The dead of September 11 are remembered in poignant silence

10.30am - By COLE MORETON


As the sun set in Manhattan last night, beams of light were projected into the sky to represent the twin towers of the World Trade Centre, destroyed on 11 September 2001.

Firehouse bells rang; flowers were laid and names were recited all across America yesterday, but the most poignant memorial to the 2,995 people who died was silence.

Exactly three years to the minute after fuel-laden, hijacked planes slammed into the twin towers in New York, the Pentagon in Washington and a field outside Pennsylvania, crowds stood in silence to remember those who were lost.

"A man who loses his wife is a widower," said Michael Bloomberg, Mayor of New York, who wept during the ceremony at the site of the twin towers.

"A woman who loses her husband is a widow. There is no name for a parent who loses a child, for there are no words to describe this pain."

A year after the tragedy, dignitaries read the names of the dead. Last year the long, slow litany was spoken by children. This time it was the turn of the parents and grandparents.

"Every day is hard, but this day is a little bit harder," said Nancy Brandemarti, who lost a son and was attending the Ground Zero remembrance for the first time.

"This day is just a day to think about him."

Relatives laid flowers by the two small reflecting pools that were meant to evoke the footprints of the twin towers. Others scrawled messages on the edges of the pools.

It was there, seven storeys below ground level, that rescue workers combed the debris with rakes. Work still continues to identify the 20,000 pieces of human remains that were recovered. Three hundred police officers from 47 forces in the UK formed an honour guard for the families of British victims.

There were also ceremonies in Washington and at the field where Flight 93 came down after passengers tried to overcome their hijackers.

"Three years ago the struggle of good against evil was compressed into the space of one morning," said President George Bush in a televised address from Washington.

"We will defeat this enemy," he said, adding that the US would "stay on the offensive and pursue the terrorists".

In Virginia, Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, at Arlington National Cemetery, said that an "uncertain world looks to America" and the enemy "faces the arsenal of a purposeful nation awakened to danger".

But in Afghanistan, a US commander warned that Osama bin Laden and his deputy were still issuing orders for attacks.

Major General Eric Olson, a New Yorker, was speaking after a ceremony at the main American base in Bagram, north of Kabul. Soldiers gathered in a dusty tent to hear readings from the Bible and the Koran, patriotic songs and speeches.

Islamic extremists in the UK yesterday hailed 11 September as a "towering day" in history.

Anjem Choudary of the radical group al-Muhajiroun described Osama bin Laden, mastermind of the attack on the twin towers in New York, as a "Muslim brother" and claimed he would be elected leader in any Muslim country.

Al-Muhajiroun called off a rally in London on police advice but called a press conference. Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed, the spiritual leader of al-Muhajiroun, did not attend.

A group calling itself the United British Alliance picketed the hotel in Stratford in east London where the meeting was called, carrying flags of St George.

Leaders described it as a non-racist, all-inclusive group, but there appeared to be only one non-white member among the 100 marshalled by police.

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