Unsettled nation marks 9/11 with rituals of sorrow

NEW YORK (AP) — First came the tears, the solemn bugle call and the recital of the names of the dead. Then came the chants, speeches and angry shouts.

It was a Sept. 11 anniversary unlike any other. For the first time, politics and rage were an overt part of New York’s commemoration of the anniversary of the attacks, an occasion marked in the past only by rituals of sorrow.

A morning ceremony Saturday in which relatives of the victims placed flowers in a reflecting pool and read the names of their loved ones gave way to an afternoon of protests and counter-demonstrations over a proposed Islamic center near ground zero.

Some called the rallies a disgraceful intrusion. Indeed, some of the people attending the protests came from far away, and appeared to be drawn only by a deep-rooted dislike of Muslims or passion for liberal causes.

But the throngs included an ample number of 9/11 mourners, too, who joined the anti-mosque crowd of about 1,500 after attending the ground zero memorial ceremony.

“A lot of people say it’s a day of solemn remembrance. But for us, every day is a solemn day,” said Al Santora, who lost his firefighter son, Christopher, in the attacks, and attended the rally with his wife, four daughters and four grandchildren.

For a few hours Saturday morning, the political and cultural furor over whether the proposed Islamic center and mosque belongs so close to the trade center site mostly gave way to the somber anniversary ceremony and pleas from elected officials for religious tolerance.

At the other Sept. 11 attack sites, as at ground zero, elected leaders sought to remind Americans of the acts of heroism that marked a Tuesday in 2001 and the national show of unity that followed.

President Barack Obama, appealing to an unsettled nation from the Pentagon, declared that the United States could not “sacrifice the liberties we cherish or hunker down behind walls of suspicion and mistrust.”

“As Americans we are not — and never will be — at war with Islam,” the president said. “It was not a religion that attacked us that September day — it was al-Qaida, a sorry band of men which perverts religion.”

In Shanksville, Pa., first lady Michelle Obama and her predecessor, Laura Bush, spoke at a public event together for the first time since last year’s presidential inauguration. At the rural field where the 40 passengers and crew of United Flight 93 lost their lives, Obama said “a scar in the earth has healed,” and Bush said “Americans have no division” on this day.

In New York, the leader of a small Christian congregation in Florida who had planned to burn copies of the Quran to mark the Sept. 11 anniversary called off his plans.

Pastor Terry Jones gave an interview to NBC’s “Today” after flying to New York in hopes of meeting with leaders of the mosque and persuading them to move the Islamic center in exchange for his canceling his own plans. No meeting had taken place, he said.

Nonetheless, “We feel that God is telling us to stop,” he said. “Not today, not ever.”

Jones’ plan had drawn opposition across the political spectrum and the world. Obama had appealed to him on television, and Defense Secretary Robert Gates in a personal phone call, not to burn the Islamic holy book. Gen. David Petraeus, head of the U.S. mission in Afghanistan, said carrying out the plan would have endangered American troops.

Nevertheless, there were isolated reports of Quran desecrations on the anniversary, including two not far from ground zero.

Afghans, meanwhile, set fire to tires in the streets and shouted “Death to America” for a second day despite Jones’ decision to call off the burning. The largest drew a crowd estimated at 10,000.

There were no arrests in New York, police said. There were scattered scuffles in the streets, including one in which a man ripped up another’s poster advocating freedom of religion and the second man struck back with the stick.

Near the World Trade Center site, a memorial to the 2,752 who died there played out mostly as it had each year since 2001. Bells were tolled to mark the times of impact of the two hijacked jets and the times the twin towers collapsed.

Assigned to read the names of the fallen, relatives of 9/11 victims calmly made their way through their lists, then struggled, some looking skyward, as they addressed their lost loved ones.

“David, please know that we love you. We miss you desperately,” said Michael Brady, whose brother worked at Merrill Lynch. “We think about you and we pray for you every day.”

As they finished reading names, two relatives of 9/11 victims issued pleas — one to God and one to New York — that the site remain “sacred.”

Family members of Sept. 11 victims also laid flowers in a reflecting pool and wrote individual messages along its edges.

Within hours of the completion of the ceremony, groups of protesters had taken up positions in lower Manhattan, blocks apart and representing both sides of the debate over the mosque, which has suffused the nation’s politics for weeks leading up to the anniversary.

Near City Hall, supporters of the mosque toted signs that read, “The attack on Islam is racism” and “Tea Party bigots funded by corporate $.” Opponents chanted “USA” and “No mosque here” and carried placards that read, “Never forgive, never forget, no WTC mosque.”

