NEW YORK | Determined never to forget but perhaps ready to move on, the nation on Sunday gently etched the memory of 9/11 on a new generation. A stark memorial took its place where twin towers once stood, and the names of the lost resounded from children too young to remember terror from a decade ago.
In New York, Washington and Pennsylvania, across the United States and the world, people carried out rituals now as familiar as they are heartbreaking: American flags were unfurled at the new World Trade Center tower and the Eiffel Tower, and tears were shed at the base of the Pentagon and a base in Iraq.
President Barack Obama quoted the Bible and spoke of finding strength in fear. Former President George W. Bush invoked the sacrifice of the Civil War. Vice President Joe Biden said hope must grow from tragedy.
And Jessica Rhodes talked about her niece Kathryn L. LaBorie, the lead flight attendant on the plane that hit the south tower. She remembered a radiant smile and infinite compassion, and suggested that now, 10 years on, it is time to turn a corner.
“Although she may not ever be found, she will never ever be lost to her family and her friends,” Rhodes said after she read a segment of the list of the dead at ground zero. “Today we honor her by letting go of the sadness over losing her and embracing the joy of having known her.”
It was the 10th time the nation has paused to remember a defining day. In doing so, it also considered a decade that produced two wars, deep changes in national security and shifts in everyday life.
“These past 10 years tell a story of resilience,” Obama said at a memorial concert at the Kennedy Center after he visited all three attack sites.
“It will be said of us that we kept that faith; that we took a painful blow, and emerged stronger,” he said.
The anniversary took place under heightened security. In New York and Washington especially, authorities were on alert. Ahead of the anniversary, the federal government warned those cities of a tip about a possible car-bomb plot. Police searched trucks in New York, and streets near the trade center were blocked.
The names of the fallen — 2,983 of them, including all the victims from the three Sept. 11 attack sites and six people who died when terrorists set off a truck bomb under the towers in 1993 — echoed across a place utterly transformed.
In the exact footprints of the two towers was a stately memorial, two great, weeping waterfalls, unveiled for the first time and, at least on the first day, open only to the relatives of the victims. Around the square perimeter of each were bronze parapets, etched with names.
At memorial services, people talked of grief and loss and war and justice. But they also talked of moving forward.
“Every year it becomes more significant,” Barbara Gorman said at a service for the Port Authority dead, who included 37 police officers, one of them her husband, Thomas. “My kids are 25, 21, 18. They understand now. It’s not so much a tragedy anymore as history, the history of our country.”
Obama, standing behind bulletproof glass and in front of the white oak trees of the memorial, read a Bible passage after a moment of silence at 8:46 a.m., when the first jetliner slammed into the north tower 10 years ago.
The president, quoting Psalm 46, invoked the presence of God as an inspiration to endure: “Therefore, we will not fear, even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea.”
In a ceremony at the Pentagon, Biden paid tribute to “the 9/11 generation of warriors.”
“Never before in our history has America asked so much over such a sustained period of an all-volunteer force,” he said. “So I can say without fear of contradiction or being accused of exaggeration, 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 and his wife traveled to the town after their visit to New York and placed a wreath at the memorial.
During the president’s visit, members of the crowd chanted, “USA! USA!” One man called out: “Thanks for getting bin Laden!” It was the first 9/11 anniversary observance since al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden was killed by U.S. forces in Pakistan in May.
In a brief scare, 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. The official said earlier reports that the men had locked themselves in the bathroom were incorrect.
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.
Elsewhere in the nation, it was a day not to bring life to a stop, as it was 10 years ago, but to pause and reflect.