Rites of remembrance, great and small


NEW YORK - With silence and a collective pealing of church bells, with a poem read by a now-fatherless girl and the presidential wisdom handed down over the years, the one-year anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks was marked yesterday on a scale both grand and intimate.

National, local and world leaders converged here in the city where the attacks took their greatest toll and where a series of ceremonies drew on the speeches of Lincoln and FDR and the music of Bach.

And yet, for all the stirring words and notes that filled a day in which commemorations also took place at the other attack sites at the Pentagon and in Shanksville, Pa., as well as across the country and around the world, what lingered in the mind was simple and yet profound: the naming of names.

At New York's Ground Zero, the names of the 2,801 killed when two hijacked airliners plowed into the World Trade Center's twin towers were recited as part of a morning ceremony, the 2 1/2 hours it took to read them a testament to the vast loss of life.

At the Pentagon, President Bush, who spent the day traveling from site to site, vowed to remember each of the 184 lives lost there.

And in Shanksville, a bell tolled 40 times, once for each victim, and each of their names was read in the moments leading up to the time one year ago when passengers tried to wrest control of their plane from hijackers. It plummeted to an empty field there rather than into its target in Washington.

"They were our neighbors, our husbands, our children, our sisters, our brothers and our wives. They were our countrymen and our friends," New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said, opening the ceremony at the former World Trade Center site. "They were us."

Under tight security, thousands of family members of the victims began arriving at the site in the early morning, some already red-eyed, most clutching photos of their lost loved ones.

For many, particularly those whose relatives vanished suddenly without an identifiable trace, Ground Zero looms large as the place they can feel closest to these missing figures in their lives.

"It was very meaningful to be down there because we haven't found Stacey yet," Fran Sennas said of her daughter, Stacey Sennas McGowan. "We feel part of her is still there."

Sennas and her husband, Semo, were most moved by the part of the ceremony when they and the other family members walked down a ramp six stories into the lowest part of the site, which has long since been cleared of billions of tons of rubble from the devastated towers.

Circle of honor

In a long parade, the family members streamed down, down, down until they reached a round wooden platform called the circle of honor. There, they left mementos - flowers, flags, personal notes and the like - and many lingered a bit, visibly shaken.

The procession was accompanied by a meaningful soundtrack: As classical musicians played gently in the background, a series of speakers began to read the names, the sounds resonating across the cavernous, 16-acre excavated site.

Cellist Yo-Yo Ma played Bach in a soulful, minor key, as former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, who became a beloved figure as he led his city through its crisis, took the first batch of names.

In relay fashion, readers who included New York's Democratic Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, actor Robert DeNiro and various family members, and others with a connection to the tragedy, continued the drumbeat of the names.

"As we were descending the ramp to put our roses down, that was the exact time his name was read," marveled Angie DiFranco, whose son Donald was the broadcasting engineer who maintained a New York TV station's transmitter in one of the towers. "We just feel he's here."

'Mom misses you'

Some of the family members who read names added a personal note after a name, "I love you" or "Mom misses you." Others were just as glad that their batch of names did not include their own friends or relatives.

"I couldn't have gotten through it," Eileen Esquilin said of the prospect of reading her brother's name, Ruben, to the crowd. "Just walking on the ground that my brother walked that morning ... I feel like Sept. 11, 2001, happened just yesterday, the pain is still that intense."

Wesley Wong, an FBI agent, read some of the W's, none of which included his two close friends killed in the attacks, one of them John O'Neill, the former FBI counter-terrorism expert. Wong and O'Neill served together in the agency's office in Baltimore, which is also Wong's hometown.

Nor did his list include the man he discovered in the rubble when he rushed to the towers in response to the attacks, Mychal Judge, the fire department chaplain.

For Wong, the ceremony was a sad event, but one that underscored how changed he is: "Ever since that day, I've felt very lucky to have survived that horrific day, and I look forward to every day now."

While the public was not allowed into the site, thousands crowded the surrounding streets. They waved flags, listened to the recitation of names and, like those inside, were moved by 11-year-old Brittany Clark, who read a poem for her father, Benjamin Keefe Clark, a chef who worked in one of the towers.

The poem, which appears to have been anonymously written and has become popular over the years among those dealing with AIDS-related deaths, made her feel "like my daddy is speaking to me."

"I am a thousand winds that blow," the young girl recited. "I am the diamond glints on snow. ... Do not think of me as gone. I am with you still in each new dawn."

"Yeah, Brittany!" yelled Barbara Ciolino, a Brooklyn homemaker in the crowd listening from outside the site.

Ciolino felt the need to join in solidarity with other Americans on this day.

"I woke my husband up and said, 'Come on, we have to march with the bagpipers across the Brooklyn Bridge,'" she said.

She and husband Jose Luna were among those to follow one of the five teams of bagpipers and drummers who in the dark early morning hours began marching from each of the five boroughs, as if making their way through villages to issue a clarion call for all good citizens to come out.

Trailing a string of people who joined the procession, they converged on Ground Zero for the morning ceremony.

Others came from even farther.

"I just wanted to be close to my whole grief of the past year," said Kelly McCarthy, a firefighter from Idaho, "and to remember the more than 300 brothers and sisters who were killed."

She had been on duty at her firehouse when she heard the news and had another reason to grow cold with fear: Her twin sister, Molly, is a New York-based flight attendant.

Molly was actually on a layover, but the sisters still felt so close to the tragic day that they decided, with their mother, Brenda, to join the crowds around Ground Zero. During the periods of silence to commemorate when the planes struck the towers, they dialed up their father back home in Idaho to share the moments.

