NEW YORK — At the sad tolling of bells and a rabbi’s hopeful reading, President Bush and a sea of firefighters and police officers silently bowed their heads Monday to mark the moments five years ago when terrorists pierced the nation’s defenses.
On the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, Bush stood in front of a door salvaged from a fire truck destroyed on that tragic day, a flag at half staff above him. The observance outside a Lower East Side firehouse came on a crisp cloudless morning eerily reminiscent of the sunny, workaday morning when hijackers commandeering commercial airliners struck, killing nearly 3,000 people.
The group paused twice, at 8:46 a.m. and at 9:03 a.m. EDT, marking the moments when the two planes slammed into the towers of the World Trade Center. Bagpipes wailed, a firefighter sang “Amazing Grace,” a policeman sang “God Bless America” and a choir sang “America the Beautiful.” Bush and his wife, Laura, stood ramrod straight and wordless in the bright sunshine.
Rabbi Joseph Patesnick read from a passage from Deuteronomy: “You should choose life by loving God and living his commandments.” The simple ceremony concluded with more bagpipes and a salute from Bush.
The World Trade Center site fell silent four times as Americans paused in airport security lines, at churches and at quiet commemorations Monday to mark the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
At ground zero, a cavernous pit still largely unchanged from the first anniversary, family members of the 2,749 people lost held photos of loved ones, crossed themselves and sobbed quietly.
The site fell silent twice more, at 9:59 a.m. and 10:29 a.m., when the south and north towers fell.
‘The war is not over’
In excerpts from the speech he will make before the nation on Monday night, Bush set the tone for the nation's war footing going into the future.
“We face an enemy determined to bring death and suffering into our homes. America did not ask for this war, and every American wishes it were over. So do I. But the war is not over, and it will not be over until either we or the extremists emerge victorious. ...
“We are in a war that will set the course for this new century — and determine the destiny of millions across the world.”
‘We stand together as one’
“Five years have come, and five years have gone, and still we stand together as one,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said. “We come back to this place to remember the heartbreaking anniversary — and each person who died here — those known and unknown to us, whose absence is always with us.”
“We’ve come back to remember the valor of those we’ve lost, those who innocently went to work that day and the brave souls who went in after them,” added former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. Video: Bush interview
The president began a grim but high-profile journey through all three scenes of the day’s devastation on Sunday with wreath-layings in the vast gash that is all that remains of the World Trade Center’s twin towers. Similarly painful memories were renewed at the Pentagon and in Shanksville, Pa.
Former President Clinton, speaking before a Jewish conference in Washington, recalled how 9/11 transformed the world.
“We had an astonishing moment of unity in America and around the world,” he said.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a statement, “Five years later, we have to continue to move forward with unity, urgency, and in the spirit of international cooperation, because we are not yet fully healed and not yet as safe as we should be.”
In Shanksville, the weather matched the mournful mood. Steel gray skies spit cold rain on the field where 9/11 families gathered to remember their dead with the president. Bush and his wife stood without umbrellas and bowed their heads in front of a large wreath honoring the victims.
The Rev. Paul H. Britton, whose brother, Marion Britton, died on Flight 93, offered a prayer for all as well as a personal benediction to Bush, whom he called “our conscience and our heart.”
“We gather here connected by sorrow,” Britton said.
Cheney speaks at Pentagon
At a memorial observance near the site where an American Airlines plane slammed into the Pentagon five years ago, Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld walked side-by-side to the speaker’s platform as somber music played. Rumsfeld’s arm was in a sling; he is recovering from shoulder surgery.
“We have no intention of ignoring or appeasing history’s latest gang of fanatics trying to murder their way to power,” the vice president said.
Rumsfeld appeared to struggle with his emotions as he recalled the day of the attacks. “I remember working through that long, tragic day.”
A moment of silence was observed at 9:37 a.m. EDT, the exact time the plane struck, killing 184 people.
At the State Department, two relatives of victims, one born in China and the other in Bangladesh, read off the names of the more than 90 countries that lost nationals. A Navy seaman sounded a bell after each country was announced.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the terrorists struck “not only at our people but at the noblest aspirations of all people.”
