9/11 is marked worldwide with reflection, prayers
WELLINGTON, New Zealand—A mother in Malaysia greeted her dead son. People in Manila left roses for the victim who helped give them homes. And mourners in Tokyo stood before a piece of steel from Ground Zero, remembering the 23 bank employees who never made it out alive.
Ten years on from 9/11, the day that changed so much for so many people, the world’s leaders and citizens paused to reflect Sunday.
From Sydney to Paris, formal ceremonies paid tribute to the nearly 3,000 who perished from more than 90 countries. And, in a reminder that threats remain, authorities in Washington and New York were beefing up security in response to intelligence about possible plans for a car bomb attack.
For some people, the pain never stops. In Malaysia, Pathmawathy Navaratnam woke up Sunday in her suburban Kuala Lumpur home and did what she’s done every day for the past decade: wish her son “Good morning.” Vijayashanker Paramsothy, a 23-year-old financial analyst, was killed in the attacks on New York.
“He is my sunshine. He has lived life to the fullest, but I can’t accept that he is not here anymore,” said Navaratnam. “I am still living, but I am dead inside.”
In Manila, dozens of former shanty dwellers offered roses, balloons and prayers for another 9/11 victim, American citizen Marie Rose Abad. The neighborhood used to be a shantytown that reeked of garbage. But in 2004, Abad’s Filipino-American husband, Rudy, built 50 brightly colored homes, fulfilling his late wife’s wish to help impoverished Filipinos.
The village has since been named after her.
“It’s like a new life sprang from the death of Marie Rose and so many others,” said villager Nancy Waminal.
Players from the American Eagles rugby team were among the first to mark the anniversary at a memorial service in the town of New Plymouth in New Zealand. The players, who are participating in the Rugby World Cup tournament, listened to a speech by US ambassador David Huebner, whose brother Rick survived the attacks on the World Trade Center.
“We watched live on television the brutal murder of 3,000 individuals,” Huebner said. “We reacted with near unanimous horror and sadness.”
“As we mark the 10th anniversary of that day, we commemorate the triumph of human kindness, and the humanity and self-abrogation which sets us apart from every other species on this planet Earth.”
In Japan, families gathered in Tokyo to pay their respects to the 23 Fuji Bank employees who never made it out of their World Trade Center office. A dozen of the workers who died were Japanese.
One by one, family members laid flowers in front of an enclosed glass case containing a small section of steel retrieved from Ground Zero. They clasped their hands and bowed their heads. Some took pictures. Others simply stood in solemn silence. There were no tears, just reflection.
Kunitake Nomura, 76, a former Fuji Bank employee who mourns losing his younger co-workers, attended a subsequent memorial service.
“We need to try to understand each other,” Nomura said. “We need to overcome differences in race and religion and learn to live in peace. We are all brothers after all. We must remind ourselves of this today.”
Sydney resident Rae Tompsett, 81, said she’s never felt angry over the murder of her son Stephen Tompsett, 39, a computer engineer who was on the 106th floor of the World Trade Center’s north tower when it was hit by a hijacked plane.
“No, not anger,” she said. “Sorrow. Sorrow that the people who did this believed they were doing something good.”
The retired school teacher and her husband Jack, 92, were among more than 1,000 people who packed Sydney’s Roman Catholic cathedral St. Mary’s for a special multi-faith service.
“It’s incredible that it is 10 years—it feels a bit like yesterday,” Tompsett said.
South Korea’s President Lee Myung-bak sent a letter to US President Barack Obama, conveying his “deepest condolences” to the victims of the 9/11 tragedy, their bereaved families and the American public. Lee, whose country is one of the strongest allies of the United States, called the attacks “unpardonable” and praised decade-long US efforts to fight terrorism.
And leaders in Pakistan, which has been a victim of al-Qaida terrorism but is also accused of not doing enough to crack down on militants, said they joined the people of the US in honoring the memory of those killed 10 years ago.
“As a country that has been severely affected by terrorism, we reaffirm our national resolve to strengthening international cooperation for the elimination of terrorism,” the foreign affairs ministry said in a statement.
Meanwhile, authorities in New York and Washington are increasing security for their 9/11 memorial services after intelligence agents got a tip that three al-Qaida members could be planning to set off a car bomb in one of the cities. Officials have found no evidence any terrorists have sneaked into the country.
The September 11 attacks “could easily have happened in Paris, it could easily have happened in Sydney and it could still happen which is why the price of freedom is eternal vigilance,” Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd said after laying a wreath at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.
The Taliban marked the anniversary by vowing to keep fighting against US forces in Afghanistan and saying they had no role in the September 11 attacks.
“Each year, 9/11 reminds the Afghans of an event in which they had no role whatsoever,” a statement e-mailed to news organizations said. “American colonialism shed the blood of tens of thousands of miserable and innocent Afghans.”
The US and its allies invaded Afghanistan on Oct. 7, 2001, after the Taliban who then ruled the country refused to hand over September 11 mastermind Osama bin Laden. The al-Qaida leader was at the time living in Afghanistan, where the terror network retained training camps and planned attacks against the US and other countries. Bin Laden was killed four months ago at his Pakistan hideout by US forces.—Associated Press writers Rod McGuirk in Australia, Eileen Ng in Malaysia, Jim Gomez in the Philippines and Tomoko Hosaka in Japan contributed. Gordon Brown contributed from New Plymouth, New Zealand.