By DAVID USBORNE in New York
New Yorkers paused today to recall the horror of two years before when two hijacked jetliners slammed into the Twin Towers sending them cascading to earth and killing 2,645 innocent souls trapped inside.
At Ground Zero, where the towers once stood, as many as 10,000 relatives of those who died gathered for a morning-long ceremony of remembrance led by the Mayor of the city, Michael Bloomberg. Similar services of commemoration were held in towns and cities across America.
Under skies that were as blue as on the day of the tragedy, 200 children who lost relatives, filed in pairs to microphones in the pit at Ground Zero to read out the names of those who died.
Tears run down countless cheeks, as each child ended with the name of their own lost relative, often a mother or a father.
Among them was Christina Marie Aceto, 12. "I love you Daddy. I miss you a lot. Richard Anthony Aceto". A fence marking the perimeter of the North Tower was festooned with hand-written tributes. "To my Dad, Steve Chucknick," one read. "You're in my heart forever. Love always, your son Steven."
In a low profile approach to the anniversary, President George Bush remained in Washington for the day.
He attended a short service at St John's Church across from the White House and leading a moment of silence at 8.46 am, the time when the first plane struck, with staff members on the South Lawn.
"We remember the lives lost," Mr Bush said emerging from the church. "We remember the heroic deeds. We remember the compassion, the decency of our fellow citizens on that terrible day. We pray for the husbands and wives, the moms and dads and the sons and daughters and loved ones."
Members of the administration reaffirmed President Bush's war against terrorism. One was Ted Olson, the Solicitor General, who lost his wife Barbara on 9/11. He told members of the Justice Department that it was a day for all families of those who died. "Their suffering and deaths must fuel our dedication to stamp out this cancer," he insisted.
More than 3,000 people died in the al-Qa'ida attacks on the United States. Ceremonies were also held in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where another hijacked plane believed to have been en route for Washington crashed into a field, and at the Pentagon, where 184 people were killed by an incoming plane.
"In our minds eye, we can see the arsenal of democracy that it represents," US Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, said of the Pentagon, while leading a service at the nearby Arlington National Cemetery.
"The men and women who died there that day were part of that arsenal, defending democracy as surely as any patriot on the front line."
The day was also marked in capitals around the world. In London, Prime Minister Tony Blair and his Cabinet stood to observe a minute's silence in memory of the more than 3,000 victims.
Later, Princess Anne opened a garden of remembrance near the US Embassy dedicated to the 67 British people who died in New York.
A twisted metal girder recovered from the Twin Towers is buried beneath the garden. India, which has accused neighbouring Pakistan of fomenting terrorism, declared yesterday to be Anti-Terrorism Day. In Sydney, Australia, 3,000 trees were planted in a city park to commemorate the dead.
Vice-President Dick Cheney was originally expected to attend the Ground Zero ceremony, but he was asked to stay away by Mayor Bloomberg because of security concerns. He instead attended a church service in New York in the afternoon for workers of the Port Authority who died.
And as the sun set over Manhattan last night, the Tribute of Light, twin beams of light piercing the sky representing the fallen towers, were switched on for one night as a final tribute to those lost.