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September 12, 2009

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US honors victims of 9/11 with commitment to service

MOURNERS collected under umbrellas and a dreary sky yesterday to mark the eighth anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks with old rituals and a new purpose -- honoring the spirit of those who rushed forward to help.

Skies were gray in New York City, at the Pentagon in Washington and at a crash site in a Pennsylvania field, where now-familiar ceremonies honored the nearly 3,000 people who were lost. Yesterday was also the first time the anniversary was observed as a national day of service, following an order signed this year by President Barack Obama.

"From this day forward, we will safeguard the memories of those who died by rekindling the spirit of service that lit our city with hope and helped keep us strong," New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said at a ceremony in lower Manhattan.

At a plaza adjacent to ground zero in New York City, families gathered, with umbrellas whipping inside out, while the names of the Trade Center victims were read, pausing for moments of silence at the minutes the jetliners crashed into the towers and the buildings fell.

People involved in volunteer work across the United States joined relatives of victims to read the names of those lost in the twin towers.

One reader represented a group called New York Says Thank You, which sends volunteers from New York City each year on the attacks anniversary to help rebuild communities around the country affected by disasters as a way to send thanks for the help that came to New York City after September 11.

"We miss you; life will never be the same without you. This is not the rain," said Vladimir Boyarsky, whose son, Gennady Boyarsky, was killed. "This is the tears."

Relatives and friends of victims were allowed yesterday to visit the plaza for the September 11 memorial that is under construction. It is expected to be partially complete and open for the 10th anniversary.

Vice President Joe Biden also spoke, telling the several hundred victims' relatives gathered, "There's a special fraternity for those of us who've lost spouses and children." Biden's daughter and first wife died in a 1972 automobile accident.

Obama and first lady Michelle Obama observed a moment of silence in honor of the September 11 victims outside the White House as a single bugler played taps. A Washington rain came to a stop as the observance began at 8:46am, the moment the first jetliner struck the World Trade Center.

Obama called for Americans to "renew our common purpose. Let us remember how we came together as one nation, as one people, as Americans, united not only in our grief, but in our resolve to stand with one another, to stand up for the country we all love."


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