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Memorial Services Mark Sept. 11 Anniversary

A woman wipes away tears during ceremonies in New York marking the sixth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
Stan Honda
AFP/Getty Images
A woman wipes away tears during ceremonies in New York marking the sixth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
Hear NPR's Mike Pesca

Americans across the globe observed the sixth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks Tuesday, with soldiers in Afghanistan lowering the flag to half-staff at a U.S. base while victims' relatives gathered at ceremonies in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

In New York, the ceremony began at 8:40 a.m. with the sounds of drums and bagpipes, as an American flag saved from the site was carried onstage. The Star-Spangled Banner was performed before the first moment of silence was observed at 8:46 a.m. — the minute the first plane struck the north tower.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg led the ceremony near the site where the World Trade Center toppled and former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani spoke after a bell tolled to commemorate the collapse of the South Tower.

"In the midst of our great grief and turmoil, we also witnessed uncompromising strength and resilience as a people," said Giuliani, whose performance as mayor during the attacks have catapulted him to lead the list of Republican presidential contenders.

As in years past, people clutched framed photos of their lost loved ones or held bunches of flowers against their chests.

For the first time, the firefighters and first responders who helped in the rescue and recovered the dead read the victims' names. Many of those rescuers now have respiratory ailments and cancer that they blame on exposure to toxic dust from the towers.

Another first: The name of a victim who survived the towers' collapse but later died of lung disease blamed on the dust she inhaled was added to the official roll. Felicia Dunn-Jones, an attorney, was working a block from the World Trade Center. She became the 2,974th victim linked to the four crashes of the hijacked airliners in New York, the Pentagon and a field near Shanksville, Pa.

Construction of four new towers where the World Trade Center once stood forced the movement of the New York ceremony to a nearby park, but family members were not discouraged.

Kathleen Mullen, whose niece Kathleen Casey died in the attacks, said she was happy the ceremony was not abandoned. "Just so long as we continue to do something special every year, so you don't wake up and say, 'Oh, it's 9/11,'" she said.

At the Pentagon, a large flag was draped where American Airlines Flight 77 struck the building. Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke at the site where the plane crashed into the building's wall.

Pace told the victims' families that their loved ones will always be remembered.

"I do not know the proper words to tell you what's in my heart, what is in our hearts, what your fellow citizens are thinking today. We certainly hope that somehow these observances will help lessen your pain," he said.

Pace also spoke of the military, calling the anniversary "a day of recommitment."

At the main U.S. base in Afghanistan, service members bowed their heads in memory of the victims and lowered a flag to half-staff.

A moment of silence was also held in Shanksville, where United Airlines Flight 93 crashed as passengers fought terrorists for control of the plane.

A memorial service honoring Flight 93's 40 passengers and crew began at 9:45 a.m., shortly before the time the airliner nosedived into the empty field.

"As American citizens, we're all looking at our heroes," said Kay Roy, whose sister Colleen Fraser, of Elizabeth, N.J., died when the plane went down. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff also spoke to the mourners.

In all, 2,974 victims were killed in the Sept. 11 attacks, not including the 19 hijackers. Most of the deaths — 2,750 — were associated with the World Trade Center attack; 40 died in Pennsylvania and 184 were killed at the Pentagon.

National intelligence director Mike McConnell said U.S. authorities remain vigilant and concerned about "sleeper cells" of would-be terrorists inside the United States.

"We're safer but we're not safe," McConnell said on ABC's Good Morning America.

Another reminder of that was a new videotape of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden to mark the Sept. 11 anniversary. In it, bin Laden praised one of the Sept. 11 suicide hijackers, while urging others to become martyrs.

Al-Qaida traditionally issues a video every year on the anniversary.

Barry Zelman, who lost his 37-year-old brother in the attack on the World Trade Center, said was angered by bin Laden's latest videotape.

"That we're still hearing from Osama bin Laden six years later, there's no excuse. They should have gotten him long ago," Zelman said. "It's embarrassing."

From NPR reports and The Associated Press

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