Ninth 9/11 anniversary marked by controversy as relatives gather

September 11th, 2010 - 11:23 pm ICT by BNO News  

911 memorial 2010 NEW YORK CITY (BNO NEWS) — The ninth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the United States was marked by controversy on Saturday, as family members and friends of the victims gathered in New York, Pennsylvania, and at the Pentagon.

The memorials to remember the victims began at 8.40 a.m. EDT on Ground Zero, the place where once the twin towers stood until two hijacked airliners crashed into them on September 11, 2001 and reduced them to rubble, killing 2,752 people.

The memorial at Ground Zero began with a brief speech by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who was joined at the event by Vice President Joe Biden, his wife, and Governor David Patterson. “We have returned to this sacred site to join our hearts together, the names of those we loved and lost,” Bloomberg said. “No other public tragedy has cut our city so deeply. No other place is as filled with our compassion, our love and our solidarity.”

Bloomberg’s short speech was followed by a moment of silence that began at 8.46 a.m. to mark the time the first hijacked airliner - American Airlines Flight 11 - crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Then the first of 212 readers (106 pairs), including Biden, began to read the names of the more than 2,700 people who died.

The reading of names, which has become an annual tradition, continued until 9.03 a.m. when another moment of silence was held. It marked the moment that United Airlines Flight 175 crashed into the South Tower of the World Trade Center.

Meanwhile, relatives of victims gathered at the Pentagon Memorial in Washington, D.C. to remember those who died when American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the headquarters of the U.S. Department of Defense.

The memorial opened on the seventh anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks and was built adjacent to the Pentagon. In all, 125 Pentagon workers and 59 passengers died that day.

Most notably at the Pentagon Memorial, President Barack Obama held a nine-minute speech where he was joined by Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen. His wife, Michelle Obama, traveled to Stonycreek Township in Pennsylvania where United Airlines Flight 93 crashed.

“For our nation, this is a day of remembrance, a day of reflection, and — with God’s grace — a day of unity and renewal,” Obama told an audience that included mainly members of the Armed Forces. “We gather to remember, at this sacred hour, on hallowed ground — at places where we feel such grief and where our healing goes on. We gather here, at the Pentagon, where the names of the lost are forever etched in stone. We gather in a gentle Pennsylvania field, where a plane went down and a ‘tower of voices’ will rise and echo through the ages. And we gather where the Twin Towers fell, a site where the work goes on so that next year, on the 10th anniversary, the waters will flow in steady tribute to the nearly 3,000 innocent lives.”

Obama said those who died were civilians and service members who were white, black and brown and of many faiths. “They were Americans and people from far corners of the world. And they were snatched from us senselessly and much too soon — but they lived well, and they live on in you.”

Obama, who also spoke during last year’s memorial, said citizens have to ask themselves how to best honor the victims and how to preserve their legacy. “It must seem some days as though the world has moved on to other things. I say to you today that your loved ones endure in the heart of our nation, now and forever,” the president told their relatives.

The President said al-Qaeda did not only attack America, but attacked the ‘very idea’ of America itself. “They doubted our will, but as Americans we persevere. Today, in Afghanistan and beyond, we have gone on the offensive and struck major blows against al Qaeda and its allies. We will do what is necessary to protect our country, and we honor all those who serve to keep us safe.”

“They may seek to strike fear in us, but they are no match for our resilience. We do not succumb to fear, nor will we squander the optimism that has always defined us as a people. On a day when others sought to destroy, we have chosen to build, with a National Day of Service and Remembrance that summons the inherent goodness of the American people.”

But the nine year since the attacks on the United States were marked by the U.S.-led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that saw nearly 6,000 American service members being killed. “Our troops and their families have paid a steep price these last nine years, but have also shown resilience and strength in the best traditions of the country, a country that cherishes their service and the memory of those who have fallen,” Gates said at the ceremony.

Meanwhile at Ground Zero in New York City, relatives of the victims there prepared for a third moment of silence at 9.59 a.m. EDT to mark the moment when the South Tower collapsed. Later, at 10.28 a.m. EDT, a fourth moment of silence was held to mark the time the North Tower collapsed.

In Pennsylvania, former First Lady Laura Bush joined First Lady Michelle Obama to honor those who died. Former President George W. Bush, however, had no public events and instead released a statement through his spokesman.

“On September 11, 2001, Americans awoke to evil on our shores,” Bush said. “On this solemn day of remembrance, Laura and I hold the victims and their families in our thoughts and prayers. We recall the many acts of heroism on that day, and we honor those who work tirelessly to prevent another attack. May God bless our great country and those who defend her.”

Laura Bush said she was honored to mark the anniversary with the families of the 40 men and women who died aboard Flight 93, after passengers had tried to regain control of the aircraft to prevent it from crashing in the U.S. capital. “When I first came here on September 17, 2001, this quiet field was scarred by a smoldering crater,” Ms. Bush said. “Our grief was raw and our heartache was heavy. We were just learning the names of those aboard Flight 93, and the story of their sacrifice.”

