NEW YORK – Oak trees and sparkling waterfalls have replaced the shards and smoke and bodies. Ten years after the attacks that changed American life, the World Trade Center site is a memorial, and the need to mourn is being eclipsed by the need to honor the memories of the nearly 3,000 people killed.
Children of those lost, some still in the womb when the towers fell, read the names of their mothers and fathers Sunday and talked about trying every day to make them proud. President Barack Obama, after visiting the sites where terrorists hit New York, Washington and Pennsylvania, spoke of the nation's resilience: "It will be said of us that we kept that faith; that we took a painful blow, and emerged stronger."
"Every year it becomes more significant," said Barbara Gorman of Middlesex, N.J., whose husband, police officer Thomas Gorman, was killed at the trade center. "My kids are 25, 21, 18. They understand now. It's not so much a tragedy anymore as history, the history of our country."
For the first time, relatives of those killed walked around the waterfalls that spilled into the footprints of the twin towers, and touched the names etched into bronze parapets along the perimeter. They made paper rubbings of the names with pencils or crayons, or stuck flowers or small flags into the recessed lettering. Some simply stood and cried.
Mary Dwyer, whose sister Lucy Fishman was killed, said it was moving to finally be able to stand there: "It's the closest I'll ever get to her again."
The memorial opens to the public Monday, though much of the complex will not open until next year.
On Sunday morning, moments of silence were observed to match the times of day 10 years earlier when the towers and the Pentagon were hit by hijacked jets, when the towers fell and when a fourth flight crashed in Shanksville, Pa., after the 40 passengers and crew decided to fight hijackers for control.
The names of the fallen were read — 2,983 of them, including six people who died when terrorists set off a bomb under the twin towers in 1993.
"You will always be my hero," Patricia Smith said to her mother, Moira, a police officer who died when Patricia was just 2.
Nicholas Gorki remembered his father, "who I never met because I was in my mother's belly. I love you, Father. You gave me the gift of life, and I wish you could be here to enjoy it with me."
Madeline Hoffman smiled as she said to her father: "Everyone always tells me I look and act just like you." And Caitlin Roy, whose father was a firefighter, said: "I want to thank you for the nine years you spent as my dad. They were short but not without their benefits. We're taken care of now. We're happy."
Obama quoted Psalm 46: "We will not fear, even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea."
He and former President George W. Bush, joined by their wives, walked up to one of the pools and put their hands to some of the names.
The president said little in New York, Shanksville or the Pentagon, but at an evening ceremony he said the past decade has shown "that America does not give in to fear."
"This land pulses with the optimism of those who set out for distant shores, and the courage of those who died for human freedom," Obama said.
At the Pentagon, where 184 people died on Sept. 11, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta paid tribute to 6,200 members of the armed forces who have died in the Iraq and Afghan wars.
Vice President Joe Biden said, "Never before in our history has America asked so much over such a sustained period of an all-volunteer force. ... The 9/11 generation ranks among the greatest our nation has ever produced."
In Shanksville, Pa., a choir sang at the Flight 93 National Memorial, and a crowd of 5,000 listened to a reading of the names of 40 passengers and crew killed aboard the fourth jetliner hijacked that day a decade ago.
Obama placed a wreath at the memorial. Members of the crowd chanted, "USA! USA!" and one man called out: "Thanks for getting bin Laden!"
The decade since Sept. 11, 2001, produced two wars, deep changes in national security, shifts in everyday life — and the killing in May of Osama bin Laden, the elusive terrorist who masterminded the attack, at the hands of the U.S. military.
Fear, however has been a legacy of the attacks. The president spoke behind bulletproof glass at the trade center. The surrounding streets were blocked off for security, and police had been tipped about a possible car-bomb plot timed to the anniversary.
Two brief scares Sunday amounted to little.
Two military aircraft escorted a New York-bound American Airlines flight from Los Angeles. Three passengers made repeated trips to the bathroom and some people thought they were using hand signals to communicate, but the men were cleared and sent on their way, said a law enforcement official who was not authorized to speak publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Fighter jets also shadowed a Denver-to-Detroit Frontier Airlines flight after the crew reported that two people were spending an unusual amount of time in the bathroom. The FBI said a search of the plane turned up nothing and three passengers were questioned and released.
"Due to the anniversary of Sept. 11, all precautions were taken, and any slight inconsistency was taken seriously," said Sandra Berchtold, an FBI spokeswoman in Detroit.
Across the country and the world, 9/11 was remembered in ways big and small. In Las Vegas, firefighters and police officers ascended the 108-story Stratosphere. There were motorcycle rides in Alaska and California, a dog walk in Texas, a Beach Boys concert in Colorado.
Some Americans observed the day as a time to serve. Thousands cleaned parks, renovated community centers and gave blood. Some said they were trying to reclaim the good will that surfaced after the attacks.
"As unfortunate as it was, it seemed like it put us all back into the frame of mind that life wasn't just about me," said Yvette Windham, who joined 200 people to build seven new homes in a Nashville, Tenn., neighborhood.
Around the world, American flags were unfurled at the Eiffel Tower and the Colosseum in Rome was lighted in solidarity. Taps sounded in Belgium and in Afghanistan.
Pope Benedict XVI encouraged people to resist "temptation toward hatred."
Back in New York, a few miles from the trade center ceremony, 3-year-old Eve Dell'Aquila rode an amusement park ride in Central Park.
Her mother, Kelly Dell'Aquila, said they'd visit the memorial another time. Today, she said, "just seems like a good day to remember we're alive."
Associated Press writers Verena Dobnik, Jim Fitzgerald, Chris Hawley, Tom Hays and Erin McClam in New York; Tamara Lush in Nashville, Tenn.; Ben Feller in Washington; Joe Mandak in Shanksville, Pa.; and Jamey Keaten in Paris contributed to this report.