Victims of 9/11 remembered as mosque row rumbles on
A day of mourning for nearly 3,000 September 11 victims began yesterday with moments of silence and tears near Ground Zero, and with observers bracing for protests over a mosque planned blocks away on what is usually an anniversary free of politics.
Chants of thousands of sign-waving protesters both for and against the planned Islamic centre were expected after an annual observance normally known for a sad litany of families reading names of loved ones lost in the 2001 terrorist attacks.
Family members gathering in New York and Pennsylvania brought flowers, pictures of loved ones and American flags. Reading victims' names at Ground Zero in New York, they urged a restrained tone.
"Let today never, ever be a national holiday. Let it not be a celebration," said Karen Carroll, who lost her brother, firefighter Thomas Kuveikis.
Moments of silence were held at 8.46am and 9.03am, the times hijacked jetliners hit the north and south towers of the World Trade centre. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama were attending separate services at the Pentagon in Washington and a rural field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
The heated mosque debate -- pitting advocates of religious freedom against critics who say putting an Islamic centre so close to Ground Zero disrespects the dead -- led Mr Obama to remind Americans on Friday, "We are not at war against Islam".
In his weekly radio address yesterday, the president said: "This is a time of difficulty for our country. And it is often in such moments that some try to stoke bitterness, to divide us based on our differences, to blind us to what we have in common."
A threat by a Florida pastor to burn copies of the Koran on the anniversary of 9/11 -- which had set off international protests -- was apparently called off. Pressed by NBC on whether his church would ever burn the Islamic holy book, pastor Terry Jones said: "Not today, not ever. We're not going to go back and do it. It is totally cancelled."