A Nation Remembers

First responders who were on the scene of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attack on the Pentagon salute above a large US flag draped on the side of the Pengaton during a memorial ceremony 11 September 2006 in Washington DC. Getty Images/Mandel Ngan

Clutching photos to their hearts and blowing kisses to the sky, the tearful loved ones of the Sept. 11 victims recited a 3½-hour litany of the lost Monday in a fifth-anniversary remembrance as spare and stark as the World Trade Center site itself.

At 9:38 a.m. at the Pentagon and at 10:03 a.m. in Shanksville, Pa., once again, everything stopped. President Bush visited those places, consoling families, laying wreaths and sharing a moment of silence, CBS News chief White House correspondent Jim Axelrod reports.

The president made no public remarks at the disaster sites Monday, calling it a "wordless day," Axelrod reports. He is scheduled to address the nation from the Oval Office Monday evening about Sept. 11 and the resulting war on terror.

Five years after the attacks, a piece of limestone, charred by burning jet fuel, is all that remains of the Pentagon wall destroyed by a passenger jet hijacked by terrorists. Just inside that wall, CBS' Aleen Sirgany reports, there is now a military chapel and a permanent memorial. Among the 184 who died in the Pentagon was Dave Laychak.

"I think about Dave every day," his brother Jim Laychak told Sirgany. "I wear a band around my wrist that has his name on it.

The centerpiece of the commemorations was the mostly barren 16-acre expanse at ground zero, where four moments of silence were observed to mark the precise times jetliners crashed into the twin towers and the skyscrapers crumbled to the ground.

The achingly familiar task of reading the names of the 2,749 trade center victims fell this year to their husbands, wives and partners, who personalized the roll call with heartbreaking tributes to the loves of their lives.

"If I could build a staircase to heaven, I would, just so I could quickly run up there to have you back in my arms," said Carmen Suarez, wife of New York police officer Ramon Suarez, killed five years ago at the World Trade Center.

And this from Linda Litto, who lost husband Vincent Litto: "As I said 31 years ago tomorrow, I will love you and honor you all the days of our life. Happy anniversary, my love."

On a crisp, sunny day not unlike the morning of the attacks, family members descended into the pit 70 feet below ground where the towers stood, tearfully laying wreaths and roses in the skyscrapers' footprints.

The mournful sound of bagpipes, so familiar from the seemingly endless funerals that followed Sept. 11, echoed across ground zero after a choir performed the national anthem.

The ritual has changed little since the first anniversary of the attacks, and in many ways the site has remained the same as well.

Squabbles over design and security have caused long delays in the project to rebuild at ground zero. Only this year did construction start on a Sept. 11 memorial and the 1,776-foot Freedom Tower, which is not expected to be finished for five more years. Read more about the delay in rebuilding.

President Bush laid a wreath at the Shanksville, Pa., field where United Flight 93 crashed and privately greeted relatives of the 40 people killed there. Standing without umbrellas in a cold rain, he and first lady Laura Bush bowed their heads for a prayer and the singing of "Amazing Grace."

"One moment, ordinary citizens, and the next, heroes forever," retired Gen. Tommy Franks said, alluding to the Flight 93 passengers who apparently fought the hijackers and forced them to crash the plane into the ground. "We mourn their loss, to be sure, but we also celebrate their victory here in the first battle on terrorism."

The president ate breakfast with New York firefighters, and a day earlier walked ground zero and laid wreaths in reflecting pools that symbolized the north and south towers.
  • Christine Lagorio

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