Their voices breaking, parents and grandparents of those lost on Sept. 11 stood at the World Trade (search) Center site Saturday and marked the third anniversary of the attacks by reciting the names of the 2,749 people who died there.
The list took more than three hours, punctuated by tearful dedications when the readers reached the names of their own lost loved ones.
"We miss you very much, we love you very much, and we'll never forget you because you're in our hearts forever," said Stewart D. Wotton, looking skyward and remembering his son, Rodney James Wotton.
Four moments of silence were observed at 8:46, 9:03, 9:59 and 10:29 a.m. — the precise times that the two planes slammed into the buildings and when they collapsed on Sept. 11, 2001 (search).
Bells tolled at the moment hijacked Flight 93 crashed near Shanksville, Pa. A moment of silence was observed at the Pentagon for the 184 victims there. And President Bush stood in silence on the White House lawn to mark the third anniversary of the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil.
For those at ground zero (search), the pain remained fresh. Pat Hawley, 44, said he comes to the ceremony every year to remember his older sister, Karen Sue Juday.
"It seems like it gets harder every year, because it's that much more time since I've been able to talk to my sister and be with her," said Hawley, of Charlotte, N.C.
Hundreds of family members descended a long ramp into ground zero, sobbing, embracing each other and tossing a layer of roses onto two square reflecting pools meant to evoke the fallen twin towers.
Some wore images of their lost loved ones on T-shirts, others held large pictures aloft.
"It's just a place to reconnect," said Anne Allen, 58, of Fort Lee, N.J., whose brother, Salvatore Pepe, was killed at the trade center. "This is where he was last."
Reading from two lecterns, the parents and grandparents provided a bookend to last year's anniversary ceremony, when children of attack victims read the list of names.
The relatives read the list slowly and precisely above violin strains; some hugged when they finished their portion of the list.
"Our loving son, Paul Robert Eckna, our tower of strength — we love and miss you," said Carol Eckna.
"We miss your big smile, Kev," said Mike Williams, recalling his son, Kevin Michael Williams.
Former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, Gov. George Pataki and others gave readings with a clear theme — the inexpressible grief of losing a child. Pataki quoted President Dwight Eisenhower: "There's no tragedy in life like the death of a child. Things never get back to the way they were."
When it ended, a chorus of children sang and two trumpeters — one each from the police and fire departments — played Taps.
At Arlington National Cemetery, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld joined relatives of those killed in the Pentagon near a large granite marker that bears the names of each victim. Family members laid flags at the marker and ran their fingers across the names inscribed.
In a field in western Pennsylvania where Flight 93 went down, volunteers rang two large bells as the names of each of the plane's 40 passengers and crew were read.
"We know that no words, no memorials, nothing can take the place of all that you have lost," Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said to the victims' families at the ceremony.
Across the nation, communities commemorated the attacks in different ways, with church services, dedications and moments of silence.
In Boston, a small plane pulled an American flag behind it as about 150 relatives of victims had a moment of silence. Soldiers also paused at Fort Bragg, N.C., while nearly 70,000 fans at an Iowa-Iowa State football game rose to cheer three New York City firefighters and a faded American flag that was unearthed in the rubble of the World Trade Center.
Both President Bush and Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry spoke on the anniversary of the attacks to pledge to root out terrorists who would attack the United States.
In lower Manhattan, the outpouring of grief came at a site that has changed dramatically over each of the three years since the sunny Tuesday when its gleaming towers were reduced to smoking rubble.
A commuter train station has opened on the site's northeast corner, eventually to be transformed into a $2 billion transit hub. And a 20-ton granite cornerstone was laid on July 4 for the 1,776-foot-tall Freedom Tower, the skyscraper set to open in 2009 that will be the centerpiece of the redeveloped trade center site.
Meanwhile, work still continues to identify the 20,000 pieces of human remains that were recovered after the attack. The medical examiner's office has identified about 1,570 victims, or just 60 percent.
A few blocks from the trade center site, friends and families of the 73 people who died at Windows on the World, the restaurant at the top of the trade center, tossed roses into the Hudson River for each of the victims.
"We used to be a family," said Fekkak Mamdouh, who was a waiter there.
At a memorial for the 84 Port Authority of New York and New Jersey employees who died, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the attacks had shaped the character of New Yorkers.
"Today as we stop to remember, our worlds stop again," the mayor said. "That tragedy that we saw before our eyes is now woven into the fabric of who we are."
Other events included a Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral for fallen firefighters and the dedication of a memorial to Staten Island victims at the ferry terminal across the harbor from the trade center site.
The ceremony for the memorial — two 40-foot soaring sculptures of white post cards with the victims' names — was attended by Giuliani, who called Staten Island the bedrock of the city.
"The losses you endured on 9/11 both as a borough and individually are unimaginable," he said.
At sundown, two powerful light beams inspired by twin towers were to be projected upward, to remain on through the night. The memorial lights were first seen six months after the attack, with a plan to light them each year for the anniversary.