Nation Marks 9/11 Anniversary with Solemn Events in Pa., NYC, Washington

9/11 commemorationThe nation marked the 9/11 anniversary today with a number of solemn events at the locations where terrorists 12 years ago staged the worst attacks in U.S. history, killing nearly 3,000 people.

In Washington, President Obama presided over a simple commemoration at the White House at 8:45 a.m., the precise moment when the first jet hit the World Trade Center in New York City. The president, joined by first lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Jill Biden, walked from the White House to the South Lawn, trailed by a military honor guard and joined by members of the White House staff. After bells tolled three times, “Taps” was played. At 8:47 a.m., the couples silently returned to the White House.

In New York City, family members of those killed in both the 2001 and 1993 World Trade Center attacks read their loved ones’ names at the World Trade Center site, as they have done in previous years.

“No matter how many years pass, this time comes around each year — and it’s always the same,” Karen Hinson of Seaford, N.Y., who lost her 34-year-old brother, Michael Wittenstein, a Cantor Fitzgerald employee, told USA Today. “My brother was never found, so this is where he is for us.”

The president gave remarks at the site of the Pentagon, where another plane crashed into the nation’s military headquarters.

In Shanksville, Pa., where a fourth plane, United flight 93, plunged to the ground after passengers heroically took it over, diverting the hijackers from their plan to crash it into the U.S. Capitol building, dozens of relatives of those who perished  gathered at the crash site.

“This allows us to reconnect with each other and share the day together and the sorrow,” Gordon Felt, who lost his brother Ed, told USA Today. “We reignite the memories of that day, so that we don’t forget what happened.”

Yesterday ground was broken at a visitors center in Shanksville as a National Park Service charity announced that $40 million had been raised to finish building the memorial.

Sally Hoagland, whose son Mark Bingham was on the flight 93, said the anniversary serves a purpose.

“I dread the day but I also welcome it, because we reconnect and because it’s easier to be sad with other people who are, too,” she said.

Hoagland said she would be volunteering with thousands of others around the nation to work on various projects as part of a 9/11 National Day of Service, a campaign launched in 2002 by victims’ relatives and supporters.

“It helped turn around 9/11 for me,” said Hoagland, adding that she planned to help fix up a fire training facility.

Interestingly, the 9/11 date is the anniversary in Chile of another infamous attack on democracy—the military coup that toppled socialist President Salvador Allende in 1973, and installed a brutal 17-year dictatorship led by Augusto Pinochet. The Pinochet regime is blamed for the deaths of 3,200 people between 1973 and 1990, with an additional 40,000 surviving political imprisonment and torture.

Allende’s overthrow is a dark moment in U.S. history, as declassified documents proved that the CIA supported the military coup, with former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger playing a key role in the military plot.

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