U.S. Remembers September 11 with Memorial Lights, Freedom Walks

By Howard Cincotta
Washington File Special Correspondent

Washington - In communities across the United States, Americans are joining together to mark the fifth anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, in which more than 3,000 Americans and citizens of other countries lost their lives.

The September 11 ceremonies are large and small, official and informal, and range from a televised presidential address scheduled for the evening of September 11 to concerts, interfaith religious services and a variety of local observances taking place in all 50 states as well as around the world.

In a proclamation declaring "National Days of Prayer and Remembrance," President Bush said, "As we pray for the families of the victims and reflect upon that defining moment in our history, we are inspired by the knowledge that from the pain and sorrow of that September morning rose a Nation united by our love freedom. We remember that we are a people determined to defend our way of life and to care for our neighbors in need."

For many Americans, remembrance of September 11 may involve a simple walk. In cities and communities throughout the country, thousands of Americans are participating in Freedom Walks to mark the fifth anniversary of the terrorist attacks. Many of the walks are sponsored by "America Supports You," a nationwide program sponsored by the Department of Defense, which seeks to engage thousands of communities, organizations, companies and individuals in support the armed forces and war against terrorism.

Estimates say more than 120 Freedom Walks are taking place, which began with a group of 30 who gathered on September 7 in White Sands, New Mexico. One of the largest took place in Washington on September 10, when several thousand participants walked 3.2 kilometers from the Washington Monument across the Potomac River to the Pentagon.

But other walks are much smaller and low key, and often involve a quiet, meditative walk around a local school or landmark - whether the Wetumpka Intermediate School in Alabama; Veteran's Park in Tulsa, Oklahoma; or Sand Fork Elementary School in West Virginia. Some of the Freedom Walks feature music performances, releases of balloons or doves of peace and candle-lighting ceremonies.

Other scheduled September 11 community ceremonies are even more varied, as in this sampling of events taken from a listing compiled by the organization, Families of September 11:

• More than 100 bicyclists will ride 272 miles from Ground Zero in New York City, site of the Twin Towers, to the Pentagon outside Washington;

• The Los Angeles Museum of Tolerance will conduct a memorial service and candle-lighting, following by screening of the film "World Trade Center;"

• A senior center in Baltimore will hold a special commemorative blood drive;

• Minneapolis will hold special September 11 memorial concerts along with dozens of other cities and communities;

• Reno, Nevada, will be the site of Joe McNally's photo display "Faces of Ground Zero," images captured by the world's largest Polaroid camera which toured major cities of the world in 2002 and were viewed by more than 2 million people;

• New September 11 memorials will be unveiled in both Bayonne and Bergen County, New Jersey, a state hard hit by the terrorist attacks;

• A "United in Memory 9/11 Victim's Memorial Quilt" will be on display in Radnor, Pennsylvania and a "Heart of America Quilt" will be displayed on the National Mall in Washington; and

• The volunteer organization, One Day's Pay, is campaigning to establish 9/11 as a voluntary day of service, charity and compassion. They are calling on Americans to perform at least one good deed of their own choosing in observance of the fifth anniversary of September 11.

Pillars of light also will pierce the night skies to commemorate September 11, 2001. In Washington, the Defense Department will beam a white memorial light skyward from dusk to dawn on September 10 and 11. New York City is beaming its "Tribute in Light" from lower Manhattan, site of the World Trade Center, "in memory of those lost and as a symbol of the spirit of our community."

Among the other ceremonies scheduled for New York City will the reading of the names of the victims by friends and family members, along with four moments of silence: one each for the moment the two planes struck the Twin Towers, and one each for the moment that the South Tower fell, followed by the North Tower.

President Bush will address the nation in a televised address on the evening of September 11.

Remembrances are not limited to the annual September 11 observances, of course. In an article, "The Architecture of Loss," Washington Post writer Glenn Frankel describes the many and varied memorials that have appeared or are planned across the nation. They range from the memorial entitled "Reflecting Absence" that will occupy the footprint of the downed World Trade Center, to a grove of trees in Massachusetts - one for each victim aboard the two flights that took off from Boston. There is also a kidney-dialysis wing in a hospital in Ethiopia named for Yeneneh Betru, a medical specialist aboard the flight the struck the Pentagon, and an album from New Jersey-born rocker Bruce Springsteen called "The Rising."

On the Internet, according to one count by the Library of Congress, there are more than 2,700 memorial sites.

"There's a certain sense in which no memorial can ever capture the depth of pain the people experience," psychiatrist and writer Robert Jay Lifton said in Frankel's article. Governments and public institutions struggle to deal with divisive issues, Lifton said, and it's left to individuals to pay homage to their loved ones.

For more information about the attacks and their aftermath, see September 11 Attacks and the electronic journal Rebuilding and Resilience Five Years After 9/11.