NEW YORK (AP) _ With quavering voices, parents and grandparents of those killed at the World Trade Center slowly read the names of the victims early Saturday to mark the third anniversary of the attacks that brought down the twin towers.
Moments of silence were observed at 8:46 and 9:03 a.m., the times two planes slammed into the trade center towers on Sept. 11, 2001, and at 9:59 to mark the fall of the south tower. Another was planned for 10:29, when the north tower collapsed.
Many of the family members cried quietly and embraced each other.
``Every day is hard, but this day is a little bit harder,'' said Nancy Brandemarti, who was attending the ground zero remembrance for the first time. ``This day is just a day to think about him.''
At Arlington National Cemetery, there was a moment of silence at 9:37, the time that another hijacked plane hit the Pentagon, where 184 people died. The president and first lady also observed a moment of silence on the White House's South Lawn as the nation began a day of remembrance.
On the west edge of the trade center site in lower Manhattan, parents and grandparents stood in pairs at two podiums, reading the list of the 2,749 people killed there _ a recitation expected to last more than two hours.
They read slowly and precisely, and added poignant dedications when they reached the names of their own loved ones. ``And our loving son, Paul Robert Eckna, our tower of strength _ we love and miss you,'' said Carol Eckna.
Gov. George Pataki quoted former President Dwight D. Eisenhower, describing losses of World War II: ``There's no tragedy in life like the death of a child. Things never get back to the way they were.''
As the reading began, other family members of Sept. 11 victims descended the ramp into the pit of the trade center site itself, many clutching roses and photos of their relatives.
The area, seven stories below street level, is considered sacred ground by many. It was there that rescue workers combed the debris with rakes, painstakingly searching for the tiniest fragments of human remains.
The family members laid flowers in two small reflecting pools in the pit that were meant to evoke the footprints of the twin trade center towers. Others scrawled messages on the edges of the pools.
Last year, children recited the names, and on the first anniversary, it was dignitaries, community leaders and some relatives of victims. This year, parents and grandparents had the honor.
``A man who loses his wife is a widower. A woman who loses her husband is a widow,'' Mayor Michael Bloomberg said. ``There is no name for a parent who loses a children, for there are no words to describe this pain.''
Pat Hawley, 44, was among the family members at the site Saturday morning. Hawley, of Charlotte, N.C., said he comes to the ground zero ceremony every year to remember his older sister, Karen Sue Juday.
``It seems like it gets harder every year, because it's that much more time since I've been able to talk to my sister and be with her,'' he said.
In Pennsylvania, bells will toll across the state at the minute the fourth plane went down, killing the 40 passengers and crew killed aboard Flight 93.
Nationwide, observed Sept. 11 in their own ways, with services at local firehouses, memorial dedications, bell-ringing events and flag ceremonies.
In Boston, a small plane pulled an American flag behind it as about 150 family members of Sept. 11 victims paused for a moment of silence. Air Force Col. Jim Ogonowski, whose brother John, piloted one of the hijacked planes, urged grieving families to remember more than the horrors of that day.
``I ask you to remember what followed the attacks,'' he said. ``Strangers helping strangers, neighbors helping neighbors, acts of good will everywhere. That's the part of September 11th the terrorist don't want to remember.''
Later, Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry was to speak at the Boston Opera House.
At the trade center site, Bloomberg's predecessor, Rudolph Giuliani, and New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey were also expected to deliver readings.
Three years on, work still continues to identify the 20,000 pieces of human remains that were recovered. The medical examiner's office has identified about 1,570 victims, or just 60 percent. They do not expect to match the remains of every victim because some remains were too badly damaged to yield readable DNA, and some people were essentially vaporized in the fiery collapse.
Meanwhile, much has changed at the 16-acre site where the 110-story towers once stood. A 20-ton granite cornerstone was laid on July 4 for the 1,776-foot-tall Freedom Tower, the skyscraper expected to be completed by 2009.
At sundown, light beams that evoke the twin towers will be projected upward from a lot near the site, to remain on through the night. The memorial lights were first seen on March 11, 2002, to mark six months since the attack, with a plan to light them each year for the anniversary.