Ms. Bush said the field where Flight 93 crashed was not chosen by terrorists, as passengers were able to prevent the plane from reaching Washington, D.C. ” They had other targets for their violence and hate,” she said. “This spot was chosen by the passengers of Flight 93, who spared our country from even greater horrors. And as we gather to remember those who were lost and honor their courage, we are deeply grateful.”

“Nine years ago - in the skies above this field, and in Washington and New York City, we saw the worst of our enemy and the best of our nation. And we were suddenly reminded of many, half-forgotten lessons. We saw that there is evil in the world - but also good at the heart of our country. America was attacked, but the deepest belief of our democracy was vindicated — that our greatness and strength is found in the character of our citizens. Americans responded with heroism and selflessness; with compassion and courage; and with prayer and hope.”

But the anniversary this year was marked by controversy, two even, but one that caused great outrage across the world. The first controversy was caused when Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf announced that an Islamic Center would be build close to Ground Zero.

Protesters against the mosque, although they said they are not against Muslim, said they see the center as an insensitive sign for those who lost someone in the attacks of September 11, 2001.

But others fear that denying the construction of the mosque just two blocks from Ground Zero will trigger a national backlash, and religious leaders from other faiths have joined the Muslim voices against the restriction of certain places to put up a religious center.

But a much greater controversy began just days before the ninth anniversary of the September 11 attacks when pastor Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Center in Florida announced that he would hold an “International Burn A Koran Day” on Saturday.

It caused great outrage across the world from political and religious leaders, but also triggered violent protests. Interpol issued a global alert in which it warned that terrorist attacks would be likely if the plan went ahead as planned.

And also Obama joined in on the issue during an interview with ABC News on Thursday. “If he’s listening, I just hope he understands that what he’s proposing to do is completely contrary to our values as Americans,” Obama said. “This country has been built on the notions of religious freedom and religious tolerance. And as a very practical matter, as commander in chief of the armed forces of the United States, I just want him to understand that this stunt that he is talking about pulling could greatly endanger our young men and women in uniform who are in Iraq, who are in Afghanistan, and we are already seeing protests against Americans just by the mere threat.”

Obama said the event would be a “recruitment bonanza for al-Qaeda” and feared ’serious violence’ in places such as Pakistan and Afghanistan as a result. “This could increase the recruitment of individuals who are willing to blow themselves up in American cities, or European cities,” the President warned.

But Jones’ plan suddenly changed after he was offered a meeting with Imam Rauf in New York City. And although there were many conflicting reports on what would be discussed during the proposed meeting, Jones said he would not - and not ever - burn the Qu’ran.

But even though the plan had been canceled, some protests continued. On Friday, thousands of Afghans gathered across the country and even threatened to attack U.S. bases.

An estimated 10,000 people in Faizabad alone - capital of Badakhshan province - took the streets after Friday’s prayer session that also began Eid al-Fitr celebrations, which mark the end of the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan. Several protesters were later reported to have sustained critical injuries by gunshots as they approached a NATO reconstruction base.

It was reported that a protester was shot dead and three others were wounded after attacking a nearby NATO base with stones in Bala Buluk in Farah province. Dr. Nasir Sultan Zada of Central Public Hospital identified the dead man as 24-year-old Muhammad Daoud.

Back in the United States, while relatives of the victims will undoubtedly continue to mourn, construction will continue for the new World Trade Center complex. It is scheduled to be completed in the spring of 2013.

911 memorial 2010
Firefighters and police surround a reflecting pool in the middle of Ground Zero before the annual memorial service September 11, 2010 in New York City. Thousands will gather to pay a solemn homage on the ninth anniversary of the terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people on September 11, 2001. (BNO NEWS/NYPPA PHOTO POOL)

911 memorial 2010
New York Governor David Patterson, Vice President Joe Biden, Dr, Jill Biden, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and family members (L to R) of the victims of 9/11 gather around the Ground Zero and lay a flower in the reflecting pool at the site where the twin towers once stood on the ninth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, in New York City on September 11, 2010. (BNO NEWS/NYPPA PHOTO POOL)

911 memorial 2010
A picture of a victim sits on the edge of a reflecting pool in memory of victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks September 11, 2010 in New York City. Thousands gathered to pay a solemn homage on the ninth anniversary of the terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people on September 11, 2001. (BNO NEWS/NYPPA PHOTO POOL)

911 memorial 2010
Family members listen to the reading of the names of 911 victims at the ceremony commemorating the September 11th 2001 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York, USA, 11, September 2010.(BNO NEWS/NYPPA PHOTO POOL)

911 memorial 2010
From Zuccotti Park on the ninth anniversary of the attack at the World Trade Center which killed nearly 3,000 people. A firefighter cries during the ceremony for the people lost. (BNO NEWS/NYPPA PHOTO POOL)

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