

On a day of sober reflection and painful remembrance, New York paused yesterday to mark six months since the felling of the Twin Towers with public ceremony and private grief.

City officials, religious leaders and relatives of the dead gathered early at Battery Park City, just steps from where the towers once stood, to pay tribute. The outdoor service included two moments of silence, marking exactly the times when each of the planes struck the World Trade Centre.

"Look into your heart to remember those that are no longer with us," the new Mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, intoned. "Think what those people would have wanted us to do."

What the city has done is to try to move on. The economy is stirring again. But it has not tried to sanitise the events of that day, let alone forget. In recent days, newspapers and local television stations have shown viewers and readers an avalanche of images and sounds from that terrible Tuesday that for many still remain too painful to ponder. Occasions like these are hard but cannot be ignored.

Above all, there was the primetime broadcast on Sunday evening by CBS of 9/11, two hours of raw documentary footage taken by two French brothers who were at Ground Zero, from the impact of the planes to the implosion of each of the towers. It did not show us the people jumping from the top floors. But its soundtrack included the deafening noise as each of them hit the pavement.

Meanwhile, for the next month, the sky above Manhattan will be pierced every evening by two parallel beams of light, a temporary memorial to evoke the Twin Towers. Also unveiled in Battery Park, next to Ground Zero, was a huge steel and bronze ball that used to sit atop a granite fountain in the plaza in front of the towers. Created in 1971 by the sculptor Fritz Koenig's The Sphere was retrieved from the rubble with a huge gash across it but is still structurally sound.

Joining Mr Bloomberg was his predecessor, Rudolph Giuliani. New Yorkers, he said yesterday, needed to look to the victims "for our inspiration and our sense of purpose. They would want us to lift up our heads very, very high" and move forward.

The two moments of silence, which were similarly observed by workers still toiling at Ground Zero, came at 8.46am and 9.03am. It was at those two times precisely that the pair of airliners streaked through the flawless autumn sky and piled deep into their targets.

It was a day that left 2,836 people dead in New York and cut a gouge in its skyline. The search for bodies goes on even now. Though most of the rubble of the three buildings that collapsed – the towers and No 7 World Trade Centre – has gone, officials have been able to identify the remains of only some 750 people. Countless families have had to hold funerals without the bodies of their loved ones.

Those who did not attend public events yesterday were left to say their own prayers and to evoke in their minds what they witnessed on 11 September. Most New Yorkers will have looked back to those first moments of sheer confusion and disbelief. The terrible realisation that we were all under attack and that anything could happen next.