Critics have said that even if organizers have a First Amendment right to build the center where they want, putting it near ground zero would be a show of disrespect.

“It just can’t be. It’s a disgrace,” said Arlene Tipping, of Hauppauge, N.Y., who lost her firefighter son, John, on 9/11. “They’re just trying to take over New York and Manhattan. This really is war.”

Her husband, also named John, said the controversy made it the hardest 9/11 anniversary for the family yet.

Amid it all, ground zero is transforming itself. Just this week, officials hoisted a 70-foot piece of trade center steel there and vowed to open the Sept. 11 memorial, with two waterfalls marking where the towers stood, by next year. At the northwest corner of the site, 1 World Trade Center, formerly known as the Freedom Tower, now rises 36 stories above ground. It is set to open in 2013 and be 1,776 feet tall, taller than the original trade center.

The proposed Islamic cultural center, which organizers say will promote interfaith learning, would go in an abandoned Burlington Coat Factory two blocks uptown from ground zero.

Muslim prayer services are normally held at the site, but it was padlocked Friday and closed Saturday, the official end of the holy month of Ramadan. Police planned 24-hour patrols until next week.

Elizabeth Meehan, 51, was among about 2,000 rallying to support the mosque. Meehan, who rode a bus to the rally from her home in Saratoga, N.Y., about 180 miles away, said she is an observant Christian and felt it was important for Christians to speak in favor of religious freedom.

“I’m really fearful of all of the hate that’s going on in our country. People in one brand of Christianity are coming out against other faiths, and I find that so sad,” she said. “Muslims are fellow Americans, they should have the right to worship in America just like anyone else.”


Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Verena Dobnik and Beth Fouhy in New York, Jennifer C. Yates in Shanksville, Pa., and Erica Werner in Washington.

  • libertyatstake

    Re: Last two paragraphs. Very familiar with Saratoga. Saratoga and surroundings very much original home ground. Memo to Ms. Meehan: The Islamists are animals who are absolutely alien to my memories of Saratoga and surroundings.

    “Because the Only Good Progressive is a Failed Progressive”

  • S-D-M

    It’s up to the muzlims themselves to root out the cancer in their midst. They are the ones on the inside. They are the ones that know who they are. The rest of us are on the outside looking in and from the outside we can’t distinguished one from the other. They need to be pressed to form an alliance or task force, or network of alliances and task forces to be the whistle blowers on the radicals. If they are pressed to do this and don’t, then they can to be challenged on their reasons. If they won’t, we will be justified in suspecting everyone of them as terrorists or sympathizers.

    • clw

      I think it would be too easy to gloss over your post as “yeah, that’s true”, but I think it’s worth reading two or three times and really letting it sink in. The LACK of strong vocal support coming from the “good” muslim community is worth being very mindful of.

      • jonavark

        Which makes them ALL suspect and makes those so-called ‘racists’ the only ones with enough foresight to call a duck a duck. The fact that American Muslims had paid a little lip service to the issue doesn’t elevate them above the religious fanatics bent on destroying the west and the freedoms we all have.

        The illiterate short-sighted left is always looking for another back to step on to call Conservative America racist bigots all while ignoring reality. Unfortunate that we can not get a pledge for THEM to be the victims of the next attacks should their tactics fail.

  • tombt

    The very people who would tear into Christians because the Bible says “wives be submissive to your husbands” are championing the spread of a religion that stones homomsexuals, stones adulterers, forbids women from going to school or working outside of the home and even forbids women from going to the market without a male escort. Folks, there is no rational way to explain it. There is something spiritual going on in America and we are witnessing a growing alliance between the secular left and Islam.

    • clw

      May I just add, because SO MANY are so GROSSLY uninformed… that in a Christian household, the man is the head of the household. He has the final say. It’s not to say that he dominates a woman, he respects and accepts her input, but he is the spiritual head of the household as well as the final decision-maker. The reason it WORKS is that in a Christian household, he is a FAIR man, a LOVING man, an INTELLIGENT man, a DEVOTED man. That’s WHY his wife is to submit to him and she does so WILLINGLY. Why wouldn’t she?!

      Islam, is the 180 degree polar OPPOSITE of that.

      • des1

        Not to mention the fact that the husband is required to submit to his wife’s needs. People forget to mention that half of that equation.

