Flags dip as nations mark day of infamy

By STAFF REPORTERS and AGENCIES

The American flag will fly at half-mast on the Auckland Harbour Bridge from dawn today as New Zealand and the world remember the events of September 11 last year.

In one of the first acts of commemoration of the attacks which left more than 3000 dead, the American flag was to be raised next to the New Zealand flag at sunrise and then lowered to half-mast.

In the following hours around the world, millions of people will take part in ceremonies to recall the horrors of the terror attacks and the events it spawned.

In Wellington today, Prime Minister Helen Clark and United States Ambassador Charles Swindells will plant two trees of remembrance at the US Embassy in soil prepared with compost from the flowers left by New Zealanders at the gates a year ago.

Fire engines and other emergency vehicles will drive with headlights dipped today to commemorate the deeds of the New York firefighters, many of whom were killed saving people from the towers of the World Trade Centre. Fire stations will fly flags at half-mast.

Services will be held across the country. In a show of solidarity between Christians and Muslims, people will today join hands in Ponsonby between the Auckland mosque and the nearby Catholic Church of Pax Christi.

But while a jittery and sombre America prepares to mark the moment it awoke to international terrorism within its borders, security has been low in New Zealand.

Police spokeswoman Sarah Martin said there was no evidence New Zealand was being targeted, although the situation was constantly monitored.

Air New Zealand staff and Civil Aviation authorities who monitor airlines have been warned to be extra vigilant and "mindful" of the anniversary which saw four jets hijacked and crashed a year ago.

New Zealand-born Alan Beaven, a California environmental lawyer, was among those killed as he tried to seize back the controls of United Airlines Flight 93 from terrorists before it crashed into a field in Pennsylvania.

The economic cost has been high. New Zealanders have paid about $800 million more in insurance premiums since the attacks - and cover against acts of terrorism has been removed from insurance policies internationally.

Insurance Council chief executive Chris Ryan said: "New Zealand is now not insured for a wide range of terrorism activity and this is something all New Zealanders need to be acutely aware of."

The September 11 commemorations have prompted fears of further attacks if the al Qaeda terrorist network is planning its own grisly anniversary. Closer to home, the images of death have reawakened dormant fears.

New Zealand Youthline telephone counselling service has been extremely busy as the saturation media coverage intensifies the anxieties of vulnerable people.

Those fears have naturally been strongest in America and for Americans. The US Government has issued a worldwide caution to Americans to be especially vigilant because of a "continuing threat of terrorist actions".

Shortly after midnight tonight, Americans will put those fears behind them to remember the dead.

The country will observe one minute's silence at 8.46am American Eastern Time (12.46am NZT) - the time the first aircraft smashed into the World Trade Centre and America's day of terror began.

Story archives:

  • Terror in America - the Sept 11 attacks

  • War against terrorism

    Links: Terror in America - the Sept 11 attacks

    Timeline: Major events since the Sept 11 attacks

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