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An emotional and solemn ceremony is underway in the shadow of the new World Trade Center as New York City, the country and the world mark the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
The ceremony began this morning with the singing of the National Anthem by the Brooklyn Youth Choir followed by a procession of bagpippers from the Fire Department, Police Department and the Port Authority.
It’s been a decade of grief since that day of destruction. Sept. 11, 2001 started as a crystal clear Tuesday morning but ended with raging fire and clouds of dust.
With the 9/11 memorial finally taking shape, this year’s ceremony is at a place of peace. There is the reflecting pool, with water that falls into the voids of the towers, and the trees that surround it, reaching for the sky to where the towers once stood.
President Barack Obama and former president George W. Bush, joined by their wives, arrived at the 9/11 memorial in New York City around 8 a.m.
Earlier this morning, workers put the finishing touches on the memorial, which opened for the first time to victims’ families.
The two walked around the reflecting pool, running their hands over the names of those killed, engraved in bronze, before stopping to speak with some of the families of 9/11 victims and dignitaries.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg was the first to speak at Sunday’s ceremony.
“They were our neighbors, our friends, our husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, children and parents. They were the ones who rushed in to help,” said Bloomberg. “2,983 innocent men, women and children. Each had a face, a story, a life cut short from under them.”
He led the first moment of silence at 8:46 a.m., the time Flight 11 hit the north tower.
Obama then delivered the first reading, reciting from Tehillim 46.
“God is our refuge and strength,” he read. “He dwells in his city, does marvelous things and says, be still and know that I am God.”
Family members then took the podium and began reading the names of the 2,977 people killed on Sept. 11, 2001.
For the first time this year, the names of those killed on Flight 77 that hit the Pentagon and Flight 93 that crashed in Shanksville, Penn., as well as the victims of the 1993 World Trade Center attack, will also be read aloud during the ceremony.
2,977 people were killed in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania and six were killed in the 1993 attack.
As the names of the victims were being read, family members gathered around the reflecting pool, making pencil rubbings of their loved ones’ engravings.
The second moment of silence was at 9:03 a.m., the time of the attack on the south tower.
Former President Bush then gave a reading, a letter written by Abraham Lincoln.
“I pray that our heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom,” Bush read.
At 9:37 a.m., another moment of silence marking when Flight 77 hit the Pentagon.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo then took the stage.
“Freedom from fear anywhere in the world. That is our goal and our strength is in our unity of purpose,” Cuomo read. “To that high concept, there can be no end save victory.”
The fourth moment of silence was at 9:59 a.m. when the south tower fell.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie then gave a reading followed by a rendition of Amazing Grace.
“If I should die and leave you here awhile, be not like others sore undone, who keep long vigil by the silent dust. For my sake, turn again to life and smile,” Christie read.
At 10:03 a.m. was the fifth moment of silence when Flight 93 crashed in a field near Shanksville, Penn.
Former New York Gov. George Pataki then spoke of the first responders who gave their lives on 9/11.
“May God bless those heroes we lost on Sept. 11th, the brave men and women who responded so courageously,” Pataki said. “The heroes we’ve lost since that date defending our freedom and the men and women today who risk their lives here and abroad to defend our freedom.”
The sixth and final moment of silence came at 10:28 a.m. when the north tower fell.
Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who was in office on Sept. 11th, then read a Bible verse from Ecclesiastes 3:4.
“To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under the heaven,” Giuliani read.
He also said, “God bless every soul that we lost. And God guide us to our reunion in heaven. And God bless the United States of America.”
Former Gov. Donald T. DiFrancesco of New Jersey also read a passage.
Cellist Yo-Yo Ma and singers James Taylor and Paul Simon also performed.
Overlooking the memorial is a giant American flag on the south side of 1 World Trade Center. The 60-by-90-foot flag is the world’s largest free-flying American flag.