US marks 9/11 with sombre tributes

Americans have looked back on the September 11 terror attacks with tears and sombre tributes on the 17th anniversary.

Victims’ relatives said prayers for their country, pleaded for national unity and pressed officials not to use the 2001 terror attacks as a political tool.

Margie Miller, whose husband Joel died that day, came from her suburban home to join thousands of relatives, survivors, rescuers and others on a misty morning at the memorial plaza where the World Trade Center’s twin towers once stood.

“To me, he is here. This is my holy place,” she said before the hours-long reading of the names of the nearly 3,000 killed when hijacked jets slammed into the towers, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania on September 11, 2001.

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump joined an observance at the memorial near the Pennsylvania field, where one of the jetliners crashed after 40 passengers and crew members realised what was happening and several passengers tried to storm the cockpit.

Calling it “the moment when America fought back,” Trump said the fallen “took control of their destiny and changed the course of history.”

They “joined the immortal ranks of American heroes,” said Trump.

At the Pentagon, Vice President Mike Pence recalled the heroism of service members and civilians who repeatedly went back into the Pentagon to rescue survivors.

The terrorists “hoped to break our spirit, and they failed,” he said.

At the United Nations, Security Council members stood for a moment of silence, led by US Ambassador Nikki Haley.

Hours after the ceremony, two powerful light beams soared soar into the night sky from lower Manhattan in the annual “Tribute in Light.”

Each year at ground zero, victims’ relatives infuse the ceremony with personal messages of remembrance, inspiration and concern.

“My hope is that discrimination, hatred and bigotry will cease and that we all will come together and love,” said Debra Epps, a sister of victim Christopher Epps.

Other relatives laid bare the toll their losses had taken on their families. Thomas Langer said his brother, Timmy, “drank himself to death” after losing his wife, Vanessa, and their unborn child on September 11.

“I witnessed my brother endure the pain that no one human being was ever meant to bear,” Thomas Langer said.

© AP 2018

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