By Victoria Cavaliere and Mark Felsenthal
NEW YORK/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Bagpipes, bells and a reading of the names of the nearly 3,000 people killed when hijacked jetliners crashed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field marked the 12th anniversary of the September 11 attacks in 2001.
More than a thousand people gathered Wednesday on a hot and hazy morning at the National September 11 Memorial plaza in Manhattan, for the annual reading of victims’ names from both the 1993 and 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center.
Bagpipes and a youth choir ushered in the start of the solemn proceedings, held around two reflecting pools that stand in the footprint of the fallen twin towers.
“To my nephew Michael Joseph Mullin, we miss you and think of you every single day,” said one of the 250 people chosen to read names. “You’re gone but not forgotten,” another woman said of her lost cousin.
In keeping with a tradition that began last year, no public officials spoke at the New York ceremony, though former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, his successor Michael Bloomberg, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, and other city and state leaders were in attendance.
In a memorial service at the Pentagon, President Barack Obama called on Americans to pray for those whose lives had been lost.
“Let us have the strength to face the threats that endure, different though they may be from 12 years ago, so that as long as there are those who would strike our citizens, we will stand vigilant and defend our nation,” Obama said.
The morning after a speech in which he urged Americans to support his proposal to use military force against Syria, in retribution for President Bashar al-Assad’s poison gas attack on his own people, Obama also reflected on the limits of force.
“Let us have the wisdom to know that, while force is at times necessary, force alone cannot build the world we seek,” Obama said.
Americans observed moments of silence at 8:46 a.m. EDT, the time American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the North Tower and with a second pause at 9:03 a.m. when United Airlines Flight 175 struck the South Tower.
Further moments of silence were observed at 9:37 a.m., when American Airlines Flight 77 hit the Pentagon; at 9:59 a.m. when the South Tower fell; at 10:03 a.m. when United Flight 93 hit the ground near Shanksville, Pennsylvania; and at 10:28 a.m., when the North Tower collapsed.
Nineteen hijackers died in the attacks, later claimed by Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda, which led directly to the U.S. war in Afghanistan and indirectly to the invasion of Iraq.
Two skyscrapers are nearly completed on either side of the plaza, including One World Trade Center, the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere at 1,776 feet, a symbolic number chosen to allude to the year of the Declaration of Independence.
At the Flight 93 National Memorial in Pennsylvania, the National Park Service’s memorial service Wednesday included a reading of the names of the Flight 93 passengers and crew, a ringing of bells, a wreath-laying and brief remarks.
The anniversary is expected to be the last before the Sept. 11 museum opens at ground zero. That’s due this spring. Changes also are coming at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville. Officials gathered there Tuesday to mark the start of construction on a visitor center.
CELEBRITIES REMEMBER 9/11
Billy Joel was in the spotlight at the 9/11 memorial ceremony in New York City after he was asked to lead a motorcycle parade to the Ground Zero site.
The Piano Man, who was born and raised in New York, rode a bike alongside the state’s Governor Andrew Cuomo and reality TV star Paul Teutul, Jr., leading a convoy of firefighters to the site where the World Trade Center once stood in downtown Manhattan.
The procession rode from the Rescue 1 firehouse on West 43rd Street to Ground Zero, where thousands perished in the 2001 terrorist attacks.
Joel admits he felt honored to be part of the annual ceremony at the site, telling the New York Daily News, “They invited me to be in the motorcycle ride. It’s an honor. I was at ground zero a few days after 9/11 and it was the worst thing I ever saw in my life. To be asked to do this is very moving.”
Celebrities including Lady Gage, Miley Cyrus, Matthew McConaughey, Chloe Grace Moretz, Ben Stiller and the Jonas Brothers joined in marking the 12th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Pop star Lady Gaga, who was brought up in the Big Apple, tweeted, “12 years ago today Sept 11th. We will never forget. Still remember the smoke in the sky. Saying lots of prayers for families who lost lives.”
The Jonas Brothers wrote on Twitter, “Never forget. 9/11″ while Kings of Leon rocker Nathan Followill added “Remembering those who were taken too soon on this date 12 years ago. Sad day for all but stronger than ever. Never Forget.”
British musicians Duran Duran posted, “Our thoughts are with every one who was affected by the tragedies of 9/11. We hope that all reading have a day filled w/ (with) peace,” and music mogul Simon Cowell reached out to the victims’ relatives: “My thoughts are with the families who lost someone special. They will never be forgotten.”
Singer/actress Miley Cyrus threw her support behind a campaign that urges members of the public to do a good deed to mark the sad occasion, writing, “Do a good deed today in observance of 911 Day. Make your pledge at 911day.org.”
A number of other stars are raising money for good causes on Wednesday by manning the phones on trading floors in both London and New York as part of the annual Cantor Fitzgerald and BGC Partners’ Charity Day.