The National Anthem
The 10th anniversary ceremony, the official opening of the National Sept. 11 Memorial, commenced with “The Star Spangled Banner,” performed by the Brooklyn Youth Chorus. At the opening of the memorial, 334 family members read names of loved ones killed in the attacks, steps away from the reflecting pools where the victims’ names are etched.
The First Moment of Silence
Over the course of the ceremony, six moments of silence were observed to commemorate the attacks in New York, at the Pentagon, and in Shanksville, Pa. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who presided over the ceremony, introduced the first at 8:46 a.m., when the first tower was struck exactly 10 years ago. “Ten years have passed since a perfect blue-sky morning turned into the blackest of nights,” he said.
President Obama Reads Psalm 46
Prior to the ceremony, Mayor Bloomberg said there would be no political speeches from the officials, who also included Chris Christie, Andrew Cuomo, Rudy Giuliani, and George Pataki. Before visiting Shanksville, Pa., and the Pentagon later in the day, the president read Psalm 46 at the World Trade Center. “God is our refuge and strength, the very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear,” he read.
President Bush Reads Lincoln’s Letter
Sunday’s ceremony was the first time President Obama and President Bush visited Ground Zero together to honor the nearly 3,000 people killed in the attacks. After the second moment of silence at 9:03 a.m., when the second plane hit the South Tower, Bush read a letter from the other president from Illinois originally addressed to a woman who lost five sons in the Civil War. “I feel how weak and fruitless must be any words of mine, which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming,” Bush read from Abraham Lincoln’s letter.
Remembering the Victims
Between reading the victims’ names, some family members shared memories and messages to their deceased loved ones. Among them was Peter Negron, whose father worked on the 88th floor of the North Tower. In 2003, when Negron was just 13 years old, he read a poem at the second memorial service at Ground Zero. One of the more than 1,000 children who lost a parent in the attacks, Negron gave a touching account on Sunday of what his life has been like without his father over the last decade.
Giuliani: 'God Bless Every Soul'
Taking a page from the Book of Ecclesiastes—literally—Rudy Giuliani returned to Ground Zero, where he appeared choked up during his speech. "To everything there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die," the former New York mayor said. Over the last 10 years, Giulani has been both lauded and criticized for his response to 9/11 and preparedness leading up to the attacks. They don't call you "America's Mayor" for nothing.
Biden: ‘I Know What It’s Like’
Perhaps one of the most poignant speeches of the day was Vice President Joe Biden’s reference to a tragic car accident that killed his wife and daughter years ago. Speaking from the Pentagon, Biden said he could relate to the pain of family members of victims. “I know what it’s like to receive that call out of the blue that the dearest thing in your life is gone,” he said before praising the so-called 9/11 generation that has fought in the war on terror.
Paul Simon’s Musical Memorial
Call it the sound of solace: the musician provided a contemplative break between reciting the victims’ names at the New York ceremony. Originally billed to play “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” the Grammy winner instead performed his Simon & Garfunkel hit, “The Sound of Silence,” while some in the audience embraced and walked around the reflecting pools. Simon wasn’t the only artist at the memorial; James Taylor performed earlier in the ceremony, in addition to other musicians and the chorus.
Bloomberg’s Poetic Conclusion
We remember: following the chorus’s performance of “I Will Remember You,” by Sarah McLachlan, Mayor Bloomberg closed the ceremony with a line from Harlem native James Baldwin. “The sea rises, the light fails, lovers cling to each other, and children cling to us,” he said. “The moment we cease to hold each other, the moment we break faith with one other, the sea engulfs us and the light goes out.”
Obama’s Tribute to Flight 77
After visiting New York and Shanksville, President Obama made a final tribute to 9/11 victims at the Pentagon memorial, located in the path of American Airlines Flight 77. One hundred and eighty-four people—59 on the flight and 125 inside the Pentagon—died when the plane crashed into the building 10 years ago. The president solemnly laid a wreath before meeting families of the victims with Michelle Obama.