MIDDLETOWN, N.J. – While others pray, play or protest on the third anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Kristen Breitweiser (search) will be walking the beach with her daughter and her dog.
One of the most outspoken 9/11 widows and one of the four so-called "Jersey Girls" whose dogged activism is credited with helping form the commission that investigated the attacks, Breitweiser plans to spend a low-key Saturday, with the phone turned off.
Breitweiser's 5-year-old daughter, Caroline, is still grappling with what happened that terrible Tuesday morning when her daddy went to work in the World Trade Center (search) and didn't come home.
"She thinks her dad is up on the moon," Breitweiser said. "I tell her when we're outdoors here, he's all around us. That's why it's important to spend that day outside in nature."
So Breitweiser, Caroline, and Sam, their not-yet-totally obedient golden retriever, will probably splash along the shoreline for awhile, and maybe go for a walk in the woods later in the day -- the things her husband, Ronald, would have wanted to do on a nice late-summer Saturday.
Patty Casazza (search), a fellow Jersey Girl, also plans a low-key observance, talking with family and friends on the phone, remembering her husband John's life.
"I still feel the loss; I still feel the anger," she said. "I know my husband is never coming back. He didn't deserve to die. He deserved to live out his life. My son deserved to have his father. It angers me."
Casazza, of Colts Neck, decided against attending any public ceremonies, least of all those planned for Ground Zero where the twin towers once stood.
"The atmosphere in New York is not appropriate for me at this point in time. It's been too politicized, too commercialized," she said. "When things calm down, it might be a more appropriate place to go on the anniversary. I don't feel any comfort from it right now," she said.
But Ground Zero is where one West Deptford woman who lost her son will be. Nancy Brandemarti, whose son Nicky was killed in the towers, is one of three parents chosen to speak at a memorial service there. She will read an untitled poem that she found in a book of memorial tributes and then left near Ground Zero last fall.
She and other family members will then reunite for a private tribute to her son, who perished just a week after being hired as a stock analyst with Keefe, Bruyette & Woods.
Politics is an inseparable component of this year's anniversary, with the presidential election less than two months away and combat raging in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In Princeton, the social action group Progressive Patriots (search) will hold a dramatic reading re-creating the 9/11 attacks, followed by a protest rally and voter registration drive.
"We are protesting the mishandling of the response to 9/11 by deceiving America into thinking that Iraq was responsible for 9/11, and squandering the worldwide goodwill we had after the attacks," said Bradford Lyon of Hopewell, the group's organizer.
In Paterson, where as many as a half-dozen of the Sept. 11 hijackers lived or spent time shortly before the attacks, a coalition of Muslim groups is planning a voter registration drive. Imams from local mosques will take part in an interfaith observance honoring the victims of the attacks.
Several communities across the state, including Allendale, Closter, Demarest, Englewood, Glen Rock, Paramus, Rutherford, Irvington and North Caldwell, will dedicate or break ground for monuments honoring local residents killed in the attacks.
In Highlands, a group of artists working on the Memoria Project will hold a candlelight vigil at the site of two 13-foot-tall granite sculptures at Veterans Memorial Park.
"We wanted to have a quiet, simple gathering there," said Evan Urbania, executive director of the project, which is still under construction.
A more organized gathering will take place at the Eagle Rock Reservation in West Orange, where a monument was erected on a hilltop that once had a commanding view of the twin towers in the distance.
In Belmar, more than 150 runners will mark the anniversary with a silent run along the coast, carrying flags and flowers to two public memorials, where they will stop to read the names of local residents killed in the attacks.
"It's a small gesture that a running club wants to do for those people," said Bill Koch, president of the Jersey Shore Running Club (search).
Prayer services are scheduled at houses of worship throughout the state, and public remembrances are planned at dozens of parks and municipal buildings.
Gov. James E. McGreevey is scheduled to take part in an interfaith remembrance ceremony at St. Peter's Church in lower Manhattan along with New York's Gov. George Pataki and Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Valerie Webb of Jersey City will light two candles at the service in honor of those killed, including her father, Port Authority Police Officer Nathaniel Webb.
But in many other places, Sept. 11 will be just another Saturday. Ramsey and Lavallette are having their annual fairs, and Ocean Grove is hosting its annual flea market. The Hackensack Riverkeeper group is holding a river cleanup day in Secaucus in the morning and a nature cruise in the afternoon.