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Nation Marks Seventh Anniversary of 9/11 Attacks

September 11, 2008 at 12:00 AM EST
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JIM LEHRER: September 11, seven years later.

“NewsHour” correspondent Kwame Holman reports on the day’s events, beginning with the ceremony in New York City.

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (I), Mayor of New York: Today marks the seventh anniversary of the day our world was broken. It lives forever in our hearts and in our history, a tragedy that unites us in a common memory and a common story.

KWAME HOLMAN: Much like ceremonies past, today’s commemoration at ground zero was freighted with the emotion of that September morning.

KWAME HOLMAN: At 8:46 a.m. silence — the moment American Airlines Flight 11 struck the north tower. Silence was observed three more times, marking the strike on the south tower and the moments both buildings collapsed.

CATHERINE HERNANDEZ, Family Member of 9/11 Victim: So many things have happened in my life that I want to tell my papi.

I joined the New York City Police Department. I got married. My husband and I moved into a beautiful new house. And we had a baby, Kyle Noberto. I’m also continuing my college education. I know he is proud of me and he would have been a wonderful grandfather to Kyle.

Whenever we parted, papi would say (SPEAKING SPANISH). And, this morning, I want to say the same thing to my papi.

I love you and go with God.

AIDAN SALAMONE, Family Member of 9/11 Victim: My dad died on 9/11, but he is not gone. Just look at each of our faces, and you will see him shine through us every day.

The memorial's dedication ceremony

KWAME HOLMAN: Two thousand seven hundred and fifty-one names of the victims were read by their relatives and students from the more than 90 countries that lost citizens in the attack.

Relatives clasped photos and signs and descended into the construction site where the towers once stood to float flowers on a reflecting pool. By the end of the ceremony, it was full.

At the White House, President Bush joined the moment of silence for the first plane alongside Vice President Dick Cheney.

KWAME HOLMAN: Later, at the Pentagon, Mr. Bush helped to dedicate a memorial to the 184 people killed there.

GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States: Seven years ago, at this hour, a doomed airliner plunged from the sky, split the rock and steel of this building, and changed our world forever. The years that followed have seen justice delivered to evil men and battles fought in distant lands. But each day on this year -- each year on this day, our thoughts return to this place.

KWAME HOLMAN: Jim Laychak, who lost his brother in the attack, spearheaded the memorial effort.

JIM LAYCHAK, President, Pentagon Memorial Fund: My brother used to describe particularly special days, great days to be alive by saying, "Jimbo, today is a dish of a day."

That is how I feel today as we dedicate this great memorial, the culmination of seven years of commitment to one goal. We want people to remember. We want people to remember what happened here.

KWAME HOLMAN: Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who was inside the Pentagon when the plane hit and helped with the rescue, also paid tribute.

DONALD RUMSFELD, Former U.S. Secretary of Defense: They were men and women at their desks in the Pentagon who one morning kissed their loved ones goodbye, went off to work, and never came home.

And they were the passengers and crew aboard Flight 77, who, in the last moments, made phone calls to loved ones and prayed to the almighty, before their journey ended such a short distance from where it began, each with different backgrounds and different dreams. It was here that their fates were cruelly merged forever.

KWAME HOLMAN: The ceremony ended with the formal dedication of the memorial, as a military chorus sang, and service men and women from every branch removed the blue cloth that covered the 184 benches, each inscribed with a victim's name. Thousands in attendance were friends and family of those who died.

Relatives of the deceased

KWAME HOLMAN: Dorris Brunelle lost her brother, Max Beilke.

DORRIS BRUNELLE, Family Member of 9/11 Victim: Every time we come -- and we have been here several times -- we were here for the first anniversary -- the knife that was put in my heart that morning is grinding every time I come back here.

KWAME HOLMAN: Stephanie Dunn DeSimone, who was three months pregnant when she lost her husband, Patrick Dunn, reflected on the memorial.

STEPHANIE DUNN DESIMONE, Family Member of 9/11 Victim: When I look at it, I think that this is just someplace that my daughter and her children and their children and so on will be able to come and reflect on this man who gave them life. And I think that it's just really -- it's just peaceful. It's tranquil. It's exactly what they would have wanted, not a lot of hoopla, but at the same time very respectful.

KWAME HOLMAN: The last major tribute was observed in Shanksville, Pa., in the hilly field where United Airlines Flight 93 was driven down by its passengers, who rose up against the plane's hijackers.

GOV. ED RENDELL (D), Pennsylvania: The predominant emotion is grief, the loss that the family members suffered seven years ago. That grief and that sorry will never totally abate, nor should it.

MAN: Lorraine G. Bay.

KWAME HOLMAN: Again, the victims' names were read aloud.

WOMAN: CeeCee Lyles.

McCain, Obama's joint appearance

KWAME HOLMAN: Republican presidential nominee John McCain was there.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), Presidential Nominee: It's believed that the terrorists on United Flight 93 might have intended to crash the airplane into the United States Capitol.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of people at work in that building, when that fateful moment occurred, could have been destroyed, along with a beautiful symbol of our freedom. They, and very possibly I, owe our lives to the passengers who summoned the courage and love necessary to deprive our depraved and hateful enemies their terrible triumph.

KWAME HOLMAN: This afternoon in New York City, McCain and Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama made a rare joint appearance at ground zero, but were not speakers at the ceremony. The campaigns agreed to suspend all campaigning today.

The anniversary of the attacks also was marked by a ceremony at the U.S. Capitol Building, and around the world in church services, and also by U.S. troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.