NEW YORK, (Reuters) – Children yearned for lost parents and grown men and women sobbed in raw grief on the hard stone bearing the names of nearly 3,000 dead as America commemorated the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.
The name of every person killed in al Qaeda’s hijacked plane attacks was read yesterday in the nearly five-hour-long centerpiece of a heart-wrenching ceremony where the World Trade Center twin towers stood.
“I haven’t stopped missing my Dad. He was awesome,” said Peter Negron, a child when his father, Pete, was killed in one of the towers. “I wish my Dad had been there to teach me how to drive, ask a girl out on a date and see me graduate from high school and a hundred other things I can’t even begin to name.”
There were smaller ceremonies in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, and at the Pentagon, the other sites were 19 men from the Islamic militant group al Qaeda crashed hijacked airliners on the sunny Tuesday morning of Sept. 11, 2001.
The attacks led U.S. forces to invade Afghanistan to topple the Taliban rulers who had harbored al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and Washington began a “war on terror” that ousted Iraq’s Saddam Hussein and persists on several fronts to this day.
“Ten years have passed since a perfect blue sky morning turned into the blackest of nights,” New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said at New York’s Ground Zero.
“Since then, we’ve lived in sunshine and in shadow, and although we can never unsee 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 honor those we loved and lost.”
Thousands gathered at the site on a clear morning to grieve. With security tight and no traffic, there was an eerie silence where the 110-story skyscrapers collapsed a decade ago, sending a noxious cloud over lower Manhattan.
President Barack Obama, who visited all three attack sites, read from Psalm 46 in New York: “God is our refuge and strength.”
The ceremony — with the wail of bagpipes, youthful voices singing the national anthem and firefighters holding aloft a tattered American flag retrieved from Ground Zero — drew tears. Family members wore T-shirts with the faces of the dead, carried photos, flowers and flags in an outpouring of emotion.
For the first time, relatives saw the just-finished memorial and touched the stone where the names of their dead loved ones were etched. Some left flowers, others small teddy bears. Some used pencils to rub the names on paper, some took pictures, others leaned against the stone and cried.
The names of the dead were read by wives and husbands, fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers and children, some choked with emotion.
“May your soul finally rest in peace. Your son Nathan and I, as the years go by, grow strong. Goodbye, my dear friend, my teacher and my hero,” said Candy Glazer.
Glazer’s husband, Edmund Glazer, cheerfully called his wife from Flight 11 not long before he died when the plane hit the north tower — the first of that day’s horrific events.
Nicholas Gorki, 9, had these words for the father he never met, Sebastian Gorki, who died at the World Trade Center while his wife was still pregnant: “You gave me the gift of life and I wish you could be here to enjoy it with me.”
The Sept. 11 attacks claimed the lives of people from more than 90 countries. They were followed by al Qaeda bombing assaults in London, Madrid and elsewhere and brought an international campaign to ferret out their members.
“God bless every soul that we lost,” said former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who was called “America’s mayor” for his leadership after the attacks.