Tuesday, September 11, 2001, began as a typical bustling business day under clear blue skies but was quickly transformed into the most horrific and twisted tragedy in our nation’s history, the day that then-President Bush would call “the Pearl Harbor of the twenty-first century.” Sunday, September 11, 2011, began under overcast skies with a quiet too eerie to be associated with the typically restless streets of Manhattan.
Today marks ten years from the al-Qaida attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in which four commercial airliners were hijacked and over 2,900 innocent people were murdered.
On this day, the memorial that will stand as an honor to the courageous heroes of that fateful day was opened to the families of the victims. The memorial will open to the public tomorrow. Joining the families were Presidents Obama and Bush, Governors Cuomo, Christie, and Pataki, and Mayors Bloomberg and Giuliani.
Although Mayor Bloomberg held a press conference last Thursday to make the public aware that “credible” threats had been made against the city on this somber weekend, thousands of people showed up to the ceremony this morning not with fear in their hearts but with honor and patriotism in their hearts.
As in years past, the majority of the time was dedicated to the reading of the names of those who sacrificed their lives in the name of human freedom on that warm September day. At the times corresponding with the events of that tragic day, a moment of silence was held, accompanied by the chiming of bells.
Of the people who read the names of the victims, those who invoked the phrase “God bless America” received applause from the crowd, but there was no applause greater than that which was reserved for former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who recited the passage from Ecclesiastes, “To everything, there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven…a time for war and a time for peace.”
Giuliani had been preceded by the moment of silence in commemoration of the falling of the North Tower, but just before that a boy spoke and told the crowd gathered that he never met his father. He concluded his remembrance of his father by saying, “I love life, and I wish you could be here to enjoy it with me.” He, too, was met with great applause and tears.
At 10:33, Paul Simon performed his classic song, “The Sound of Silence.” “The words of the prophet are written on the subway walls,” he sang, and anybody who has ridden the trains of the MTA could take those frightening words to heart.
The reading of the names concluded at 1:18 pm local time, after which a choir of pre-adolescent boys and girls sang an inspirational song, “I Will Remember You.”
The first responders of September 11, whose heroism and personal sacrifice saved countless lives, were not allowed to enter the memorial today with the families of the victims, but they were honored. Several of the relatives who spoke, many of whom were themselves in uniform, made a point to acknowledge the selfless courage of those unsung heroes. From the subway station on Canal St. to the ceremony, I walked behind five uniformed fire fighters, and I was humbled.
One woman said that today, on this tenth anniversary, we move on with our lives and strive for a better future, and if anybody ever asks you, “Does that Star-spangled Banner yet wave o’er the Land of the free and the Home of the brave?” you can reply resoundingly, “Yes. It does.”
This article is part of Digital Journal's project to remember September 11. If you have a story to tell, join us on Facebook and Twitter, and post your memories to Digital Journal. Full details on how to participate can be found here. You can also read other submissions on our September 11 Anniversary page.