18 years later, rituals of Sept. 11 still pro­vide so­lace

Star-Telegram - - Front Page - BY JAMES BAR­RON

Once more, fam­i­lies gathered at ground zero, where nearly 3,000 peo­ple died on that bright Septem­ber morn­ing. Once more, there was an outpouring of grief. Once more, there was the sound of a bell tolling in mourning. And there was the rhythm of names be­ing re­cited.

Eigh­teen years have passed since ter­ror­ists com­man­deered air­planes and the twin tow­ers of the World Trade Cen­ter were brought down.

The com­mem­o­ra­tion at ground zero – by now an an­nual

rite of re­mem­brance that fol­lows a fa­mil­iar, somber script – be­gan with an honor guard car­ry­ing the flag.

At 8:46 a.m. Wed­nes­day, the time when the first plane slammed into the north tower, there was a mo­ment of si­lence, the first of six mark­ing the strikes at the trade cen­ter and the Pen­tagon, and the plane crash in Shanksvill­e, Pennsylvan­ia, as well as the col­lapse of the twin tow­ers in a bliz­zard of toxic dust and flam­ing de­bris. Bag­pipers played “Amer­ica the Beau­ti­ful.”

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and the first lady, Me­la­nia Trump, led a mo­ment of si­lence at the White House be­fore go­ing to the Pen­tagon, where 64 peo­ple aboard a hi­jacked Amer­i­can Air­lines jet were killed, along with 125 peo­ple in the build­ing. The pres­i­dent said that any ter­ror­ist who comes to the United States would be met with a force “the likes of which the United States has never used be­fore.”

Trump de­liv­ered his re­marks at the Pen­tagon days af­ter can­cel­ing peace talks with the Tal­iban, which ruled Afghanista­n in 2001 and pro­vided a haven for al-Qaida, the ter­ror­ist group that hi­jacked the planes in the at­tacks. In Shanksvill­e, Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence spoke at an ob­ser­vance celebratin­g the hero­ism of the pas­sen­gers aboard the plane who took on the hi­jack­ers and sac­ri­ficed their lives.

At ground zero, read­ers be­gan recit­ing the names of the dead, one by one – broth­ers, sis­ters, cousins, moth­ers, hus­bands, wives, a solemn process that lasted nearly un­til the end of the cer­e­mony, shortly af­ter noon. Some fam­ily mem­bers brushed away tears as the names were read. Some car­ried flow­ers or wore T-shirts with names. Some held plac­ards above the crowd with images of their loved ones. And oth­ers who at­tended said they had their own tra­di­tions that they fol­lowed.

Margie Miller, whose hus­band, Joel, died, said she al­ways goes to the place at the me­mo­rial where his name is en­graved. She touches it ten­derly. He was 55 when he died. He was an as­sis­tant vice pres­i­dent at Marsh and McLen­nan, the man­age­ment con­sult­ing firm. His of­fice was on the 97th floor.

“This is his place, and it’s my place,” Miller said. “It’s where I feel him. He breathed here and he died here.”

La-Shawn Clark said this an­niver­sary was a par­tic­u­larly dif­fi­cult one be­cause her hus­band – Ben­jamin Keefe Clark, an ex­ec­u­tive with Fidu­ciary Trust In­ter­na­tional who was 39 and whose of­fice was on the 93rd floor of the south tower – can­not share a mile­stone, the birth of their first grand­daugh­ter, due next month.

She said that for weeks af­ter the at­tacks, as the res­cue and recover teams did their work, she would call her hus­band’s cell­phone just to hear his voice on the voice­mail mes­sage. She knew she would not get an an­swer, she said, wip­ing away tears.

She said that the me­mo­rial was where she sensed his pres­ence the most. “There’s never clo­sure,” she said, “but when I come here, when the wind blows, it’s like he’s kiss­ing me.”

In the years since the at­tacks, those who were chil­dren in 2001, like Ash­ley Nelson, have grown up and found their places in the world – a world that has strug­gled to adapt to ter­ror at­tacks. Nelson was 6 years old in 2001. On Wed­nes­day she paid trib­ute as she stood silently, her arms crossed, near the cer­e­mony.

“It helps me put things into per­spec­tive,” she said, even though she did not know any­one who was killed in the at­tacks. “The im­por­tance of re­mem­ber­ing the peo­ple that lost their lives and who sac­ri­ficed, that’s im­por­tant to me.”

Steve Knowles, who lives in Fair­field, Con­necti­cut, caught a 6:15 a.m. train to Man­hat­tan. He wore a New York Yan­kees cap and a red, white and blue wind­breaker, snap­ping pho­to­graphs of the cer­e­mony from across the street.

“I felt the need to be here,” he said. Sept. 11 was “a pro­found mo­ment that changed and is still changing all our lives in ways we couldn’t imag­ine then.”


An Amer­i­can flag hanging from a steel girder that was dam­aged in the at­tacks on the World Trade Cen­ter on Sept. 11, 2001, blows in the breeze Wed­nes­day at a me­mo­rial in Jersey City, N.J., as the sun rises. In the background stands the One World Trade Cen­ter build­ing and the re­de­vel­oped area where the Twin Tow­ers of the World Trade Cen­ter once stood.

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