WASHINGTON – All those who cared fell silent.
Gum-chewing U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan. Schoolchildren toting lunch boxes in New York. Yellow-jacketed mercantile traders in Chicago, taking a break from their buzz. Casino dealers in Reno, Nev. British Prime Minister Tony Blair in London.
Untold millions everywhere.
Moments of maximum terrible noise one year ago became heavily quiet Wednesday.
New York, of course, led the first moment of silence, at 8:46 a.m., EDT, the time of impact of the first plane that crashed into the World Trade Center.
New Yorkers at Ground Zero, Times Square, all the neighborhoods, milled and reflected, their frozen look of horror a year ago now just an expression of sadness. People in Greenwich Village stood still, almost as if they were standing at attention, military-style.
It ended with Mayor Michael Bloomberg introducing New York Gov. George Pataki, who began reading the Gettysburg Address. Rudolph Giuliani, the former mayor, began a reading of the names of those who died in the collapse of the towers.
New Yorkers were not alone.
In Washington and across the Potomac River at the Pentagon, where thousands gathered to remember those killed when the third hijacked jetliner crashed into the building, everyone paused in reflection over New York's pain and loss.
At Washington's National Cathedral, Solicitor General Ted Olson, whose wife Barbara died on the plane that crashed into the Pentagon, sat with Attorney General John Ashcroft under the soaring arches.
Bishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa was speaking in the cathedral when 8:46 a.m. arrived and a bell tolled, interrupting him and bringing on the silence.
"It's good to be here among friends," said Christine Patterson at the Pentagon, wiping a tear at that moment. Her sister Ada M. Davis died in the Pentagon attack.
Several relatives of Davis came, wearing white T-shirts that read: "She still whispers."
The came the Pentagon's own moment of silence, at 9:37 a.m.
President Bush, eyes closed, then blinking, then open, sat there with his wife Laura. He also sat with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, who peered out over the crowd during the moment, smiled, and reflexively brushed his hair back with his hand, one of his habits.
The sky, again, was clear and blue, although more of a washed-out blue than a year ago. As the morning wore on, the color deepened.
The Pentagon moment ended with the unfurling of the huge flag that was draped from the roof of the broken, smoldering Pentagon after last Sept. 11 -- one of the first symbols of defiance in that time of sorely tested spirits.
The Pentagon is mostly fixed now. The flag was still dirty and it did not cooperate fully.
It twisted in the stiff breeze, flopped back on the roof, then came back down properly before the end of the national anthem.
Nor were the military families and the government brass alone.
In Shanksville, Pa., on the field where the fourth hijacked plane crashed -- the flight where the terrorists failed, their victims plotted a desperate struggle against them and all 40 passengers and crew died along with four hijackers -- another crowd remembered what happened there and New York and Washington.
After the Pentagon's moment of silence, the people in Shanksville listened to an orchestra play "Simple Gifts," a gentle Shakers' melody that became part of Aaron Copland's "Appalachian Spring."
Then it was their turn, at 10:06 a.m.
A bell tolled 40 times, once for each victim of Flight 93. Three military plane roared overhead.
The Pennsylvania moment was dedicated to "world peace."