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article imageAs New York looks forward, Washington keeps 9-11 alive

By dpa news     Sep 12, 2007 in World
For first time, name-reading ceremony took place in a small park near Wall Street instead of the Ground Zero site where the World Trade Center towers once stood. 2,700 people were killed in the devastating terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
By JT Nguyen and Chris Cermak
It is a sign of the changing times. While Washington and election-year politics continue to keep the memory alive, many New Yorkers seem ready to move on with their lives rather than repeat the round of elaborate ceremonies from previous years to commemorate the dead.
But reminded they have been. Osama bin Laden, leader of the al-Qaeda terrorist group behind the attacks, appeared in his first purported video message in nearly three years Friday, urging the world to convert to Islam but not making specific anti-US threats.
The attacks themselves were brought back to life earlier this year with a destructive fire that broke out at the abandoned Deutsche Bank building near so-called Ground Zero in New York.
The fire on August 18 killed two firefighters and renewed a bitter dispute over health and security between unions and the city government. The blaze burned for days, sending smoke billowing over lower Manhattan and refreshing memories of the tragedy.
In 2001, more than 300 firefighters and police died trying to evacuate trapped workers in the 110-storey twin towers after two hijacked planes slammed into the buildings. Rescuers continue to blame New York City authorities for neglecting health care and scrimping on federal funds to help those affected, physically and mentally, by the terrorist attacks. Lawsuits by rescuers and even some family members are still pending.
The spectacle of the massive New York landmark crumbling to the ground and raining tons of asbestos, lead, flying glass shards and construction material over fleeing humans remains an image hard to forget.
But to forget is what most New Yorkers want. Days before the sixth anniversary, New York media were raising the difficult question of just how much tribute would be enough and how many well-scripted events are needed to commemorate the dead.
For the first time since the 2001 attacks, the sixth anniversary falls on the same day of the week - a Tuesday.
In previous years, elaborate ceremonies paid tribute to the dead, including an emotionally-packed reading of the names of all the victims. New York politicians and family members took turns reading the names aloud.
This year, the name reading remains, but the whole ceremony will take place in a small park near Wall Street instead of the Ground Zero site, where construction of the new Freedom Tower is proceeding.
Former New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani, memorable for his leadership in the panicked hours after the attack and now a front running Republican presidential candidate for 2008, will have only a limited role this year, because victims' families have objected to injecting politics in the event.
Giuliani is not the only presidential aspirant keeping September 11 in the limelight. For him and New York Senator Hillary Clinton, the memories and sensitivities still run high in debates around the country.
Democratic candidate and former senator John Edwards recently provoked Clinton when he called the war on terrorism launched after the attacks a "bumper sticker" used by President George W Bush to "justify everything he does."
Clinton shot back: "I have lived with the aftermath of 9-11 and I have seen first hand the terrible damage that can be inflicted on our country by a small band of terrorists who are intent on foisting their way of life," she said. "I believe we are safer than we were, but we're not safe enough."
For President Bush, September 11 remains the defining moment of his presidency. His efforts to maintain waning support for the war in Iraq and tight security measures in the US continue to be couched in terms of an ideological struggle with Islamic extremists in a post 9-11 world.
Back in New York, Ground Zero is destined to be a part of the city's future. Designs for at least three towers have been approved and construction is underway, including the Freedom Tower, the centrepiece of the new World Trade Center site, which at 1,776 feet (592 metres) would be the world's tallest tower when completed around 2010. The 1,776 figure represents the founding year of the United States of America.
Larry Silverstein, the holder of the 99-year lease on the original World Trade Center, gave a presentation last week of what he called a refined and more detailed architectural plan for three new towers at the site.
"A little more than six years ago, many believed that lower Manhattan was finished as a major financial centre," New York State Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver said days before the anniversary.
"But since that time, my community has overcome obstacles, dealt with setbacks and found new and innovative ways to keep the dream of full development alive," he said.
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