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Sunday, September 11, 2011

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After a decade of grief and recovery, nation remembers 9/11

The Tribute in Light, a tribute honoring those who died in the 9/11 attacks, shines behind the Empire State Building

New York (CNN) -- Ten years ago today, America's sense of security was shattered in a series of attacks that tested the will and resolve of the American public.

A surreal day of death and destruction emerged as planes plummeted from crystal blue skies and pierced through the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. A fourth plane crashed in a field in Pennsylvania, averting what many believe would have been another catastrophic attack in Washington.

The nation will pause Sunday to mark the anniversary of the attacks that killed 2,977 people.

Silence will spread across New York City at 8:46 a.m. -- the time when American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center a decade ago.

Houses of worship will toll their bells throughout the city. And after a reading by President Barack Obama, 167 pairs of family members will begin reading the names of those who perished.

The reading will be interrupted by another moment of silence at 9:03 a.m. -- the time when United Airlines Flight 175 struck the South Tower of the World Trade Center.

Afterward, former President George W. Bush will speak, and family members will continue reciting the names.

Meanwhile, more than 200 miles away in Washington, mourners will observe a moment of silence at 9:37 a.m. -- the moment American Airlines Flight 77 struck the Pentagon and killed 184 people.

The moment will be followed by remarks from Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen, Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta.

And at 10:03 a.m., silence will fall on Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where passengers aboard United Airlines Flight 93 thwarted a hijacking plot and crashed the plane into the ground.

Obama proclaimed this weekend as National Days of Prayer and Remembrance. On Sunday, he will attend memorial services in New York, at the Pentagon and in western Pennsylvania.

He also called on Americans to honor the victims of the terrorist attacks through activities such as prayer, memorial services, ringing of bells and evening candlelight vigils.

"They wanted to terrorize us, but, as Americans, we refuse to live in fear," Obama said in his weekly address Saturday.

Yes, we face a determined foe, and make no mistake -- they will keep trying to hit us again. But as we are showing again this weekend, we remain vigilant. We're doing everything in our power to protect our people. And no matter what comes our way, as a resilient nation, we will carry on."

Obama said the "United States must not relax its counterterrorism efforts in the weeks and months that follow."

A solemn memorial service at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York included the recitation of the names of 343 firefighters who died at ground zero.

Patrick Mate Lyons, who was born Oct. 7, 2001, read an open letter to his father, Patrick, one of those killed.

"I want you to know that Mommy is doing a great job of loving me and raising me in a happy home," Patrick said. "I play flag football in the same league as you, and in the same position as you, as quarterback. In baseball, I pitch, just like you did. I really like it when people compare me to you."

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