Five years after al-Qaeda terrorists destroyed the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, the USA began its observation of a solemn anniversary Monday, with plans for silent reflection and fresh mourning for the nearly 3,000 lives lost on Sept. 11, 2001.
On the 16-acre (6.5-hectare) New York City expanse where the World Trade Center once stood, four moments of silence were planned for 8:46 (1246 GMT), 9:03 (1302 GMT), 9:59 (1359 GMT) and 10:29 a.m. (1429 GMT), the times when jetliners struck each of the twin towers, and when each tower fell.
Family members began arriving before 7 a.m. (1100 GMT) at the trade center site, some clutching bouquets of roses. Near the site, firefighter Tommy King and others stood beside a fire truck whose windshield was emblazoned with the names of two comrades who died on Sept. 11.
"It's just weird being back here," King said outside the World Financial Center, where he has not been for five years. "This building here was a morgue."
Spouses and partners of the 2,749 people who died at the trade center were to read the names of the victims as families of the victims descend to roam the site and lay flowers.
President George W. Bush visited ground zero Sunday and on Monday was to visit the two other attack sites: Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where 40 people were killed when a jet crashed into the ground, and the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, where 184 died.
Bush also planned a prime-time address from the Oval Office.
There were also moments of silence set for 8:46 a.m. (1246 GMT) in the American and United terminals of Logan International Airport in Boston. American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175 took off from Logan before slamming into the towers.
On Sunday, Bush marked the eve of the anniversary with somber gestures and few words: He and his wife, Laura, set wreaths in small, square reflecting pools in the pit of the trade center site, one each for where the north and south towers stood.
The Bushes had descended the long ramp from street level into ground zero accompanied by New York Governor George Pataki, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Rudolph Giuliani, hailed for his work as mayor in the months after the attack.
Giuliani made the rounds on the morning talk shows Monday, expressing surprise that terrorists have not struck since Sept. 11 in the United States. Giuliani added that, for the memory of the victims, "we have to remain vigilant."
"It took about 30 years for this terrorism to develop," Giuliani said on ABC's "Good Morning America. "It's going to take more than five years to deconstruct them."
On Sunday afternoon, the Bushes attended a memorialservice at St. Paul's Chapel just off ground zero, where the first U.S. President George Washington once prayed and where exhausted rescuers sought refuge in 2001 while they dug through the trade center rubble.
At the service, a youth choir sang "America the Beautiful" and "My Country 'Tis of Thee," and religious leaders of several faiths offered words of comfort.
At a ceremony Sunday at 7 World Trade Center, the gleaming first office tower to rise at ground zero, Pataki honored first responders and said American freedom represents "the ultimate threat" to terrorists, the AP says.
Peter Gorman, president of the New York Uniformed Fire Officers Association, took note of the day's vivid blue sky and said it reminded many of the late-summer morning of Sept. 11, 2001.
"Today is still a glorious day in the glorious city of New York, the powerful state of New York , in the United States of America," Gorman said. "New Yorkers and Americans will never bow to terrorism, thanks to the U.S. military, thanks to every first responder in this country."
The anniversary dawned on a nation unrecognizable a half-decade ago - at war in Afghanistan and Iraq, governed by a color-coded terror alert system, newly unable to carry even hair gel onto airplanes.
On Sunday, Bush administration officials mounted a vigorous defense of the measures they had taken to protect the country, even as the nation remains divided on the Iraq war, treatment of terror detainees and surveillance measures.
"There has not been another attack on the United States," Vice President Dick Cheney said on "Meet the Press" on NBC. "And that's not an accident."
And there was a fresh reminder of the terrorist threat: An hourlong videotape posted online Sunday showed previously unseen footage of Osama bin Laden, smiling, and other commanders apparently planning the New York and Washington attacks.
An unidentified narrator said the plot was devised not with computers and radar screens and military command centers but with "divine protection" for a brotherly atmosphere and "love for sacrificing life."
Across the United States, the day was to be marked with quiet observances, from the three attack sites - New York, Washington, Pennsylvania - to cities and small towns.
Camp Blanding, Florida, planned to remember Florida soldiers killed in action since Sept. 11. Firefighters and law enforcement officers were to be honored at the Idaho Statehouse. And in Muncie, Indiana, a service was set at a funeral home that features a Sept. 11 garden with twin glass towers that light up at night.
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