Bagpipes and drums sounded on Friday across Ground Zero as the nation marked the eighth anniversary of the September 11 attacks in ceremonies led for the first time by US President Barack Obama.
In New York, the melancholy music mingled with rain as the crowd of mourners, police, firefighters, servicemen and officials, including Vice President Joseph Biden, gathered at the annual ceremony.
Amid driving rain, Obama led a moment of silence at the White House at 8:46 am, the instant the first of four planes, piloted by Al Qaeda hijackers, slammed into the north tower of New York’s World Trade Center.
“Let us renew our resolve against those who perpetrated this barbaric act and who plot against us still,” Obama said at a later ceremony at the Pentagon military headquarters, which was also hit by a plane.
About 3,000 people died, including 2,752 in New York, on September 11, 2001, in the attacks which demolished both towers of the World Trade Center, and crashed into the Pentagon outside Washington, and a Pennsylvania field.
Moments of silence were observed in New York to mark the impacts of each plane and the collapse of each tower, while the names of every victim were read out.
Many choked back tears as they went through the litany against a background of somber violin, guitar and flute music.
“This is not the rain, I’m sorry. This is tears,” one man said, clutching a photograph of his lost relative.
In a sign of how jittery the nation remains after the worst ever attack on its soil, a Coast Guard training exercise on Friday on the Potomac River opposite the Pentagon triggered an immediate scare and anger.
‘We are all New Yorkers’
US president Barack Obama meanwhile wrote in a letter published on the front page of the New York Daily News that “we are all New Yorkers,” saying the attacks “will be forever seared in the consciousness of our nation.”
“We will never forget the images of planes vanishing into buildings; of billowing smoke rolling down the streets of Manhattan; of photos hung by the families of the missing,” he wrote.