At White House, in space, across America and the world, ceremonies mark three months since attacks

Tuesday, December 11th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

At the White House and in outer space, on a factory picket line, at statehouses and far-flung embassies, Americans and their allies paused Tuesday to commemorate the instant three months earlier when the first hijacked jetliner struck the World Trade Center.

Drums rolled, guns fired in somber salute, the national anthem was played or sung. But many of the ceremonies centered on a moment of silence.

``Just the silence, I think, was better than words,'' said Lt. Gov. Gary Sherrer of Kansas after a ceremony at the Statehouse in Topeka. ``It spoke for itself.''

The White House commemoration began with a drum roll at 8:46 a.m. EDT, followed by ``The Star-Spangled Banner.''

``Every one of the innocents who died on September the 11th was the most important person on earth to somebody,'' President Bush said. ``Every death extinguished a world.''

Elsewhere around Washington, ceremonies took place at the Capitol, the Justice Department, the Transportation Department and the Pentagon. Education Secretary Rod Paige, visiting Washington's Duke Ellington School of the Arts, urged students to cherish their freedom to express themselves.

In New York City, firefighters, police officers and construction workers at the World Trade Center site interrupted search and cleanup operations for an interfaith prayer service. A lone trumpeter played a slow, mournful ``Star-Spangled Banner.''

As generators hummed in the background, Muslim, Jewish and Catholic leaders recited prayers for the dead and the survivors. ``They took down those structures, but they will not take away the spirit,'' said Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, a Fire Department chaplain.

Astronauts aboard space shuttle Endeavour and the international space station joined the commemoration, listening to the U.S. and Russian national anthems.

Frank Culbertson, completing his stint as space station commander, said the attacks have given crew members greater resolve to promote international cooperation in space.

Many of the ceremonies across America took place at statehouses; in Portland, Ore., a lone bagpiper in a downtown square played ``Amazing Grace'' in the pre-dawn dark.

Some events were held at military bases that have sent units to Afghanistan.

``Knowing that the American people are behind us _ it makes us feel that much better about what we're doing,'' said Tech. Sgt. Anthony Davis after a chilly flag-raising ceremony at Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota.

Fifth-graders rang a replica of the Liberty Bell at Rhode Island's Capitol, fraternity brothers lit candles at the University of New Mexico, and an 84-year-old Pearl Harbor veteran attended a ceremony at the Illinois Statehouse.

``What we saw, you don't want anyone to ever see it again,'' said Tom Proctor, who served in an anti-aircraft unit. ``But you learn to expect the unexpected.''

At Boston's Logan Airport, United Airlines employees held hands in front of an American flag and sang the national anthem. The two hijacked planes that crashed into the World Trade Center had taken off from Logan.

In East Hartford, Conn., striking workers at jet-engine maker Pratt & Whitney stopped their picketing to observe a moment of silence. Strikers formed two lines, took off their hats and bowed their heads.

``It's to honor those people. They lost a hell of a lot more than we're losing,'' said Ron Wilson, a pipefitter from Manchester, Conn.

In Philadelphia, relatives of victims of the attacks helped raise the flag at Independence Hall in a cold, light rain.

``It's nice of Pennsylvania to acknowledge the wound,'' said Gil Ortale, whose brother, Peter, was killed at the World Trade Center.

Ceremonies also were held in dozens of foreign countries, many of which lost citizens in the Sept. 11 attacks.

Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair, a staunch American ally in the war on terrorism, was joined by Secretary of State Colin Powell for commemorations in London. Musicians from the American School of London played both countries' anthems.

Capt. Jason Amerine, accidentally wounded last week in Afghanistan by a U.S. bomb that killed three of his men, spoke defiantly at a ceremony in the military hospital at Landstuhl, Germany, where he is being treated.

``Our fallen will not be forgotten,'' he said. ``Sept. 11 will not be forgotten.''

In the United States, some governors chose not to hold any official ceremonies, and many events that did occur were small and low-key. In South Dakota, about 20 state workers sang the national anthem in the Statehouse rotunda. An aide said Gov. Bill Janklow, who ordered the ceremony, was unable to attend because of a meeting nearby.

At Wisconsin's Capitol, fewer than a dozen people gathered around a Christmas tree as the national anthem played over loudspeakers.

Judy Dahler, 49, of Madison, listened with bowed head.

``As time goes by, we tend to forget things,'' she said, ``and this is something we should never forget.''