By Jamie Smith Hopkins, The Baltimore Sun
11:20 PM EDT, September 11, 2011
Beautiful September days are difficult for Basmattie Bishundat. Her son was killed on one 10 years ago.
"Sometimes I hate those days," said the Waldorf woman, whose son, Romeo, was three days short of his 24th birthday when Flight 77 struck the Pentagon, where he worked.
As she and other Marylanders gathered Sunday in Baltimore to dedicate the state's memorial to the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the weather abruptly shifted from sunshine to a rain that struck some there as absolutely fitting.
"I truly believe that all the rain [drops] that came here today were 3,000 angels," said U.S. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, speaking to a crowd dotted with umbrellas. "As we remember, they remember too."
Memorials were held across the United States to mark the 10th anniversary of the day that cost nearly 3,000 people their lives and indelibly changed the country. The Department of Homeland Security's warning last week of a "specific, credible but unconfirmed threat" that terrorists were also planning to mark the day prompted extra security in New York and Washington, while guests at the Baltimore event had to pass through metal detectors.
President Barack Obama and former President George W. Bush joined mourners in New York, where hijacked airplanes had brought down the World Trade Center's twin towers. Afterward, Obama headed south to the other sites where Americans died that day — a field in Shanksville, Pa., where the passengers of Flight 93 crashed their plane rather than allow it to hit another building full of people, and the Pentagon in Arlington, Va.
Maryland's memorial sits in the outdoor plaza of Baltimore's World Trade Center, overlooking the Inner Harbor. Three steel beams from the north tower of New York's World Trade Center — 21/2 tons fused together, twisted and jagged — sit atop a marble platform, on which are inscribed the names of the 68 Marylanders who died in the attacks. Organizers believe the beams formed part of the 94th through 96th floors.
"We wanted an artifact that would reflect that day," said Randall "Rand" Griffin, chairman of the Maryland 9/11 Memorial Committee. His voice breaking as he spoke to the audience, he added: "I think this one takes your breath away."
On separate platforms are pockmarked limestone slabs from the Pentagon and glossy granite memorializing the efforts of Flight 93's passengers. The memorial and its initial upkeep are expected to cost about $2 million. Griffin said more than half of that total has been raised so far in donations.
Marylanders died in each of the three attacks. They spanned generations, as old as 71 and as young as 3.
Over the 10 years that have followed, their surviving relatives have seen many memorials and heard many memorial speeches.
"We've been to Shanksville. We've been to New York. We've been to most of them," said Carole Reuben of Potomac.
One of her sons, Todd H. Reuben, died at age 40 on his first and only business flight, a last-minute trip to see a client in California. Flight 77 was hijacked and flown into the Pentagon. Carole Reuben, her husband, Jesse, and her son Keith volunteer every month as docents for the Pentagon's memorial, a place they find soothing.
She appreciates Maryland's new way of remembering the victims.
The hour and minute of each 9/11 incident — from the first plane crash to the final tower falling — is inscribed in the exact position on the largest of the marble platforms to allow Baltimore's World Trade Center to cast a shadow there at the correct time each Sept. 11, like a sundial. On the top floor of the building, the windows are marked with the names of the nearly 3,000 people who lost their lives.
Carole Reuben found the window with her son's name. She was glad she attended.
"We try to keep him alive in us," she said.
Marylanders marked the day in a variety of ways. Several thousand motorcyclists circled the Baltimore Beltway to raise money for charities. About 160 people turned out for a memorial walk in Laurel, carrying lanyards with victims' names. And people of all faiths joined together in an Ellicott City mosque for an event put on by the Howard County Muslim Council, which formed after 9/11 to show through good works "what Islam is about," said Khalid Ali, one of the organizers of the memorial gathering.
He was very pleased at the turnout. He was expecting 200 people, maybe 250. About twice as many showed up, he said.
"We ran out of chairs," Ali said.
The ceremony at Baltimore's World Trade Center was also packed. Passersby — bicyclists, mothers holding babies, tourists with cameras — gathered outside the gates as well.
Bishundat, whose son Romeo died at the Pentagon, got a hug and words of condolence from Mikulski as they waited for the ceremony to begin. Bishundat wore a pin with a photograph of her son, who always made her proud.
"I talked to him at 8:30 in the morning and did not know it was going to be the last time," said Bishundat. She's kept everything that had been his — from his clothes to his mail — because it constitutes all she has left of him beyond the memories.
"Today," she said, "I'm good." But he would have turned 34 this Wednesday, and she has no idea how she will feel then.
William Fields' wife, Amelia V. Fields, reported for her second day of work at the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001. It was her 46th birthday.
Her husband said their family would be gathering for dinner Sunday to remember her and to eat a chocolate cake — her favorite. But first, he attended the memorial in Baltimore. Though she had been living in Virginia at the time of the attacks, she was born on Maryland's Eastern Shore, and the memorial's organizers had her name inscribed with the other Marylanders. William Fields was grateful for that inclusion.
After the speeches, after the rain stopped and the sun broke out from the clouds as the Morgan State University choir sang "God Bless America," William Fields walked to the marble platform to trace his wife's name onto tissue paper.
"Well, I made it through another one," he said. "It's rough. But you make it through."
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