A month after, a pause to remember an unforgettable moment
At a still-smoking ruin, before a still-ravaged military headquarters, in far-flung places still reeling from unthinkable acts, they stopped to mark a milestone Thursday: A month had passed since terrorists made their indelible mark.
At the Pentagon service, there was a red rose on the seat of each relative of each victim – 125 workers, and the 60 passengers and crew of the hijacked jet that crashed there.
”On Sept. 11, great sorrow came to our country, and from that sorrow has come great resolve,” said President Bush.
At the World Trade Center, there was a moment of silence at 8:48 a.m., the time of the first attack on Sept. 11. Workers at the massive grave paused from the cleanup duties, took off their helmets and joined arm in arm. ”Don’t look at the terrorism over there, look at the heroism over here,” said Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, a Fire Department chaplain.
At St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, British firefighters mourned their fallen brethren in New York. There was an interfaith commemorative service at the Roman Catholic Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in Cleveland (”My attitude is people need to find more hope,” said 36-year-old Valeria Philmon) and a memorial Mass at Boston’s Cathedral of the Holy Cross.
This was the way it was on Thursday, Oct. 11, 2001 – groups of people coming together to remember something that is unforgettable, to commemorate the horrific events even as smoke continued to rise from the smoldering rubble of skyscrapers.
”The fire is still burning, but from it has emerged a stronger spirit,” said Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, with the city’s fire and police commissioners in front of a blackened building.
”Sometimes it feels like yesterday, sometimes it feels like a year ago or more,” he said. The terrorists, he said, ”attempted to break our spirit – instead they have emboldened it.”
Fire Department bagpipers played ”Amazing Grace” on instruments decorated with small American flags. Prayers were offered first for the 343 firefighters and 23 police officers lost in the attack, and then for all the dead. So far, there are 422 confirmed dead and 4,815 listed as missing. In addition, 157 people on the two trade center jets were killed.
It was a brief service, just 15 minutes long; the idling engines of the heavy construction machinery could be heard in the background. The 23rd Psalm was read, and prayers were offered. At the end, the bagpipes played ”America the Beautiful.”
The same song was sung at the Pentagon, along with ”God Bless America.” Thousands listened as taps was played; the names of the 189 victims scrolled on computer monitors.
”Their deaths, like their lives, shall have meaning,” said Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the victims were heroes, ”not because they died, but because they lived in service to the greater good.”
”One life touches so many others. One death can leave sorrow that seems almost unbearable,” said Bush. ”But to all of you who lost someone here, I want to say: You are not alone. The American people will never forget the cruelty that was done here and in New York and in the sky over Pennsylvania. We will never forget all the innocent people killed by the hatred of a few.”
He decried the terrorists as a ”cult of evil.” He pledged that America would be relentless in seeking them out.
Everywhere, there were memorials of different sorts. Restaurants nationwide pledged to give part of the day’s proceeds to funds for the victims. At the New York Stock Exchange, representatives of New York’s uniformed services rang the opening bell, and were cheered.
At Boston’s Logan Airport, United and American Airlines employees began a monthlong ”flag run” to Los Angeles, symbolically completing the planned flight paths of the two jets that were hijacked out of Logan and crashed into the trade center. Employees have lined up 1,400 volunteers to relay an American flag cross country, running 24 hours a day. It is scheduled to arrive in Los Angeles on Nov. 11, Veterans Day.
”This is a beautiful day for a beautiful cause. How could I say no?” said Curt Detzer, an American Airlines pilot and one of the first runners.
In Denver, hundreds gathered for a service organized by the United Airlines’ flight attendants union to honor co-workers who were killed.
The bells in Denver’s City and County Building were rung for one minute. And second graders at Westgate Elementary School were constructing a 65-foot-by-90-foot American flag from 6,000 paper squares on the school’s playground.
Each square represents a life lost on Sept. 11. Some are decorated – there are drawings and messages from these children of the Denver suburb of Lakewood.
One square says: ”We hope that our country will not be hurt anymore.”
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