NY Times - September 13, 2016by SAMANTHA SCHMIDT
With the ringing of a bell, the thousands who gathered in Lower Manhattan fell silent on Sunday, and all that could be heard was the water cascading in the reflecting pools where the World Trade Center towers once stood.
It was 8:46 a.m., the moment when, 15 years earlier, a plane struck the north tower.
Family members of the victims bowed their heads, some crying and embracing, while others stood tall, looking up at the overcast skies. About 8,000 people crowded the National September 11 Memorial plaza at the World Trade Center for what has become an annual ritual: the reading of the names of the 2,977 people killed in the terrorist attack of Sept. 11, 2001, and of the six killed in the bombing of the World Trade Center on Feb. 26, 1993.
With the 15th anniversary falling on a Sunday, people turned out for the ceremony in much larger numbers than in previous years. But for the family members of the victims, it was another year of grief, and the pain was as raw as ever.
“It feels like it’s been 15 seconds,” said Tom Acquaviva, whose son, Paul, died while working in the north tower. He was 29 years old, “too young,” Mr. Acquaviva said.
Classical string music played as mothers, fathers, siblings, children and other relatives read the names, one by one. Some paused to say a few words to their loved ones; others offered updates on graduations, weddings and other milestones during the past 15 years.
The bell tolled five more times: at 9:03, when a plane struck the south tower; at 9:37, when a plane hit the Pentagon; at 9:59, when the south tower collapsed; at 10:03, when a hijacked plane crashed in Shanksville, Pa., after passengers staged a revolt; and at 10:28, when the other tower fell. Both presidential candidates, Donald J. Trump and Hillary Clinton, attended the ceremony, though neither made public remarks and both agreed not to campaign for the day. A spurt of cheers welcomed Mr. Trump just before the ceremony started.
An hour and a half into the ceremony, Mrs. Clinton felt overheated and left to rest in her daughter’s Manhattan apartment, according to a statement released by her campaign. Around 11:40 a.m., she emerged from the apartment building on her own, waved to onlookers and said she was “feeling great.”
At the Pentagon, President Obama delivered his last address commemorating the 184 victims there, and while his words were similar to remarks he has given before, they were a clear rebuke to the divisive rhetoric coursing through the presidential campaign.
Mr. Obama said that after the attacks, it was important for the country to defend not only its territory, “but also our ideals.”
He said that groups like Al Qaeda and the Islamic State know that they cannot defeat a nation such as the United States, so their attacks are intended to cause fear that leads Americans to turn on one another and “change who we are or how we live.”
“And that’s why it is so important today that we reaffirm our character as a nation — a people drawn from every corner of the world, every color, every religion, every background — bound by a creed as old as our founding, e pluribus unum,” Mr. Obama said.
Mr. Obama has previously expressed his opposition to proposals by Mr. Trump to ban Muslim immigration. Mr. Obama said that those kinds of proposals undermined the foundations of American democracy, which was why on Sunday he translated the Latin phrase that remains on the seal of the United States.
“Out of many, we are one,” he said. “For we know that our diversity — our patchwork heritage — is not a weakness; it is still, and always will be, one of our greatest strengths. This is the America that was attacked that September morning. This is the America that we must remain true to.” In Shanksville, about 1,000 people attended the annual service at the Flight 93 National Memorial, honoring the 40 passengers and crew members who died there, The Associated Press reported. The site, about 60 miles southeast of Pittsburgh, is where the United Airlines flight crashed as passengers stormed the cockpit.
Addressing the victims’ families, Sally Jewell, the secretary of the interior, said, according to The A.P.: “You have known the terrible pain of loss. None of us would want to trade places with you, but we honor your sacrifice.”
About halfway through the ceremony in Manhattan, the sun began to peer through the clouds, beaming on the new 1 World Trade Center. During a moment of silence at 10 a.m., a woman cried as she faced the building, and a firefighter passed her a packet of tissues.
The woman, Kristen Alverson, 55, said she was thinking about her close friends Edward James Day, 45, and Richard John Kelly Jr., 50, both firefighters with Ladder Company 11 who served alongside her husband, who survived.
“At that moment,” she said, “so many people perished.”
Danielle Kousoulis, 29, a bond broker, was in her office at the investment firm Cantor Fitzgerald in the north tower on Sept. 11. Just before Ms. Kousoulis died, her sister said, she knew that the south tower had fallen and feared that her building would be next. She called her boyfriend twice, but refrained from calling others to let her co-workers use her phone.
“Sometimes it feels like it was just yesterday; sometimes it feels like it was forever ago,” said her sister, Eleni Kousoulis, 46, of Philadelphia.
Her mother, Zoe Kousoulis, 76, wore a heart-shaped necklace with her daughter’s picture on it. She said the only good that came from the attacks was that Eleni met her husband, who is in the Navy, through a 10th-anniversary event.
“I always say Danielle sent him to her,” Zoe Kousoulis said. The passage of time was evident by the children who spoke at the ceremony. Many had never known their relatives.
Valerie Arnold, 12, did not meet her uncle, Michael Boyle, 37, a firefighter with Engine Company 33. She said she found it hard to wrap her mind around the attacks, not having lived through them herself. But she said she has begun to understand, thanks to stories told by her grandfather, a retired firefighter who came to Lower Manhattan to help that day.
“It’s crazy how people would do such a terrible thing,” she said.
After all the names were read and the crowds started to disperse, Yvonne Davis Rogers, 52, stayed behind to spend a quiet moment at a reflecting pool, where her brother’s name is engraved.
She traced his name, Clinton Davis, onto a long white piece of paper. Mr. Davis, 38, was an officer with the Port Authority Police Department. “Just being here, it makes it better,” Ms. Davis Rogers, who lives in Pennsylvania, said. “This encourages me to keep going.”
Gardiner Harris contributed reporting.