NEW YORK — With simple and solemn ceremony, the United States on Sunday marked the 10th anniversary of 9-11 in emotional tributes that recalled the sacrifice of thousands of lives not just on that day a decade ago but also in the bloody conflicts that have raged since.
Americans of every stripe, from presidents to firefighters to average citizens, paused to honor the dead in churches, at the sites of the attacks and in living rooms nationwide. Church bells rang. Prayers were read aloud. Choirs sang.
In New York, the focus was on those killed in the World Trade Center, their names now engraved on bronze panels that will long bear witness to the tragedy.
In Pennsylvania, it was on the passengers who sacrificed their lives seizing United Flight 93 from terrorists before it could hit the Capitol or White House.
And at the Pentagon in Virginia, eyes moistened at the memory not only of the 184 killed there but also for the 6,000-plus members of the armed services who have died in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Throughout, there was sense of quiet resolve, even pride that the United States did not buckle as terror mastermind Osama bin Laden had hoped.
“Our character as a nation has not changed. Our faith — in God and each other — has not changed. Our belief in America … has only been strengthened,” President Barack Obama said at a memorial concert Sunday night at Kennedy Center, the last official event of the day of remembrance.
It was the first Sept. 11 anniversary that bin Laden, killed by Navy SEALs in May, could not watch from hiding.
In perhaps the most moving tribute of the day, family members in New York read aloud 2,983 names — 2,977 killed in 2001 in New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia and six killed during a bomb attack at the World Trade Center in 1993.
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble,” Obama said there, reading from Psalm 46.
“Therefore, we will not fear, even though the earth be removed and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea, though its waters roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with its swelling.”
Obama was joined in New York by former President George W. Bush.
Chundera Epps, whose brother was on the 98th floor of the north tower, said it still hurts 10 years later. “When it comes to family gatherings, that’s when the hurt comes in,” Epps said. “The first Thanksgiving all we did was cry; we couldn’t even eat.”
Some wore shirts bearing images of those who perished in the attacks or carried signs bearing pictures of loved ones and the words “never forget.” Surrounding the site, U.S. flags flew under a sunny sky at half staff.
Obama left the site at precisely 9:11 a.m., bound for Shanksville, Pa., to honor the passengers of Flight 93.
There, he and first lady Michelle Obama laid a wreath at a wall of white marble that is engraved with the names of those aboard Flight 93.
The Obamas also visited the boulder that marks the crash site; they stood quietly in a field of wildflowers and gazed into the distance.
They spent nearly an hour greeting guests, most of them relatives of passengers.
Linda White of Hamburg, N.Y., told the president that her cousin Louis Nacke was among the passengers and that her husband has been at the site every year but one. That exception came the year he joined a cross-country motorcycle ride that symbolically finished the flight’s intended journey from Newark to San Francisco.
Kevin Marisay brought an American flag he carried in memory of his sister, Georgine Rose Corrigan, who, hoping to get home early from a business trip, had boarded Flight 93 instead of the later flight she had booked.
“It’s still not setting with me that she’s gone,” Marisay said.
At the Pentagon, the remembrance began at 6:48 a.m., when workers unfurled a flag to the right of the spot where the building was struck, just as they had done Sept. 12, 2001.
Guests observed a moment of silence at 9:37 a.m., the same minute that the hijacked plane hit.
Vice President Joe Biden praised the courage of the relatives of the 184 people who died there.
“I know these memorials — and you’ve been through many — are bittersweet moments for you, because as you sit here right now, unlike a month ago, everything’s come back in stark relief,” he said.
“But I want you to know something else: Your physical presence here today gives hope to thousands of Americans who under different circumstances are trying to come to grips with the losses that you had.”
Rebecca Dolan, 25, was a high school student on that day and didn’t know that her father, Navy Capt. Robert Dolan Jr., had moved into the Pentagon a few days earlier from a nearby building. When her family didn’t hear from him, they knew he had perished, she said.
“It still feels like it just happened yesterday,” Dolan said.