America remembers 9/11 amid tension (Lead)

September 11th, 2010 - 10:01 pm ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama By Arun Kumar
Washington, Sep 11 (IANS) Houses of worship in New York tolled their bells at 8.46 a.m., the moment the first hijacked plane struck the World Trade Center this day in 2001, as America observed the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

US President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama attended separate services in Washington and Shanksville, Pennsylvania, for the victims of the hijacked planes that hit the Pentagon and a rural field nine years ago to the day.

The main event was in New York, where the names of the 2,749 people who died in the attacks on the twin towers of the World Trade Center were read out by relatives.

There was a palpable sigh of relief across the nation as a Florida pastor, who had earned international condemnation with his plans to burn the Quran, announced he would not do so - “not today, not ever”.

“We will definitely not burn the Quran, no,” pastor Terry Jones, head of a congregation of about 50 at the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, told NBC’s Today show.

When pressed about whether his planned demonstration might happen at a later date, he said: “Not today, not ever.”

Jones said no meeting had been set up with Feisal Abdul Rauf, the New York imam behind the plans for building an Islamic center near Ground Zero in Manhattan.

Jones said his church’s goal was “to expose that there is an element of Islam that is very dangerous and very radical”, and claimed: “We have definitely accomplished that mission.”

But his stunt still threatens to overshadow the observance of the day with anniversary rallies planned in New York for and against the center, with more than 1,000 protesters on both sides expected to converge at the site, two blocks north of Ground Zero.

On Friday night, about 2,000 supporters of the Islamic center held a peaceful vigil that packed three streets near the proposed building, two blocks away from Ground Zero.

Many held small glasses with flickering candles or waved US flags. John Lennon’s “Imagine” played from speakers. People lined up to scrawl their names on a billboard-sized sign reading: “We Welcome Park51″, the official name of the Islamic center.

A short distance away, two beams of light representing the fallen towers briefly pierced the night sky from the heart of Ground Zero. They will light the sky again Saturday night.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at arun.kumar@ians.in)

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