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With tears and emotions, Americans commemorate 9/11

12 September, 2011

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NEW YORK: President Barack Obama joined thousands on Sunday at the World Trade Centre site in New York to pay tribute to the dead and reflect on the decade since terrorists toppled the Twin Towers, damaged the Pentagon in Washington and crashed a jetliner in Pennsylvania.

Obama joined predecessor George W Bush, as they and their wives held hands beside a wall etched with the names of those who died where the centre stood on Sept. 11, 2001. The 10th anniversary marks the official opening of the National September 11 Memorial - twin reflecting pools that sit within the footprints of the Twin Towers and feature bronze panels on which the names of the dead are inscribed. A 9/11 museum is scheduled to open at the World Trade Centre site next September. The four solemnly looked at the memorial's waterfalls, and, then, shook hands and exchanged hugs with a group of family members and elected officials amid a heavy police presence.

Following a moment of silence, Obama read passages from the Bible. Then families of the victims started reading the names carved into stone at the reflecting pools. Bush read a letter by Abraham Lincoln, to a mother, whose five sons were killed in battles, after the second pause.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said, "Ten years have passed since a perfect blue sky morning turned into the blackest of nights. Since then, we've lived in sunshine and in shadow. And although we can never un-see what happened here, we can also see that children who lost their parents have grown into young adults, grandchildren have been born, and good works and public service have taken root to honour those we loved and lost."

Obama and Bush were among the eight current or former elected officials to deliver readings at the ceremony, which began at 8:35 am. Obama, the first sitting president to attend the annual ceremony, gave the green light earlier this year for the military mission that killed Osama bin Laden, the mastermind behind the deadliest foreign attack on American soil.

The ceremony comes three days after US authorities said they received credible intelligence that al-Qaeda militants might be attempting car or truck bombings in New York City and Washington, a plot aimed to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the attacks. The New York Police Department has stepped up security around the city, and the mayor has urged New Yorkers to go about their lives unafraid and undeterred.

Meanwhile, Muslim clerics, Jewish and Christian clergies embarked on an 18-city tour of the United States to combat religious intolerance that has risen after 9/11. They will be presenting messages about religious diversity and pluralism to thousands - from fellow clergy and legislators to ordinary citizens - engaging in interfaith dialogue and sharing their views of the most important lessons from 9/11, a news release said.

The tour is being led by Founder and President of Clergy Beyond Borders, Imam Yahya Hendi, who is also the Muslim chaplain at Georgetown University and a member of the Islamic Jurisprudence Council of North America; Rabbi Gerald Serotta, Executive Director of Clergy Beyond Borders and founding Chair of Rabbis for Human Rights-North America; Rev. Dr. Adam Bunnell, a Franciscan Friar and Roman Catholic priest who currently serves as Special Assistant for International and Interfaith Relations to the President of Bellarmine University; and Rev. Steve Martin, Executive Director of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good.

AFP adds: US military and political leaders paid solemn tribute to the victims of the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon and to troops who have waged a war of "vengeance" in the decade since.

"Lives ended in this place. Dreams were shattered. Futures were instantly altered. Hopes were tragically dashed," Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at a ceremony marking the day a hijacked airliner slammed into the Pentagon ten years ago.

Mullen, joined by Vice President Joe Biden and Defence Secretary Leon Panetta, said the attack inspired a new generation to join the armed forces as the country sought retribution against al-Qaeda militants.

"From this place of wrath and tears, America's military ventured forth as the long arm and clenched fist of an angry nation at war. "And we have remained at war ever since, visiting upon our enemies the vengeance they were due and providing for the American people the common defence they demand," Mullen said.

Under a blistering sun, a Navy chorus sang "Amazing Grace" before troops from every branch of the military laid a wreath one-by-one at each marker for those killed in the attack.

The Pentagon ceremony, coinciding with memorials at Ground Zero in New York and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where United Airlines Flight 93 went down, came a day after a suicide bomber driving a truck hit a Nato combat post in Afghanistan, wounding 89 people, including 50 US troops.

"My God, do we owe those special ops folks and intelligence guys who got him, many of whom have subsequently lost their lives," said Biden, referring to the US Navy SEAL commandos that led the night time raid. Biden vowed to keep up the fight "until al-Qaeda is not only disrupted, but completely dismantled and ultimately destroyed."


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