NEW YORK – Weeping relatives marked the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack Sunday with prayers, solemn remembrances and heartfelt messages to their dead brothers and sisters at the site where the World Trade Center collapsed in a nightmarish cloud of dust and debris four years ago.
In a ceremony lasting longer than four hours, more than 600 relatives read the names of the 2,749 victims who died at the trade center. Several blew kisses to the sky after reading a loved one’s name, while others left the microphone sobbing. Several held up photos of their loved ones.
“We miss you, Charlie, and we love you. Your boys will always remember,” Peggy Garbarini told her brother, fire Lt. Charles William Garbarini, who was 44 when he died at the trade center.
The ceremony came as Hurricane Katrina left Americans once again struggling with a catastrophe that caught the nation unprepared and left citizens dead and grieving. Mayor Michael Bloomberg opened the ceremony with words of condolence for those devastated by the hurricane.
At ground zero, the names of the dead echoed across the site one by one.
“You’re taking care of us from heaven but someday we’ll be together,” Iliani Flores said, choking up and raising her face to the sky in memory of her younger brother, a fire department paramedic.
“My big sister, my better half, life will never be the same without you,” Rolando Moreno said to Yvette Moreno, who worked for a brokerage in the north tower.
As the names were read, weeping mourners filed down a ramp to a reflecting memorial pool at the floor of the site, which remains virtually empty four years after the attack. Families filled the water with red, orange and yellow roses, some shaking as they inscribed dedications on the wooden edge of the pool.
The ceremony paused for moments of silence at 8:46 a.m., the time at which a hijacked jetliner crashed into the north tower; at 9:03 a.m., the moment a second plane struck the south tower; at 9:59 a.m., when the south tower fell; and at 10:29 a.m., when the second tower collapsed.
“Mom and Dad ache for you every minute,” Linda Giammona-Julian said to her brother, Vincent Giammona, one of 343 firefighters killed. “We love you and we miss you; til we meet again.”
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice read a poem by Christina Rossetti after the second moment of silence. Gov. George E. Pataki, former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and New Jersey Acting Gov. Richard Codey also addressed the crowd.
“We all stand together to help each other and to help those who need our help in the future,” Giuliani said. “We remember forever all the brothers and sisters that we lost on that day.”
In Washington, President Bush marked the anniversary with his wife on the South Lawn, and thousands of people marched in remembrance of the attacks and in tribute to troops fighting overseas.
And in southwestern Pennsylvania, about 1,000 people attended a memorial service in the field where Flight 93 crashed after it was hijacked by terrorists.
“The first heroes of 9/11 were here,” said Brian Rohrbaugh, who brought his wife and young children to remember the 40 passengers and crew who died as they struggled with hijackers for control of the plane.