  • truebearing

    Only 7 years after 9/11 the voters of this nation ignored common sense, forgot about what radical Islam did to this nation, and voted in Barack Hussein Obama.
    Political correctness, like a viscous tar, destroyed the nation’s instincts for self-preservation, and now we have a president more interested in convincing us that Islam isn’t what our eyes tell us it is then living up to his sworn oath to protect the nation and defend the constitution.

    Obama is setting this nation up for a massive fall, and it appears to be intentional.

    • ImpressedByHonesty

      So what, pray tell, was 9/11? As a memo called ‘bin laden detrermined to strike the U.S.” was circulated to our President, was this not a fail? And all of the big details leading up to 9/11 not important? 9/11 should never have happened, or had been a celebration and recruiting tool for Al-Qaeda. Bin Laden should have been apprehended or killed. Clean.

      And I thought Obamas’ pastor was the evil one, now he’s a Muslim? Which is it? Were you delusional then or now? Is his birth certificate posted online by our 50th state in our Union proof, or no?

      Muslim extremists should be the fly to the giant called the U.S. You are making them more than than what the extremists really should be. Those extremists should be a blip to U.S. national security, but now with the war in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Quran burning fiasco you folk fan the flames of extremism. If you’d just relax and let those mad hornets and flies calm down, it’ll all be fine, as we watch our backs, and watch where we walk. But would you rather we be involved in a war against 1.5 billion Muslims, including all that are in our own country? How many more hundreds of thousands of Muslims would you like to kill? Are you that kind of person? Would you like to be at war for the next hundred years and foot the deficit bill for it? Would you like to be partly responsible for a nuke drop in the mid-east? Or take the next 3 or 4 years and peacefully close this nonsense mostly out? Play the adult? Or the child with ADD?

      Strategically you are a clown, at best. A shortsighted fool at the very least. Or will you decide to think in the long term…

  • mydc

    Please ,everyone should watch this video —

    called “the islamisation of Paris” and see whats coming our way soon because of this country’s misplaced guilt and liberalism. watch this video and then pass the link along to 10 other people.

    • tombt

      Thanks mydc. That is indeed our future…..I’m glad to see the French are starting to fight back. Islam is incompatible with the rights and freedoms found in Western culture. If not for petrol dollars, pretty much all Islamic cultures would be 16th century basket-cases. Islam – not American foreign policy – is the reason for this.

  • katnandu

    Islam will always cast a shadow over 911. The Islamic extremists are the shadow!

    • ImpressedByHonesty

      You guys are paying for the spread of Islamic Extremism with your wallet, thru the gas pump, straight to Saudi Arabia/’
      And fighting to protect that flow of your dollars to spread Islamic fundamentalism. By fighting clean energy which would take its place.


      • des1

        Yes, the problem is us fighting clean energy (which doesn’t work, costs vastly more than it must, and costs jobs), not environmental nut jobs fighting oil drilling in Alaska or shale mining (which has more oil than all of Saudi Arabia).

        Sell your crap somewhere that people don’t know better. You’ll sound like less of a moron.

        • The_anniebanannie

          “You’ll sound like less of a moron. ”

          I don’t think that’s possible, des.

          • des1

            Go hang out on the Daily Kos or HuffPo some time. Just make sure to leave yourself time to wash off the filth afterward.

          • The_anniebanannie

            I dunno des,,I still don’t think IbH could sound like less of a moron….that comment was about as stupid as they get. OHHHH,,,,you meant it would fit right in at Huffpoop,,,well, then you’d be correct.

          • des1

            Notice I didn’t say he’d be less of a moron, just that he’d sound like less of one. Gotta love the Liberal echo chamber, they really think they’re brilliant after spending a few weeks there.

          • ImpressedByHonesty

            I still haven’t heard any of you prove any one of those points I cited as incorrect. Cat got your tongue? Idealogy blinding your objectivity? Data and facts get in the way of your breathless Obama ranting?

          • ImpressedByHonesty

            anniebannanie, you must be Generation X and all that connotation implies. Find that inner ‘can-do’ attitude. Somewhere. The greatest generation still doesn’t have to be the greatest generation, but if you’re current ideals become the ideals of the U.S., we’ll never know.

