Politics is set to one side as Americans remember 9/11
AMERICA marked the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington yesterday.
Both president Barack Obama and Republican challenger for the presidency, Mitt Romney, suspended their election campaigns as a mark of respect.
However, for the first time, no politicians were invited to speak at the annual Ground Zero memorial.
Indeed, across the US, fewer memorials were held than in past years, reflecting a nation looking forward after a decade dominated by security fears.
This year’s presidential elections have been dominated by the economy rather than national security concerns, for the first time since 2001.
Polls show Mr Obama leading Mr Romney on terrorism and national security issues, but both are a low priority for voters concerned about sluggish economic growth and an unemployment rate still above 8 per cent.
At the Pentagon, where 184 of the day’s nearly 3,000 victims lost their lives, Mr Obama spoke of how America was more secure because of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and last year’s killing by US forces of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, mastermind of the 2001 attacks.
“Our country is safer and our people are resilient,” he said after he and first lady Michelle laid a wreath to victims. He said: “When the history books are written, the true legacy of 9/11 will not be one of fear or hate or division, it will be a safer world, a stronger nation, and people more united than ever before.
“It is easy for those of us who lived through that day to close our eyes and find ourselves back there, when grief crashed over us like an awful wave, when Americans everywhere held each other tight, seeking the reassurance that the world we knew wasn’t crumbling under our feet. Eleven times we have marked another September 11 come and gone, 11 times we have paused in remembrance, reflection in unity and purpose. It’s never an easy day.”
Mr Obama spoke of his support for the US military, a theme he began at last week’s Democratic National Convention.
Mr Romney, meanwhile, issued his own message of defiance at a memorial in Chicago. “On this most sombre day, those who would attack us should know that we are united, one nation under God, in our determination to stop them and to stand tall for peace and freedom at home and across the world.”
In New York, where 2,606 were killed when hijacked planes struck the twin towers of the World Trade Centre (WTC) and caused them to fall, families gathered at the official 9/11 memorial for the roll-call of victims’ names.
For the first time no politicians were invited to speak at the ceremony, marking a turning point in the how the day will be remembered.
“It is the one day out of 365 where, when we invoke the term 9/11, we mean the people who died and the events that happened, rather than the political and cultural layers the phrase has accumulated,” said Debra Burlingame, a board member of the WTC Memorial Foundation whose brother Charles was the pilot of the plane flown into the Pentagon.
“So I think the idea that it’s even controversial that politicians wouldn’t be speaking is really rather remarkable.”
Two announcements were made for the anniversary. In the first, the White House said it would expand a programme paying the healthcare costs of 9/11 rescuers exposed to toxic dust at Ground Zero.
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Wednesday 19 June 2013
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