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Where the Planes Fell, Remembrances

Leaders join families of victims to mark the eighth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

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By Neely Tucker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, September 12, 2009

The reading of the names of the dead began in the early morning rain Friday, a block from Ground Zero, marking the eighth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people.

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Sophia B. Addo. Sean Booker. Patrick Currivan. Niurka Davila. Andrew Fisher. John R. Fisher. "And my father, Thomas J. Fisher."

In Washington, President Obama marked the first commemoration of the attacks since he took office with a moment of silence, a wreath laying and a national call to public service. Accompanied by first lady Michelle Obama, he and White House staff members assembled on the South Lawn at 8:46 a.m., precisely eight years after the first of two hijacked jetliners struck the World Trade Center in New York. A bell rang three times. They all bowed their heads, and a bugler played taps.

Later in the morning, Obama stood without an umbrella in the misting rain at the Pentagon Memorial, where 184 people died when a third hijacked jet was flown into the Defense Department headquarters. Perhaps 100 family members of victims were guests. Several walked the perimeter of the memorial alone or in pairs. Most stood close to one another.

"Nearly 3,000 days have passed; almost one for each of those taken from us," Obama said, his dark suit glistening with rainfall. "But no turning of the season can diminish the pain and the loss of that day. No passage of time and no dark skies can ever dull the meaning of this moment."

The people who died that day, he told their family members, "left a legacy that still shines brightly in the darkness. . . . May God bless you and comfort you."

Lucy A. Fishman. Thomas James Fitzpatrick. David Garcia. "And my brother, Daniel James Gallagher."

In Shanksville, Pa., bells tolled for the 40 victims of the fourth hijacked jetliner, United Airlines Flight 93. Passengers used butter knives and a beverage cart to attack the hijackers who had commandeered the aircraft. The plane plummeted into an empty field, killing all aboard.

At a plaza adjacent to Ground Zero in lower Manhattan, crowds gathered to listen to the roll call of victims' names, a ceremony that has become a near-sacred annual ritual.

Vice President Biden was there with his wife, Jill. He ascended the podium in time for the moment of silence at 9:03 a.m., when the South Tower was hit, and then read a selection by the poet Mary Oliver.

"Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine," he read, the words echoing over a quiet sea of onlookers who huddled under umbrellas. "Meanwhile, the world goes on."

The final moment of silence was at 10:29 a.m., when the World Trade Center's North Tower fell.


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