        • ImpressedByHonesty

          des1: “Yes, the problem is us fighting clean energy (which doesn’t work, costs vastly more than it must, and costs jobs)”

          My latest idea of a moron is one that doesn’t believe in the tenants of investment. Do I have to explain ‘investment’ to you? What part of ‘it takes ten years to realize solar roof investment’ don’t you get? What part of spending money here in the U.S. instead of Canada or with the Saudis or the Nigerians do you not understand? You insist on importing 500billion dollars of petro energy each year? How can domestic energy rather than imported energy cost jobs? Those dollars stay in the U.S. where they contribute to our economy and you would rather not have that 500 billion stay in the U.S. each year? You’d rather have us spending money on wars to protect oil in the middle east? Those wars which 100’s of billions in costs were hid by Bush, then when Obama finally included the wars to the budget, it fueled your screaming OBAMA INCREASED THE DEFICIT OBAMA INCREASED THE DEFICIT!!!

          Did you include middle east wars in your idea of ‘green energy costs too much’. Did you include the costs of intelligence on the Islamic Extremist centers paid for by your petro dollars?

        • ImpressedByHonesty

          Do you even know how much more energy and resources it takes to mine oil shale? Have you seen what Canada is doing to its land to get to their shale?

          If we have the mother lode, as you claim, why are we still importing $400 billion of our oil each year?

        • ImpressedByHonesty

          Prove any of that. If you base your sweeping dismissals on trumped up data, it’s easy for you to start calling names, which you are good at. But can you base one of your ‘thoughtful’ posts on raw data that support your argument?

          I suppose you’d just rather let technology pass you by, as one of the dissenters. You would have been one of the ones describing Thomas Edisons’ lightbulb as ‘vastly more expensive than oil lamps, costs lamp maker jobs, and doesn’t work’.

          des1 and anniebannanie, are you happy to be on the wrong (arse) end of technological progress? In 20 years, you can proudly tell your grandkids that you cheerleaded the charge against a cleaner energy industry that left their world a better place.

          Clean energy will happen despite your banshee objections. American ingeniuity marches on.

      • clw

        I am STUNNED that you actually believe what you are saying. Don’t you have Google? Are you unable to do research?

      • jonavark

        OH.. wasn’t it YOU touting Saudi Arabia as our “Ally”
        just a week ago?

        • ImpressedByHonesty

          The 90% of the 9/11 attackers were Saudis. Yet we invaded Iraq. We may consider them less of an ‘ally”, yes. They bailed W out of two failed oil ventures, so that has to account for something.

          But I don’t remember referring to them as an ‘ally’. Though we have strong political, financial and strategic ties to them, yes. I we buy a ton of oil from them.

      • ImpressedByHonesty

        I noticed not one person tried to disprove any one thing I said on that post.

        Strange, eh? Especially as I look down my street right this very moment and see an electric RAV4(1997 model. 1997) that is being used by a meter maid. I’ve met two Tesla owners thru work. As I see the GM Volt(remember what is good for GM is good for America, that GM, that you wanted to fail before Obama saved it?) is now being exported as a ‘series hybrid’ for sale in China. Another new major U.S. export. Well China loves GM green technology… And California IS heading toward 20% renewable energy. And the U.S. has the wind capacity to generate 9– yes 9 times the amount of electricity the U.S. uses in one year. If we build it. Also one solar field 100 miles each of four sides in Nevada, would power the entire U.S. electrical need(storage and del’y issues aside, which ObamaStimulus is working to fix). But green energy doesn’t work, is that what you say? I could pop a solar roof on my house that would power my new mostly electric powered Volt(when it arrives). Tell me how much foreign petro(that you’ll pay off a deficit fueled by unpaid for wars to protect said petro) I might save when my solar roof is finished?

        So Germany(thats further North than New York, no?) is the number one producer of solar energy as of 2005. Those idiotic Germans obviously know nothing of technology. You guys just really want to be number 2, 3, or 4 in green energy, or, like health care, where we are number 29 in the world perhaps will make you smile. Do you guys really hate U.S. investment in new technologies that can be made and supplied here? And that doesn’t foul up the earth for our kids? What the heck happened to your American ingenuity? Where in the hell is your desire to leave the next generation with something better than what our generation has had? Are you all about me, me, me?

        Prove anything I say isn’t true. Any one point of this post. Answer my questions. I bet it’ll just be more name calling, which you are definitely smarter at than me. Ignore the facts and the massive amounts of data that don’t support your argument. Ignore whats happening today– in front of your very nose. To me that is party before country– or not?

  • rockhard

    May all those 3000 Americans killed on 9/11 souls be in peace, and their families find peace, as for Obama, I can’t stand to hear or look at the guy anymore, he just doesn’t have any respect for America or the families of those murdered by 19 devote Muslim terrorist,to me he’s a foreigner not American.