A field in Pennsylvania

Similarly, the commemoration in Shanksville drew a crowd of about 3,000, all of whom were bused to the crash site over narrow country roads, joining about 500 relatives and friends of the victims.

On a grassy field where United Flight 93 crashed, a bell was tolled 40 times and 40 white doves released. The doves disappeared over the treetops and then circled back with impeccable timing - during the final, rousing notes of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic."

Pennsylvania's Republican Gov. Mark Schweiker praised those aboard the plane for deciding that "their fate wasn't in the hands of terrorists. It was in their own."

After learning though cell phone conversations about the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, those aboard Flight 93 hatched a plan to storm the cockpit held by the hijackers.

They brought the plane down in a field 70 miles southeast of Pittsburgh. Authorities believe the hijackers had intended to fly the Boeing 757 into the White House or the U.S. Capitol.

People from as far away as Austin, Texas, and Ontario, Canada, came to give thanks to the Flight 93 heroes for sacrificing their lives to save others. More than 100 White House staff members attended, many holding the belief that the passengers and crew saved their lives, a White House spokesman said.

Others made the journey for more personal reasons.

Kellie Sphar, 29, of nearby Greensburg, Pa., lost her childhood friend Honor Elizabeth Wainio, who grew up in Catonsville and graduated from Towson University.

The girls spent summers blackberry picking, boating, camping, feeding ducks and playing baseball under backyard floodlights in Charleroi, Pa., where Wainio's grandparents lived, and became part of each other's extended family.

They corresponded regularly by mail; Sphar says she has kept every letter since 1983. One that she brought yesterday was from Wainio telling her how excited she was to be moving to New Jersey and opening a Discovery Channel store in Manhattan.

"It was kind of ironic that she loved Pennsylvania so much, the quiet and beauty of it, and this is where she died," Sphar said. "I couldn't bear to be at work or sit at home watching the replay of everything. I just wanted to be here with everyone who felt the same way."

At the Pentagon, President Bush and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld took to a stage with clusters of flag-waving schoolchildren, classmates of the children who died in the tragedy - Bernard Brown II, Asia Cottom, Rodney Dickens and Zoe Falkenberg.

As a member of the U.S. Marine Band sang the National Anthem, four soldiers on the roof directly behind Mr. Bush unfurled the large American flag that had been defiantly flown from the site of the wreckage nearly a year ago.

In the stiff wind, the dirt-streaked flag whipped about and engulfed one of the soldiers trying to control it. As the singer hit the word wave in the anthem, the soldiers managed to get the banner under control, at least until the next gust of wind.

Throughout official Washington, the anniversary took precedence over other business yesterday.

At the White House

White House employees - from groundskeepers to military personnel - gathered on the South Lawn of the mansion for a moment of silence to mark the moment at which the first plane hit the World Trade Center.

They lined the driveway, stretching from beyond the Oval Office, past the Rose Garden, up the double staircase and along the blue-room balcony. Bush, first lady Laura Bush and top officials joined the gathering and bowed their heads in silence.

Capitol Hill remained eerily quiet for most the day as flags flew at half-staff, with many members spending the day outside of Washington, attending memorials in their districts and states.

The virtually cloudless sky and breezy air served as vivid reminders of the seemingly perfect morning exactly a year before that turned frightening upon word that a fourth airplane might be heading for the Capitol dome, leading to a quick evacuation of the building.

Those present at the Capitol rose and bowed their heads at noon for a moment of silence, then spent the day making speeches on the House and Senate floors to memorialize the victims of the terrorist attacks and pay tribute to a resilient nation.

"This day will forever be a part of our national memory. Nine-eleven will forever be our national shorthand for all that we witnessed, all that we experienced, on that day and the days following. That is what we remember all across America today," said Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, a South Dakota Democrat.

Several lawmakers were reduced to tears as they recalled their experiences on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, as they came to understand that the television images they watched of two airliners slamming into the World Trade Center were not showing a tragic accident, but a calculated attack.

"All of a sudden, out of the dark depths of the evil corners of the world, hatred, meanness, despair, jealousy, greed rose to afflict this nation," said House Majority Leader Dick Armey, a Texas Republican.

On this Sept. 11, a tearful Armey said, "we woke a little wiser, a little more aware, a little sadder, but we woke with optimism, love, resolve and courage, and we will be that way for so long as this great nation shall endure."

Lawmakers capped off the day as they did last Sept. 11, by gathering on the steps of the Capitol to sing "God Bless America" in the fading sunlight.

Twilight gatherings

For all the tears shed yesterday, there was also an underlying sense of consolation - as if at least for one day, the pain was spread over a wider field. The numerous commemorations drew many who simply needed the comforts of a crowd.

In New York, twilight gatherings in parks in each of the five boroughs drew people who lighted candles in remembrance and enjoyed performances by the likes of Meryl Streep and Billy Joel.

For those most directly affected by the terrorist attacks, it was a day to join with others who, by cruel fate, are suddenly soul mates.

"It was really a community down there," said Joe Gillespie, who joined the procession to leave photos and a note on the circle of honor for his godson, Kenny Caldwell. "It was really nice to be with all the other people."

He and Caldwell's mother, Elsie Caldwell, came up from Philadelphia together and would take home roses they were given as souvenirs at Ground Zero.

The anniversary was not so much an endpoint but a continuation of an evolving relationship with their lost young man, for whom they still write notes and keep a scrapbook.

"I'm going to press my roses and put them in a scrapbook," Caldwell said, "and write down where they came from."

Sun staff writer Julie Hirschfeld Davis contributed to this article.

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