World Remembers Sept. 11 Attacks
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LONDON (AP) _ From a dusty embassy compound in Afghanistan to London’s cathedrals and mosques, millions around the world gathered Wednesday to remember those who died in the Sept. 11 attacks and to offer prayers for peace and tolerance.
At London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral, 3,000 white rose petals fluttered down from the dome _ one for each victim who died last Sept. 11.
A cellist played a Bach suite and the congregation of 2,000 remained silent as the petals fell. Moments earlier, they joined people across Britain and around the world in observing a moment of silence at 1:46 p.m. (1246 GMT), the moment last year that the first hijacked jet struck the World Trade Center.
Religious leaders of all stripes condemned the attacks
``No situation of hurt, no philosophy or religion can ever justify such a grave offense on human life and dignity,″ Pope John Paul II said at his weekly audience at the Vatican.
At London Central Mosque, Muslim leaders offered Quranic prayers for peace, justice and tolerance.
Around the world, it was a day of simple, heartfelt gestures. In Sydney, Australia, thousands of motorists turned on their headlights at 8:46 a.m. as a mark of respect for those who died.
Cities around the globe paused for moments of silence, while candles were lit and flowers laid outside U.S. embassies from Copenhagen to Moscow to Manila.
In Paris, two powerful beams of light were projected into the sky on Tuesday to honor the memory of the victims _ a project to be repeated Wednesday.
Beginning with choirs in New Zealand and Japan, 180 singing groups in 20 time zones began a ``Rolling Requiem,″ singing Mozart’s masterpiece.
U.S. researchers at the South Pole also played the music at their isolated base.
Political leaders _ even those who have clashed with the U.S. government over a possible attack on Iraq _ expressed their sorrow and solidarity.
``France knows what it owes America,″ French President Jacques Chirac told a ceremony at the U.S. Ambassador’s residence in Paris. ``The French people stand with all their hearts at the side of the American people.″
Russian President Vladimir Putin phoned President George W. Bush to express his condolences.
``In Russia, they say that time cures, but we cannot forget. We must not forget,″ Putin said, according to portions of the conversation released on Russian television.
European Union leaders expressed their sorrow at the attacks and said they would stand ``side by side″ with the United States.
``The European Union will not slacken its resolve to contribute to the international community’s fight against terrorism,″ leaders of the 15 EU nations said in a statement.
In Afghanistan, a country battered and transformed by the events of Sept. 11, a small piece of the World Trade Center was buried under the flagpole at the U.S. Embassy as a bugler played taps and the Stars and Stripes was lowered to half staff.
A steel-gray marble headstone marked the resting place of the remains brought from the ruined towers by a Marine from New York. Inscribed on it: ``We serve because they cannot.″
``My fear is that people will start to take things for granted, forget about it,″ said Marine Lt. Kyle Aldrich, a 27-year-old New Yorker who had worked on Wall Street and lost friends in the attacks. ``That some kind of amnesia starts to set in.″
Protesters gathered, too. In Bangkok, about 70 people including Thai monks and children held a peaceful protest outside the U.S. Embassy against U.S. military operations in Afghanistan and a possible attack on Iraq.
In the Philippine capital, Manila, supporters and opponents of the U.S. global war on terror held separate rallies to express sympathy for victims of last year’s terrorist attacks .
And not all saw the day as a time to mourn.
In Iraq, the state-owned Al-Iktisadi newspaper covered its front page Wednesday with a photograph of a burning World Trade Center Tower and a two-word headline in red: ``God’s punishment.″
``Events like Sept. 11 are sad but it is an opportunity for the American people to feel what bombing could do to nations,″ said Ali Ahmed, a 47-year-old who owns a Baghdad stationery shop.
Fear of a new terrorist attack overshadowed some memorials. Citing ``credible and specific″ threats, some U.S. embassies in Asia, Africa and the Middle East were closed, and U.S. military bases and embassies in Europe enforced tightened security.
Authorities in Turkey were told that militants linked to al-Qaida might be planning poison gas attacks. Australian travelers in southeast Asia were warned following a threat to that country’s interests in East Timor.
In Germany, police searched a Hamburg Islamic center after a tip that an Egyptian man staying at a guesthouse there was planning an explosives attack. Police said they found no evidence of terrorist activities.
But the threats often paled before the need to gather in remembrance.
``I spent a year studying in the U.S. _ and it’s not someone else’s problem,″ said Megumi Hirokawa, an 18-year-old college student who attended a small, quiet ceremony outside the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo.
Speakers in Nairobi, Kenya spoke of the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania during their memorial. Those blasts killed 231 people _ including 12 Americans _ and wounded more than 5,000.
``Kenya was the victim of a terror attack,″ said Kenyan Health Minister Sam Ongeri. ``Kenyans can sympathize with the victims of Sept. 11.″
In the tiny Newfoundland town of Gander, passengers and air crew who were stranded by the thousands when U.S. airspace was closed following the attacks returned to say thank you.
Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien and U.S. Ambassador Paul Cellucci were among hundreds who gathered at Gander International Airport.
``Out of this horror came for me the realization that no matter how much evil there is in the world, there are people who are great and wonderful and that evil will never win out,″ said Nicholas Dobi is a Continental Airlines pilot who was flying to New York from Milan on Sept. 11, 2001, when the flight was diverted to Gander.