Today, the nation will commemorate the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, but this year’s ceremonies will be different – at least at the main commemoration site in Manhattan. There, politicians will be voiceless.
About 3,000 people died in the coordinated hijackings by Islamic terrorists, and the nation has traditionally marked the anniversary with speeches and commemorations at all three sites and elsewhere. In that, this year’s ceremonies will be true to form.
At 5:46 a.m. PDT, bells will toll in a moment of silence to observe the time at which American Airlines Flight 11 struck the north tower of the World Trade Center, and the names of the fallen will then be solemnly intoned. There will also be moments of silence to mark the exact times at which United Airlines Flight 175 struck the south tower, American Airlines Flight 77 struck the Pentagon and United Airlines Flight 93 crashed near Shanksville, Pa.
But this year will be unusual too. What will be missing are the voices of politicians speaking and often reciting patriotic speeches such as the Gettysburg Address, poetry and religious psalms.
In July, the National September 11 Memorial and Museum – led by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg as chairman of the foundation board – announced that in this presidential election year, politicians may still attend but the only recitation would be the victims’ names. “You always want to change, and I think it’ll be very moving,” Bloomberg said in a radio interview in July.
The decision came amid the continuing dispute among Bloomberg, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie over how to pay for the site’s proposed museum and its operating expenses. Cuomo and Christie control the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the World Trade Center site. Bloomberg’s foundation controls the museum and oversees commemorations.
Most of the eight-acre memorial quadrangle officially opened last year as part of the commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the attacks. Since then, about 4.5 million people have visited the memorial and the twin reflecting pools marking the sites of the original towers.
Even amid the disputes, construction has continued on the new World Trade Center’s 16-acre site in Lower Manhattan, and two of the new skyscrapers planned there are nearing completion.
The first office building to open will be the 72-story Four World Trade Center at the southeast corner of the site. It has reached its full height of 977 feet and is scheduled to open in October 2013.
One World Trade Center, formerly known as the Freedom Tower, will open in 2014 on the northwest corner of the site. That building, at 104 stories, will reach 1,776 feet with its spire.
Nearby is Three World Trade Center, an eight-story building scheduled to grow to 80 stories when finished in 2015 or 2016.
Two World Trade Center is planned to reach 88 stories, but will not be built until the commercial real estate market picks up enough to fill it.
Meanwhile, President Barack Obama has issued his official proclamation in connection with the commemoration, also known as Patriot Day and the National Day of Service. Flags will displayed at half-staff and the president urged volunteer community service in honor of those who died.