9/11 still holds painful memories after six years

The Associated press NEW YORK – Relatives of World Trade Center victims bowed their heads in silence at a small park Tuesday to mark the moment exactly six years earlier when the first hijacked plane struck the towers. The dreary, gray skies created a grim backdrop, and a sharp contrast to the clear blue of that morning in 2001.

“That day we felt isolated, but not for long and not from each other,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said as the ceremony began. “Six years have passed, and our place is still by your side.”

Construction equipment now fills the vast city block where the World Trade Center once stood. Work is under way for four new towers forced the ceremony to be moved away from the twin towers’ footprints for the first time.

As people clutched framed photos of their lost loved ones, Kathleen Mullen, whose niece Kathleen Casey died in the attacks, said the park across the street was close enough.

“Just so long as we continue to do something special every year, so you don’t wake up and say, ‘Oh, it’s 9/11,” she said.

Presidential politics and the health of ground zero workers loomed over the sixth anniversary of the terrorist attacks this year, perhaps more than any other Sept. 11.

The firefighters and first responders who helped rescue thousands that day in 2001 and later recovered the dead were to read the victims’ names for the first time. Many of those rescuers are now ill with respiratory problems and cancers themselves, and they blame the illnesses on exposure to the fallen towers’ toxic dust.

Also for the first time, the name of a victim who survived that towers’ collapse but died five months later of lung disease blamed on the dust she inhaled was added to the official roll.

Also a memorial honoring Flight 93’s 40 passengers and crew was to begin at 9:45 a.m., shortly before the time the airliner nosedived into the empty field.

“The ceremony will be brief but solemn,” said Kevin Newlin, an official with the National Park Service. Bells will toll, and the names of the passengers and crew will be read at the site of a temporary memorial at the crash site.

In Boston, where two of the hijacked airplanes took off that morning, church bells rang to the tunes of Amazing Grace.

In all, 2,974 victims were killed by the Sept. 11 attacks: 2,750 at the World Trade Center, 40 in Pennsylvania and 184 at the Pentagon. Those numbers do not include the 19 hijackers.