NEW YORK — Life in lower Manhattan resembled any ordinary day on Wednesday as workers rushed to their jobs in the muggy heat, but time stood still at the World Trade Center site while families wept for loved ones who perished in the terror attacks 12 years ago.
For the families, the memories of that day are still vivid, the pain still acute. Some who read the names of a beloved big brother or a cherished daughter could hardly speak through their tears.
“Has it really been 12 years? Or 12 days? Sometimes it feels the same,” said Michael Fox, speaking aloud to his brother, Jeffrey, who perished in the south tower. “Sometimes I reach for the phone so I can call you, and we can talk about our kids like we used to do every day.”
On the memorial plaza overlooking two reflecting pools in the imprint of the twin towers, relatives recited the names of the nearly 3,000 people who died when hijacked jets crashed into the towers, the Pentagon and in a field near Shanksville, Pa. They also recognized the victims of the 1993 trade center bombing.
Bells tolled to mark the planes hitting the towers and the moments when the skyscrapers fell. “Tribute in Light” searchlights, turned on at sunset, illuminated the skies where the twin towers once stood.
In Washington, President Barack Obama, first lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and wife Jill Biden walked out to the White House’s South Lawn for a moment of silence at 8:46 a.m. — the time the first plane struck the north tower in New York. Another jetliner struck the Pentagon at 9:37 a.m.
“Our hearts still ache for the futures snatched away, the lives that might have been,” Obama said.
A moment of silence was also held at the U.S. Capitol.
In New York, loved ones milled around the memorial site, making rubbings of names, putting flowers by the names of victims and weeping, arm-in-arm. Former Gov. George Pataki, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and others were in attendance. As with last year, no politicians spoke. Mayor Michael Bloomberg watched the ceremony for his final time in office.