New threat of war casts pall over Sept. 11 ceremonies

NEW YORK — The nation’s gathering war against a new upsurge in Islamic terror hung heavy over the 13th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks Thursday, stirring both anxiety and determination among those who came to ground zero to remember their loved ones.

The familiar silence to mark the attacks and the solemn roll call of the nearly 3,000 dead came just hours after President Barack Obama told the country he is authorizing stepped-up airstrikes in Iraq and Syria against Islamic State extremists.

“It’s an ongoing war against terrorists. Old ones die out and new ones pop up,” Vasile Poptean said as he left the ceremony, where he had gone to remember his brother, Joshua Poptean. “If we don’t engage them now, there’s a possibility there will be another 9/11 down the road.”

Victims’ relatives and dignitaries gathered in the plaza where the twin towers once stood, an area of shimmering new skyscrapers, including the soon-to-open 1,776-foot One World Trade Center.

The attacks were also commemorated in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where former House Speaker Dennis Hastert gave the flag that flew atop the U.S. Capitol on 9/11 to the Flight 93 National Memorial.

At the Pentagon, where Obama spoke at a wreath-laying ceremony, he didn’t mention the rise of Islamic State extremists specifically but noted: “We cannot erase every trace of evil from the world.”

“That was the case before 9/11,” the president said, “and that remains true today.”

Obama’s nationally televised announcement of his plans to “degrade and ultimately destroy” the militants, coming on the eve of the anniversary, sparked mixed feelings among 9/11 victims’ relatives. Some saw it as a sign of determination, others as bad timing.

“We’re all walking out the door today with tragic and sad and scary memories on us. … It’s an invitation to fight on a day where we lost,” said Ellen Mora, who lost her cousin, Robert Higley. But she noted that her mother felt differently, seeing the speech as “us standing tall on the anniversary.”

So did Tom Langer, who lost his pregnant sister-in-law, Vanessa Langer.

“Thirteen years later, it feels like the world is still paying attention,” he said.

Still others lamented that the U.S. was still battling terrorists 13 years after the attacks.

“We’re fighting for nothing. We lost so many already, and we will lose so many more,” said Gary Lanham, whose father, Michael Lowe, died at the World Trade Center.

While little about the annual ceremony at ground zero has changed, much around it has.

When the underground National Sept. 11 Memorial Museum opened this spring, fences around the memorial plaza above it came down, making it more easily accessible to visitors and passers-through.

Still, “coming down to the area is rough,” said Franklin Murray, who wore a shirt with a photo of his slain brother, Harry Glenn, to Thursday’s ceremony.

Some victims’ family members view the growing sense of normalcy around ground zero as a sign of healing.

“I want to see it bustling,” said Debra Burlingame, whose brother Charles Burlingame was the pilot of the hijacked plane that crashed into the Pentagon.

Others said they fear the tragedy that took place in the neighborhood is being forgotten.

“Instead of a quiet place of reflection, it’s where kids are running around,” said Nancy Nee, who lost her firefighter brother, George Cain. “Some people forget this is a cemetery. I would never go to the Holocaust museum and take a selfie.”

Around the country, observances were held in such places as Morrison, Colorado, where hundreds of people walked the equivalent of the twin towers’ 110 stories by going up and down stairs at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre, and Point Lookout, New York, where two 18-foot, sand-covered towers were crafted in remembrance.

In New York City, some relatives who read the long list of names touched on the attacks’ legacy.

In one family, two boys are named for an uncle they never met, financial worker Michael Wittenstein. In another family, 17-year-old Jordan Thompson joined the Marines in memory of his uncle, Leon Bernard Heyward, a city consumer affairs worker.

“In your honor,” Thompson said, “I have decided to serve our country.”

In Shanksville, in giving the flag that flew atop the U.S. Capitol on 9/11 to the Flight 93 National Memorial on Thursday, former House Speaker Hastert said the building might not still be standing if the plane’s passengers and crew had not rebelled against four hijackers.

Hastert spoke to hundreds of family members, dignitaries and spectators at a ceremony in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where the United Airlines plane crashed on Sept. 11, 2001.

Hastert, who was speaker of the House on that day, said the donated Stars and Stripes has smoke smudges from the fire caused by another hijacked plane flown into the Pentagon.

The 13th anniversary of the attacks comes as the National Park Service marks progress on a $17 million to $23 million phase of the Flight 93 memorial. Official hope the project, which includes a visitors’ center and learning space, will boost the number of annual visitors to the site from 300,000 to more than 500,000.

At the ceremony, the victims were posthumously awarded a Congressional Gold Medal, the nation’s highest civilian honor. The medal will be displayed temporarily at the memorial through Sunday, and will be part of a permanent exhibit once the visitors’ center opens — hopefully next year.

The same medals are being awarded at the Pentagon and World Trade Center sites.

Associated Press writers Colleen Long and Jennifer Peltz in New York City and Joe Mandak in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, contributed to this report.

ad-high_impact_4
TOP NEWS
ad-infeed_1x2_1
News Headlines
ad-infeed_1
ads_infeed_2
Local Spotlight
Events
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like