Moment of silence at Justice
At the Justice Department, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales led a moment of silence with families of 9/11 victims.
Among those attending were families who attended the penalty trial of al-Qaida conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui as well as former Solicitor General Ted Olson, whose wife, Barbara, was aboard the flight that crashed into the Pentagon.
After spending the night in New York, Bush opened the anniversary day with breakfast at a historic Lower East Side firehouse nicknamed “Fort Pitt,” in honor of the many first responders who burst into the towers to save lives but lost their own. Outside, with fire trucks and police vehicles as a backdrop, Bush and several dozen firefighters, city police and Port Authority officers were joining in a moment of silence to mark the times when hijacked planes crashed into the two towers.
Later in the day, he placed a wreath at the spot in Shanksville where Flight 93 was diverted from its murderous intentions into the ground and was appearing at the rebuilt Pentagon wall where another hijacked jetliner pierced the most enduring symbol of American military might.
Prime-time speech to the nation
Bush concludes the observance with a 9 p.m. EDT address to the nation from the White House. With these events, he abandoned the quiet approach he has adopted in recent years to mark the day of America’s worst-ever terrorist attack.
Bush’s tour was rife with symbols that recalled the devastation of the day, and the high point of his presidency that followed.
In an interview broadcast Monday, he said that on that fateful day, he came harshly to grip with the reality that “we were involved in an ideological struggle akin to the Cold War.”
“In the long term, we’ve got to defeat an ideology of hate with an ideology of hope,” Bush said on NBC’s “Today” show.
CIA Director Gen. Michael Hayden said “we now know the enemy and understand his methods with far greater depth and precision.”
On Sunday, Bush and his wife, Laura, set floral wreaths adrift in two small reflecting pools in the pits that are all that remain of the once-soaring twin towers.
Reaction around U.S., world
At Logan International Airport in Boston, where the two planes that hit the trade center towers took off, security screeners stopped checking passengers for a moment and turned to an American flag. Passengers in line joined in the silent tribute.
“It’s a difficult moment for everybody,” said National Guard Cpl. Christopher Jessop, who joined the Guard on Sept. 12, 2001.
In Chicago, people filled churches to pray and remember the victims. In Virginia Beach, Va., firefighters and residents planned to form a human flag. In Ohio, volunteers aimed to put up 3,000 flags over 10 acres at a spiritual center.
Around the world, heads bowed at Sept. 11 remembrances.
“Nine-eleven will be in our memory forever,” Rome Mayor Walter Veltroni said at a downtown piazza. “We all remember where we were, what we were doing, what our first reaction was.”
German Chancellor Angela Markel warned that “tolerance and respect for other cultures” must be hallmarks of the international fight against terrorism, and New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark said the world was not safer since 2001.
New bin Laden video
The anniversary dawned on a nation unrecognizable a half-decade ago — at war in Afghanistan and Iraq, governed by a color-coded terror alert system, newly unable to carry even hair gel onto airplanes.
On Sunday, Bush administration officials mounted a vigorous defense of the measures they had taken to protect the country, even as the nation remains divided on the Iraq war, treatment of terror detainees and surveillance measures.
“There has not been another attack on the United States,” Cheney said on “Meet the Press” on NBC. “And that’s not an accident.”
And there was a fresh reminder of the terrorist threat: An hour-long videotape posted online Sunday showed previously unseen footage of Osama bin Laden, smiling, and other commanders apparently planning the New York and Washington attacks.
An unidentified narrator said the plot was devised not with computers and radar screens and military command centers but with “divine protection” for a brotherly atmosphere and “love for sacrificing life.”
Monday also saw indications of the tension that remains.
New York’s bustling Pennsylvania Station was briefly evacuated Monday and rush-hour train service was suspended when a suspicious bag was found. In the skies, a United Airlines jet headed from Atlanta to San Francisco was diverted to Dallas when an unclaimed BlackBerry e-mail device was found on board. A Transportation Security Administration spokeswoman later said the flight was secure.
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