9/11 memories gradually fade eleven years on
12 September, 2012
NEW YORK: As every year, relatives of the nearly 3,000 people killed when al Qaeda hijackers slammed airliners into New York's World Trade Centre gathered at Ground Zero to read out the names of the dead.
The flawless blue sky was identical to the one 11 years ago when millions of people watched from the streets and live on television as the planes flew straight into the upper floors of the Twin Towers, causing them to collapse.
However, emotions are distinctly cooler as America finally tries to draw a line under an event that sparked the decade of Washington's controversial and expensive war on terror.
No politicians joined in the reading at Ground Zero and security was less intense, in contrast to the 10th anniversary last year when Obama headed a long list of VIPs at the ceremony.
June Pollicino, who lost her husband on 9/11, told AFP, "I feel much more relaxed. After the ninth anniversary, those next days it started building up to the 10th anniversary. This year it's different in that regard. It's another anniversary we can celebrate in a discreet way."
Although most New York area newspapers featured front page stories or other mentions about the anniversary on Tuesday, The New York Times and the tabloid Post were conspicuous in deciding to keep coverage inside.
In total, 2,983 names were read out at Ground Zero, including the 9/11 victims and those killed in the precursor to those attacks, the 1993 car bombing of the World Trade Centre. The reading paused for silence at the exact time each of the four planes turned into fireballs.
Another two moments of silence were observed at the times the two main towers of the World Trade Centre collapsed, accounting for the vast majority of 9/11's dead.
Obama, who earlier stood for a moment's silence on the White House South Lawn, had no planned political events on Tuesday and his re-election campaign planned to halt television advertising for the day, a campaign official said.
Meanwhile, US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta warned Americans not to forget the troops who are fighting and dying in Afghanistan, as he paid tribute to the victims of the 9/11 attacks on Monday.
In a visit to a memorial in southwestern Pennsylvania honouring the passengers and crew of United Flight 93 that was hijacked on September 11, 2001, Panetta said the fight against the al Qaeda militants behind the attacks was not over, and that soldiers were still in harm's way. "I pray that as we remember 9/11, and the terrible things that took place on 9/11, that we will also take the time to remind ourselves of the sacrifices that have been made by those who have fought and died in order to make sure that it not happen again," Panetta told reporters. "We're continuing to lose good men and women in battle in Afghanistan," he said.
He drew a connection between the passengers of Flight 93, who struggled with their hijackers and foiled an apparent attempt by al Qaeda to strike Washington, and US troops waging war against Taliban insurgents eleven years later in Afghanistan.
"And we had damn well better remember that every day." Panetta's impassioned plea to honour the more than 2,000 American troops killed in Afghanistan and the roughly 77,000 forces deployed there came amid a US presidential campaign that has barely touched on the conflict or foreign policy.