One month on: New Yorkers pause to remember the day their world caved in

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The Independent US

The Autumn fog seemed almost to mock us on Thursday. Against an otherwise flawless sky, it rolled in from New York harbour in thick, grey banks and lingered over the southern tip of Manhattan. If you saw it, you could only have thought one thing – the awful smoke, they are replaying Armageddon.

The Autumn fog seemed almost to mock us on Thursday. Against an otherwise flawless sky, it rolled in from New York harbour in thick, grey banks and lingered over the southern tip of Manhattan. If you saw it, you could only have thought one thing – the awful smoke, they are replaying Armageddon.

New Yorkers don't need more reminders. But Thursday was different. It was exactly one month from the day everything changed for the city, if not for the country and the world. Getting back to normal has become a patriotic duty for Americans. But this was an anniversary that had to be marked.

Rudy Giuliani, the Mayor, did it by standing on the small wooden platform built near the south-west corner of what was the World Trade Centre. It was a good place for him to preside over a memorial service for the 343 firefighters and 23 police officers buried under the towers. The simple service ended with a moment of silence at 8.48am, the time the first plane struck.

Things were more elaborate in Washington. Thousands attended an outdoor service for the 189 souls lost when another plane ploughed into the Pentagon that same terrible morning. The service was on the lawn on the untouched side of the Pentagon. President George Bush made a speech about the "evil-doers" who had caused so much pain. Everyone waved tiny American flags.

Mr Giuliani's platform, which looks like a scaffold, was built for relatives of the dead. Every day they come, sometimes in groups of up to 50. What do they see? They see workers in helmets and yellow diggers with enormous jaws taking bites from the mounds of rubble. It will be three months before they reach just ground level.

And they see a grotesque tomb. Bringing them to the scene is another way the city is helping the bereaved cope. Most of them have not seen the bodies of their loved ones and they have nothing to bury. On Wednesday, the body of a woman was uncovered. She was intact, almost, a handbag by her side.

And there is still smoke. It rises from several spots across the mangle of concrete, like tiny volcanic plumes. As the debris is removed – 260,000 tons of it by yesterday – so more oxygen gets down to the remaining hotspots. They say the fires will be burning for weeks. The smell will remain too.

New Yorkers don't need reminders, because they are still everywhere. The sound of bagpipes seeps out through the heavy doors of St Patrick's Cathedral almost every day, as mourners arrive for yet another funeral service.

The missing persons flyers, with pictures of the perished, flutter from walls and lampposts. And when the wind changes and blows from the south, in Manhattan we smell the carnage all over again.

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