NEW YORK, USA (AP) — Americans marked the anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks on a crisp, sunny day much like the one 11 years ago when nearly 3,000 victims were killed in the worst terror attack in US history. The commemoration was more subdued than in previous years, a reflection of the nation moving on after a decade of remembrance.
Hundreds gathered at the World Trade Centre site in New York, the Pentagon and Shanksville, Pennsylvania, to read the names of the dead.
"Our country is safer, and our people are resilient," President Barack Obama said in a ceremony on the White House's south lawn. He and first lady Michelle Obama laid a white floral wreath at the Pentagon, above a concrete slab that said "Sept. 11, 2001 — 9: 37am."
Some felt that last year's 10th anniversary was an emotional turning point for public mourning. For the first time, elected officials weren't speaking at the New York ceremony.
"I feel much more relaxed" this year, said Jane Pollicino, who came today to remember her husband, who was killed at the trade centre. "It's another anniversary that we can commemorate in a calmer way, without that 10-year pressure."
Thousands had attended the ceremony in New York in previous years, including last year's milestone 10th anniversary. Fewer than 500 family members had gathered by this morning.
As bagpipes played at the year-old September 11 memorial in New York, families bowed their heads in silence at 8:46am, the moment that the first hijacked jetliner crashed into the trade centre's north tower, and again to mark the crashes into the second tower, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field.
More than four million people have visited the memorial in the past year. On Tuesday, much of downtown Manhattan bustled like a regular weekday, except for clusters of police and emergency vehicles on the borders of the site.
Joe Torres, who put in 16-hour days on the site in the days after the attacks, cleaning up tons of debris, said another year has changed nothing for him.
"The 11th year, for me, it's the same as if it happened yesterday. It could be 50 years from now, and to me, it'll be just as important as year one, or year five or year 10," Torres said.
Vice President Joe Biden attended a memorial service in Pennsylvania, where one of the hijacked airliners crashed in the fields of Shanksville.
"No matter how many anniversaries ... the terror of that moment returns," Biden said.
Other ceremonies were held across the country — from New York's Long Island, where hundreds wrote messages to their loved ones on a memorial, to Boston, where more than 200 people with ties to Massachusetts were remembered. But some cities scaled back — the New York suburb of Glen Rock, New Jersey, where 11 people were killed, did not hold a memorial this year for the first time.
"It was appropriate for this year — not that the losses will ever be forgotten," said Brad Jordan, chairman of a community group that helps victims' families. "But we felt it was right to shift the balance a bit from the observance of loss to a commemoration of how the community came together to heal."
The anniversary led to a brief pause in the presidential campaign as Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney pulled their negative ads and avoided campaign rallies. Romney shook hands with fire fighters at Chicago's O'Hare Airport and was flying to Nevada to address the National Guard, whose members deployed after the attacks.
The terror attacks were followed by wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, where the US military death toll years ago surpassed the 9/11 victim count. At least 1,987 US troops have died in Afghanistan and 4,475 in Iraq, according to the Pentagon.
The September 11 museum was initially to open this year, but is on hold for at least another year after a months-long dispute over financing between the foundation and the government agency that owns the site. Late Monday, New York Mayor Bloomberg and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced an agreement that paves the way for finishing the $700 million-plus project "as soon as practicable."