GWEN IFILL: The annual remembrance of 9/11 brought somber ceremony and muted politics today. Americans looked back on a day that shook the world and led to a decade of war.
WOMAN: Keith George Fairben.
GWEN IFILL: A day of remembrance began at Ground Zero, where New Yorkers gathered under a crisp blue sky, reminiscent of the day of the attack 11 years ago.
Friends and relatives of the victims listened to what has become an annual solemn ritual, the names, read allowed, of the nearly 3,000 who died on that day in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.
CARRIE BERGONIA, fiancee of Sept. 11 victim: John Edwards Bulaga Jr.
RICHARD BLOOD, father of Sept. 11 victim: Stephen Bruce Bunin.
CARRIE BERGONIA: And my fiance, firefighter Joseph J. Ogren, I love and miss you so very much. Until we meet again.
RICHARD BLOOD: And my son Richard Middleton Blood Jr.
Rick, can you hear your name as the roll is called again, on this sacred ground where your dust settled? If only those that hear your name could know what a loving son and wonderful person you grew to be.
GWEN IFILL: Fewer families turned out this year, and elected officials attended, but, in an effort to dial down the politics, didn’t speak.
In Washington, President and Mrs. Obama gathered on the South Lawn of the White House. A bell tolled three times at 8:46 a.m., the moment the first hijacked plane struck the North Tower in New York, then a moment of silence.
From there, the president took the short ride across the Potomac to place a wreath for the 184 killed at the Pentagon. Several hundred people listened as Mr. Obama remembered the day’s multiple shocks.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Even now, all these years later, it is easy for those of us who lived through that day to close our eyes and to find ourselves back there and back here, back when grief crashed over us like an awful wave, when Americans everywhere held each other tight.
This is never an easy day, but it is especially difficult for all of you, the families of nearly 3,000 innocents who lost their lives.
GWEN IFILL: Vice President Biden echoed that sentiment in Shanksville, Pa., where Flight 93 crashed after its passengers fought back against the hijackers.
VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: My personal prayer for all of you is that, in every succeeding year, you’re able to sing more than you weep. And may God truly bless you and bless the souls of those 40 incredible people who rest in this ground.
GWEN IFILL: The terrorists had hoped to crash Flight 93 into the U.S. Capitol. And today, as in the dark days after 9/11, members of the House and Senate joined in a show of unity.
REP. NANCY PELOSI, D-Calif.: Time has left the memories of 9/11 emblazoned on our hearts for more than a decade. On this anniversary and in years to come, time will continue to tell the true story of 9/11, how the 9/11 families turned a national tragedy into a time of unity, how our country came together with resolve and with hope.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER, R-Ohio: Everyone in those hours, no matter their station, everyone stood their ground. Everyone kept their place, the professionals who did their duty, who ran in so that others could run out, the patriots who banded together in the sky over Shanksville to save this Capitol and these steps.
GWEN IFILL: The race for president continued largely out of public view, as the two campaigns suspended overtly political speeches for the day.
But, at the Pentagon, the president said that 11 years later, the country is safer, Americans are more resilient and the wars that followed 9/11 are receding.
BARACK OBAMA: Today, the war in Iraq is over. In Afghanistan, we’re training Afghan security forces and forging a partnership with the Afghan people. And by the end of 2014, the longest war in our history will be over.
GWEN IFILL: Republican Mitt Romney addressed the National Guard Association’s annual convention in Reno, Nev.
MITT ROMNEY (R): With less than two to go before Election Day, I would normally speak to a gathering like this about the differences between my and my opponent’s plans for military and for our national security. There is a time and place for that.
But this day is not that. It is instead a day to express gratitude to the men and women who fought and who are still fighting to protect us and our country.
GWEN IFILL: In Kabul today, U.S. and other troops observed the day with ceremonies.
And the leader of al-Qaida was heard from as well. Ayman al-Zawahri issued a Web video confirming that the group’s second in command was killed last June in a U.S. drone attack.