9/11 is marked worldwide with reflection, prayers
By NICK PERRY Associated Press September 11, 2011 9:08AM
Model twin towers representing the towers of the Wolrd Trade Center are seen on stage during a commemoration to mark the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States, at the Trocadero plaza near Eiffel tower in Paris, Sunday, Sept. 11, 2011. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)
Updated: September 11, 2011 9:08AM
A mother in Malaysia greeted her dead son. People in Manila left roses for the victim who helped give them homes. And mourners in Tokyo stood before a piece of steel from ground zero, remembering the 23 bank employees who never made it out alive.
A decade after 9/11, the day that changed so much for so many people, the world’s leaders and citizens paused to reflect Sunday. But there were also those — including a former Malaysian prime minister — who reiterated old claims that the U.S. government itself was behind the attacks.
From Sydney to Spain, formal ceremonies paid tribute to the nearly 3,000 who perished from more than 90 countries. And, in a reminder that threats remain, Swedish police said four people were arrested on suspicion of preparing a terror attack, as authorities in Washington and New York beefed up security in response to intelligence about possible plans for a car bomb attack.
For some people, the pain never stops. In Malaysia, Pathmawathy Navaratnam woke up Sunday in her suburban Kuala Lumpur home and did what she’s done every day for the past decade: wish her son Vijayashanker Paramsothy “Good morning.”
The 23-year-old financial analyst was killed in the attacks on New York.
“He is my sunshine. He has lived life to the fullest, but I can’t accept that he is not here anymore,” said Navaratnam. “I am still living, but I am dead inside.”
In Manila, dozens of former shanty dwellers offered roses, balloons and prayers for another victim, American citizen Marie Rose Abad. The neighborhood used to be squalid and reeking of garbage. But in 2004, Abad’s Filipino-American husband Rudy built 50 brightly colored homes, fulfilling his late wife’s wish to help impoverished Filipinos. The village has since been named after her.
The Sept. 11 attacks spawned many conspiracy theories around the world, especially among Islamists who allege American or Israeli involvement.
Malaysia’s former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, a vitriolic critic of the West, wrote on his blog that Arab Muslims are incapable of “planning and strategizing” such attacks. He added “it is not unthinkable” for former President George W. Bush to have lied about who was responsible.
In Pakistan, about 100 supporters of an Islamist political party staged anti-U.S. protests in Islamabad and Multan to mark the anniversary, holding up banners that repeated conspiracy theories. In Karachi, another 100 people protested the war in Afghanistan, launched in response to the attacks.
A few dozen demonstrators gathered outside the U.S. embassy in London, with one group setting fire to a depiction of a U.S. flag during a minute’s silence held to mark the moment when the first hijacked airliner hit the World Trade Center. A small group of Muslims staged a counter-demonstration nearby.
But, little attention was paid to such events and comments on a day dominated by sorrow and pain of the memories.
In Japan, families gathered in Tokyo to pay their respects to the 23 Fuji Bank employees who never made it out of their World Trade Center office. A dozen of the workers who died were Japanese.
One by one, family members laid flowers in front of an enclosed glass case containing a small section of steel retrieved from ground Zero. zhey clasped their hands and bowed their heads. Some took pictures. Others simply stood in solemn silence. There were no tears, just reflection.
Sydney resident Rae Tompsett, 81, said she’s never felt angry over the murder of her son Stephen Tompsett, 39, a computer engineer who was on the 106th floor of the World Trade Center’s north tower when it was hit by a hijacked plane.
“No, not anger,” she said. “Sorrow. Sorrow that the people who did this believed they were doing something good.”
The retired school teacher and her husband Jack, 92, were among more than 1,000 people who packed Sydney’s Roman Catholic cathedral St. Marys for a special multi-faith service.
“It’s incredible that it is 10 years — it feels a bit like yesterday,” Tompsett said.
At a commemoration at The Grosvenor Chapel in London, Courtney Cowart, who was nearly buried alive when the north tower of the World Trade Center collapsed, described her fears when she returned to the site for a church service five days later.
“Entering the heart of darkness, I was terrified. We were dwarfed by immense wreckage looming around us. It was a landscape drained of all color,” she said.
Elsewhere in Europe, Pope Benedict XVI, at an outdoor Mass in Ancona, Italy, prayed for victims and urged the world to resist what he called the “temptation toward hatred” and instead work for solidarity, justice and peace.
In Paris, where an array of commemorations were planned, an association of French “friends” of America was preparing to unveil a temporary nine-story scaled-down replica of the Twin Towers bearing the victims’ names across.
About 150 people, some waving American flags, turned out in Madrid for a commemorative planting of 10 American oak trees in Juan Carlos I park by crown Prince Felipe, his wife Princess Letizia, and other dignitaries.
Rome was preparing to light up the Colosseum late Sunday in a show of solidarity, and special commemorations were planned at Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral and London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral.
The Taliban marked the anniversary by vowing to keep fighting against U.S. forces in Afghanistan and saying they had no role in the Sept. 11 attacks.
“Each year, 9/11 reminds the Afghans of an event in which they had no role whatsoever,” a statement e-mailed to news organizations said. “American colonialism shed the blood of tens of thousands of miserable and innocent Afghans.”
Hours later, a Taliban suicide bomber in a large truck blew it up at the gate of a NATO combat outpost in eastern Afghanistan, killing two civilians and injuring 77 U.S. troops. None of the U.S. injuries were life-threatening, the Atlantic alliance said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at his Cabinet’s weekly meeting on Sunday, said Islamist terrorism continued to threaten Israel and urged democracies to “act together against this blight.”
“It is clear that this threat will be incomparably larger if radical Islamic forces or regimes acquire the ultimate weapon — weapons of mass destruction — and then terrorists will stand together and will be able to act under the nuclear umbrella of a radical regime, or even with tools of mass destruction given to them,” Netanyahu said.
The U.S. and its allies invaded Afghanistan on Oct. 7, 2001, after the Taliban who then ruled the country refused to hand over the Sept. 11 mastermind Osama bin Laden. The al-Qaida leader was at the time living in Afghanistan, where the terror network retained training camps and planned attacks against the U.S. and other countries. Bin Laden was killed four months ago at his Pakistan hideout by U.S. forces.
“Now that Osama bin Laden is dead, my brother’s soul will finally rest in peace,” said Yambem Laba, whose younger brother Jupiter Yambem was among the victims.
Jupiter, an Indian, was a manager at the “Windows on the World” restaurant in the World Trade Center.
About 100 family members and close friends gathered at his ancestral home in the northeastern state of Manipur for prayers Sunday.
“Osama is dead but the threat from al-Qaida has not ended,” Laba said.
Associated Press writers Rod McGuirk in Australia, Eileen Ng in Malaysia, Jim Gomez in the Philippines, Jamey Keaten in Paris, Frances D’Emilio in Rome, Harold Heckle in Madrid, Josef Federman in Jerusalem, and Tomoko Hosaka in Japan. Gordon Brown contributed from New Plymouth, New Zealand.