September 12, 2016: Hundreds gathered in lower Manhattan Sunday morning to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, and to honor thousands of people who lost their lives. Al-Qaida terrorists hijacked four planes and flew them into the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon near Washington, while one crashed in rural Pennsylvania.
Paying tribute to the victims. Picture Credits: VOA
The ceremony began at 8:40 a.m. at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum with the national anthem and a reading of names of those killed in both the 2001 and 1993 attacks on the World Trade Center. Attended by the families of those killed in those attacks, elected officials, first responders and others, the event includes six moments of silence, timed to commemorate significant moments on Sept. 11, 2001.
President Barack Obama observed a moment of silence at the White House on Sunday. "We remember and we will never forget the nearly 3,000 beautiful lives taken from us so cruelly," Obama said. "We wonder how their lives might have unfolded, how their dreams might have taken shape."
He vowed that terrorists "will never be able to defeat a nation as great and as strong as America," praising the country's diverse ethnic population comprised of people of all races and religions as "one of our greatest strengths."
Graffiti by an artist. Picture Credits: Wikimedia common
Obama, commemorating the September 11, 2001 attacks for the last time as president before leaving office in January, said, "This is the America that was attacked that September morning. This is the America that we must remain true to."
"Fifteen years ago, a September day that began like any other became one of the darkest in our nation's history," Obama said Saturday in his weekly address.
The president said those killed were "from all walks of life, all races and religions, all colors and creeds, from across America and around the world." It was the worst attack on U.S. soil since Pearl Harbor was bombed in 1941 at the start of World War II.
People read the names of the victims during a commemoration ceremony for the victims of the September 11 terrorist attacks at the National September 11 Memorial and Museum in New York City. The country's leading 2016 presidential candidates, Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump, paid their respects at Ground Zero but halted their political campaigns for the day.
As daylight ended Sunday in New York, spotlights projected two giant beams of light into the sky to represent the fallen twin towers of the World Trade Center.
Nineteen hijackers, 15 of them from Saudi Arabia, were killed in the attacks, which led directly to the U.S. war in Afghanistan, where al-Qaida trained attackers against the United States, and indirectly to the war in Iraq. The U.S. still has thousands of forces in Afghanistan and Iraq even as it has ended large-scale combat operations.
Writing on Twitter Sunday, Secretary of State John Kerry said, "On 9/11, we remember those we lost, those who tried to save them. We honor them by pursuing peace, security, justice worldwide."Near Shanksville in western Pennsylvania Sunday, the Flight 93 National Memorial stands in memory of the passengers and crew members who carried out a sustained assault against the hijackers for control of the plane 15 years ago.
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A September 11 Museum has been erected on the New York site where the World Trade Center once stood, housing artifacts and photographs connected to the attack.
At the Pentagon, the 184 people who died on September 11, 2001 are honored with 184 benches over pools of water. A huge American flag was draped from the roof of the headquarters of the country's Defense Department on the side of the building where the attack occurred.
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Before the ceremony began, hundreds gathered around the plaza, many holding posters and shirts dedicated to victims. As the Brooklyn Youth Chorus sang the national anthem, many in the crowd held up posters and framed pictures before loudly applauding. (VOA)