NEW YORK — As bells tolled solemnly, Americans marked the 12th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on Wednesday with the reading of the names, moments of silence and serene music that have become tradition.
At a morning ceremony on the 2-year-old memorial plaza at the site of the World Trade Center, relatives recited the names of the nearly 3,000 people who died when hijacked jets crashed into the twin towers and the Pentagon and near Shanksville, Pa., as well as the 1993 trade center bombing victims' names.
In Washington, President Barak Obama, joined by first lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and wife Jill Biden, and members of the White House staff, walked out to the South Lawn at 8:46 a.m. — the moment the first plane struck the south tower in New York. Another jetliner struck the Pentagon at 9:37 a.m.
"It is an honor to be with you here again to remember the tragedy of 12 Septembers ago, to honor the greatness of all who responded and to stand with those who still grieve and to provide them some measure of comfort once more," Obama said. "Together we pause and we give humble thanks as families and as a nation."
A moment of silence was also held at the U.S. Capitol.
At the site in lower Manhattan, friends and families silently held up photos of the deceased. Others wept.
"Twelve years is like 15 minutes," said Clyde Frazier, whose son Clyde died in the attack and whose remains were never found. "Time stands still because you love your child, you love your son. ... Nothing changes except he's not here. It takes a toll on your body. You still look like you, but inside, you're a real wreck."
Bells tolled to mark the second plane hitting the second tower and the moments when the towers fell. Near the memorial plaza, police barricades were blocking access to the site, even as life around the World Trade Center looked like any other morning, with workers rushing to their jobs and construction cranes looming over the area.
"As time passes and our family grows, our children remind us of you," Angilic Casalduc said of her mother, Vivian Casalduc. "We miss you."
The anniversary arrived amid changes at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, where construction started Tuesday on a new visitor center. On Wednesday, the families of the passengers and crew aboard United Flight 93 recalled their loved ones as heroes for their unselfish and quick actions. The plane was hijacked with the likely goal of crashing it into the White House or Capitol, but passengers tried to overwhelm the attackers and the plane crashed into a field. All aboard died.
"In a period of 22 minutes, our loved ones made history," said Gordon Felt, president of the Families of Flight 93, whose brother, Edward, was a passenger.