Eleven years after more than 3,000 people died in the 9/11 attacks, anniversary commemorations will be held at all three sites on Tuesday, but in a more modest fashion that reflects both the passage of time and the nation’s continued need to pause, reflect and nurse lingering wounds.
In New York, ceremonies will began at 8:39 a.m. at the National September 11 Memorial, with a pipe and drum band leading a procession to the stage. As in previous years, there will be moments of silence at the times when planes hit the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and crashed into a field in Shanksville, Pa.,and when the towers collapsed.
Between those moments, victims’ families will read the names of those who died.
Absent this year will be comments from any elected officials. Organizers made that decision this year, ostensibly to remove politics from the event. Many are expected to attend anyway.
The ceremony will be held in the shadow of One World Trade Center, formerly known as the Freedom Tower, which will open in 2014 at 104 stories tall. Also under construction nearby are office buildings at Three World Trade Center and Four World Trade Center, and a new transportation hub.
In Washington, scaled-down services at the Washington National Memorial will replace the larger commemoration of years past. A worship service will begin at 8:45 a.m., with others at noon and 5:30 p.m. There will be a moment of silence at Arlington National Cemetery at 9:37 a.m. and a private ceremony at the Pentagon Memorial.
Around downtown Washington, meanwhile, hundreds of volunteers are expected to take part in a “day of service and remembrance.”
President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama will gather on the White House lawn for a moment of silence, and then will attend the Pentagon memorial. The president will visit wounded service members and the families at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
In Shanksville, Vice President Joe Biden will visit the Flight 93 National Memorial, where the last hijacked plan crashed. Services began at 9:30 a.m., and will include a moment of silence at 10:03 a.m. and the reading of the victims’ names.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta visited the western Pennsylvania site Monday, calling it “hallowed ground” and renewing the government’s pledge to “remain forever vigilant against threats to our homeland and that nobody, nobody, attacks the United States of America and gets away with it.” He cited the killing of Osama bin Laden and the continued targeting of other Al Qaeda leaders.
The 11th anniversary has brought renewed focus on stalled construction of memorials in New York and Shanksville.
In New York, construction of a $1 billion museum stalled for weeks as public officials fought over how to finance it. Late on Monday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that he, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, New Jersey Governor Chris Christe and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey had reached an agreement to restart work.
In Shanksville, officials say they need another $5 million to complete a learning center, visitors center and a Tower of Voices to honor the 40 victims who perished there.
The 11th anniversary also arrives amid lingering concerns about the health of emergency workers who breathed in toxic fumes and dust at the attack sites.
Some estimates put the number of illness-related deaths at over 1,000. Tens of thousands more are being treated for various ailments. New York City firefighters are among those suffering the worst illnesses; the Fire Department continues to add names to its roster of 9/11 dead. Other workers have died of cancer in recent weeks.
And the debate over how to distribute $2.7 billion in federal victim compensation funds continues. The list of cancers covered in the funding law gets longer; 14 new types were added on Monday.