World shares in painful remembrance of September 11
(AP) — An American expatriate in Paris cries over an indelible memory of sadness. Buglers play taps from Brussels to Bagram, Afghanistan. An Israeli retiree remembers her daughter: "My world was destroyed. For me, every day is September 11."
The world's leaders and citizens reflected Sunday on the 10th anniversary of the terror attacks that were directed at the United States, but claimed the lives of people from more than 90 countries.
The pain extends from New York to the suburbs of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where Pathmawathy Navaratnam wakes up every day and wishes "good morning" to the son she lost in the World Trade Center attacks.
"He is my sunshine. He has lived life to the fullest, but I can't accept that he is not here anymore," she said of Vijayashanker Paramsothy, a 23-year-old financial analyst. "I am still living, but I am dead inside."
Mostly somber commemorations stood out against pockets of protest and claims that the attacks were a government conspiracy rather than the work of the al-Qaida terrorist network. The Taliban, which gave refuge to al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden when they ruled Afghanistan, denied any role in the Sept. 11 attacks on the same day one of their suicide bombers killed five Afghans and wounded scores of U.S. soldiers at a combat outpost in eastern Wardak province.
Pope Benedict XVI, at an outdoor Mass in Ancona, Italy, prayed for the victims and urged the world to resist what he called the "temptation toward hatred" and instead work for solidarity, justice and peace.
On a square overlooking the Eiffel Tower in Paris, hundreds turned out for a ceremony at two nine-story scaffolding towers erected as makeshift replicas of the twin towers — with "The French will never forget" written on them. Children released doves in the air to symbolize peace.
"Before I came here I was watching some of the old footage, and the feeling just doesn't go away," said Margaret Ware, an American resident of Paris, with tears in her eyes. "The horror of it — the violation — it doesn't go away even after 10 years."
At Bagram Air Field near Kabul, the Afghan capital, about 500 U.S. soldiers gathered around a construction beam from the World Trade Center for a memorial ceremony. It was briefly interrupted by a reminder of war when a fighter jet buzzed closely overhead.
"We serve today in Afghanistan so our children will not have to fight this evil tomorrow — so that they may live their lives without fear of terrorism or religious extremism," said Maj. Gen. Daniel Allyn, the U.S.-led coalition's commander for eastern Afghanistan.
At NATO's headquarters in Brussels, a French soldier played taps and the flags of 28 alliance states were lowered to half-staff as a tribute to the victims. About 130,000 NATO troops — two-thirds of them Americans — now serve in Afghanistan. More than 2,700 service members have died in that war.
World leaders made gestures of solidarity from Spain, where Prince Felipe attended a commemorative planting of 10 American oak trees, to Kyrgyzstan, where President Roza Otunbayeva spoke at a U.S. air base that offers vital support to coalition forces in Afghanistan.
"This tragedy consolidated humanity and brought it together in the fight against the common enemy of terrorism," Otunbayeva said.
Kindness was remembered along with the suffering in eastern Canada, where communities gave shelter to thousands of international air passengers stranded after the attacks forced the U.S. to shut down air travel. Gander, Newfoundland, hosted about 6,600 passengers — nearly one per resident — in the days after the Sept. 11 attacks.
"You affirmed our faith in the goodness of people. You were the best of us," U.S. Ambassador David Jacobson said at a memorial service where Gander Mayor Claude Elliott accepted two steel beams from the trade center.
"Good can outfight evil any time," Elliott said. "Human kindness and love and compassion are what our world is lacking today. We need more of it."
In Japan, the anniversary of the attacks was overshadowed by the six-month anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami that killed some 20,000 people, but it was not forgotten. Both tragedies were remembered in the battered northeastern city of Ishinomaki, where a damaged replica of the Statue of Liberty stood above candles lit in honor of tsunami victims.
A dozen Japanese workers were among the 23 Fuji Bank employees who never made it out of their World Trade Center office. In Tokyo, loved ones paid their respects Sunday, laying flowers in front of a small section of ground-zero steel before clasping their hands and bowing their heads.
At least 35 victims were from the Dominican Republic alone, Foreign Minister Carlos Morales Troncoso said. At a diplomatic event in Santo Domingo, he spoke of the heroism of police officers, firefighters, and doctors and said the world saw "the worst of humanity but also the best of humanity" that day.
In a forest outside Jerusalem, where a bronze sculpture of the American flag stands in memory of the Sept. 11 victims, 65-year-old retiree Miriam Avraham remembered her daughter Alona, who was on board United Airlines Flight 175 when the plane plowed into the South Tower of the World Trade Center.
"Sept. 11 is everything," said Avraham, who wore a photograph of her smiling, 30-year-old daughter pinned to her shirt. "My daughter was killed. My world was destroyed. For me, every day is Sept. 11."
In Manila, dozens of former shanty dwellers in one neighborhood offered roses, balloons and prayers for another victim, U.S. citizen Marie Rose Abad. It used to be squalid and reeking of garbage. But in 2004, her 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.
As some remembered the dead, others railed against the U.S. response to the attacks and claimed the government itself was involved.
In Pakistan, where U.S. forces killed bin Laden in May, demonstrators chanted and held up banners that repeated conspiracy theories alleging American or Israeli involvement in the Sept. 11 attacks. The largest of the protests, organized by an Islamist political party, drew about 100 people.
Outside the U.S. Embassy in London and close to a memorial ceremony, a few dozen protesters shouted "USA terrorists." Some brandished posters condemning the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and declaring "Islam Will Dominate the World." One group set fire to a depiction of a U.S. flag during a minute's silence held to mark the moment when the first hijacked airliner slammed into the World Trade Center.
Two protesters were later arrested near the memorial. Members of a far-right group that staged a counterdemonstration briefly scuffled with police.
In remarks that appeared on Iranian state TV's website, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claimed the attacks were a "complicated, designed game" to affect people's emotions and pave the way for the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. He has called investigators' version of events a "big lie."
The Taliban marked the anniversary by vowing to keep fighting against U.S. forces in Afghanistan and insisting that they had no role in the Sept. 11 attacks.
"American colonialism shed the blood of tens of thousands of miserable and innocent Afghans," a statement emailed to news organizations said.
Hours later, a Taliban suicide bomber blew up a large truck at the gate of a Combat Outpost Sayed Abad in Afghanistan's eastern Wardak province, killing five Afghans and wounding 77 U.S. troops.
The U.S. and its allies invaded Afghanistan on Oct. 7, 2001, after the Taliban refused to hand over 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 U.S. and other countries.
The first Sept. 11 anniversary since bin Laden's death was an important one to Yambem Laba, whose younger brother was among the victims. He joined about 100 relatives and friends in the northeastern Indian state of Manipur to pray for Jupiter Yambem, who was a manager at the Windows on the World restaurant in the World Trade Center.
"Now that Osama bin Laden is dead, my brother's soul will finally rest in peace," Laba said.
The attacks still felt "a bit like yesterday" to Rae Tompsett, whose son Stephen was killed on the 106th floor of the World Trade Center's north tower. The 81-year-old retired teacher and her 92-year-old husband, Jack, were among more than 1,000 people who packed Sydney's St. Mary's Cathedral for a special multifaith service.
She said she never felt anger against her son's killers over those 10 years — only sorrow: "Sorrow that the people who did this believed they were doing something good."