- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 12, 2004

Americans all over the nation paid tribute yesterday to the victims of the September 11 terrorist attacks, as Washington and New York led the way in marking the third anniversary of the four hijackings that killed nearly 3,000 people.

President Bush, in his remembrance, vowed to continue the aggressive prosecution of the war on terror to prevent another such attack from happening.

“Three years after the attack on our country, Americans remain strong and resolute, patient in a just cause, and confident of the victory to come,” he said in a rare live radio address from the Oval Office.

The remarks capped a somber morning of emotional remembrances in Washington, New York and Pennsylvania, the sites three years ago of the deadliest morning in America since the attack on Pearl Harbor six decades earlier.

“The struggle of good against evil was compressed into a single morning,” Mr. Bush recalled. “In the space of only 102 minutes, our country lost more citizens than were lost in the attack on Pearl Harbor. Time has passed, but the memories do not fade.”

The president was flanked by a small group of police officers, firefighters and victims’ relatives, including former Solicitor General Ted Olson, whose wife, Barbara, was killed in the crash of American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon.

Earlier in the morning, at 8:46 a.m., the precise time when the first jetliner, American Airlines Flight 11, slammed into the World Trade Center, Mr. Bush observed a moment of silence in a low-key ceremony on the South Lawn. He was joined by first lady Laura Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and his wife, Lynne.

In New York City, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg presided over an emotional ceremony at ground zero, where American Flight 11 was followed by United Airlines Flight 175 striking the adjoining tower. The ceremony began with a children’s choir singing “The Star-Spangled Banner,” followed by bagpipers playing a mournful hymn as police and firefighters folded a tattered American flag.

Parents and grandparents who lost children in the attacks read aloud portions of the list of names of 2,749 persons known to have perished in the attacks on the World Trade Center. Some parents, after reading the names of their loved ones, tearfully added “we love you” or “we miss you.”

“A man who loses his wife is a widower,” Mr. Bloomberg said. “A woman who loses her husband is a widow. There is no name for a parent who loses a child, for there are no words to describe this pain.”

Family members walked solemnly down a ramp that led seven stories below street level to the footprint of the twin towers, which is revered as sacred ground. They tossed bouquets of flowers into a pool of water.

New York Gov. George E. Pataki read a poem by a grieving parent, then added: “To the parents, grandparents and families of our heroes, God bless you. We will never forget.” The last sentence was repeated by former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani just after 9:59 a.m., the time the first tower of the World Trade Center collapsed.

In Pennsylvania, bells tolled across the state in memory of the 40 passengers and crew members who died when United Airlines Flight 93 crashed into a remote field in the tiny town of Shanksville. Authorities believe passengers tried to wrest control of the plane from the hijackers and forced it into the ground to prevent it from reaching its intended target, either the Capitol or the White House.

Just outside of Washington, at Arlington National Cemetery, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld observed a moment of silence at 9:37 a.m., when American Flight 77 hit the Pentagon, killing 184 persons. As scores of invited guests bowed their heads to ponder the tragedy, the quiet was broken by the sound of a jetliner flying overhead.

“It’s common to hear that the taking of life was senseless,” Mr. Rumsfeld said. “But those who inflicted this suffering had a sinister logic.

“They believed that by killing thousands of our citizens, that they could frighten and intimidate our country,” he said. “But the enemies have underestimated our country, they failed to understand the character of our people, and they misread our commander in chief.”

Gen. Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recalled victims who worked in the Pentagon.

“…Those of us who serve in the Pentagon today walk a little taller and are focused a little bit more with the memory.”

Gen. Pace and Mr. Rumsfeld concluded the ceremony by laying a large wreath with white flowers in the cemetery as a lone bugler played taps and relatives of the victims tearfully embraced.

In his radio address, Mr. Bush said that taking the war on terror to the Middle East and beyond is to establish beachheads of democratic reform in places such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.

“Freedom will bring the peace and security we all want,” he said. “When the peoples of that region are given new hope and lives of dignity, they will let go of old hatreds and resentments, and the terrorists will find fewer recruits.”

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