Memories play on world stage

NOT IMPLEMENTED

September 12, 2002 

A bugler playing "Taps" in Afghanistan. A twisted metal cross in Rome symbolizing the carnage of a year ago. An Arab man in Jordan hoping America receives another terrorist blow.

On the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, the world became a vast stage Wednesday to revisit and contemplate what was once unimaginable.

"No situation of hurt, no philosophy or religion can ever justify such a grave offense on human life," said Pope John Paul II.

Memorials from Asia to Latin America sought to express how the attacks touched citizens from 91 countries and shook outlooks on politics, security and religion to the core.

In Norway, more than 3,000 torches burned outside Oslo City Hall - one for each victim. The same number of white rose petals fluttered through St. Paul's Cathedral in London.

Speaking at the U.S. Embassy in Paris, French President Jacques Chirac said the "French people stand with all their hearts at the side of the American people."

Security around Paris was tight. The area around the embassy was cordoned off, and hundreds of extra riot police were deployed at airports, train stations and landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower.

Choirs in New Zealand and Japan began a Rolling Requiem that carried the master work by Mozart across 20 times zones.

In Rome's Basilica Santa Maria degli Angeli, a memorial Mass included a twisted metal cross resting on a pile of rocks to symbolize the devastation of the attacks.

Leaders pledged never to succumb to the terrorists' ultimate weapon: widespread insecurity and panic. "The forces of darkness against civilization," said Greek Premier Costas Simitis.

But the message rang hollow in some quarters.

"Nothing can make us feel the world to be a safe place again until those behind the attacks are captured and punished," said Romaine Iskandar following a hilltop memorial service outside Beirut, Lebanon, for her nephew and three other Lebanese who died in the attacks.

Authorities, too, see the world differently. More aggressive policies have drawn complaints from civil rights activists and Muslim groups.

The anniversary prompted officials to step up security alerts.

Citing "credible and specific" threats, the State Department and some of America's closest allies closed diplomatic offices in nine countries. All but one - the African nation of Malawi - were in Asia or the Middle East.

Many airports vividly displayed the depth of the public's worries: terminals packed with security but with far fewer travelers than normal. At London's Heathrow Airport, British Airways canceled half its trans-Atlantic flights for lack of passengers.

In Afghanistan, U.S. forces came under fire. A gunman shot at a guard tower at Bagram, the headquarters of U.S.-led forces hunting al-Qaida remnants, spokesman Col. Roger King said.

In the southeastern city of Khost, unidentified attackers fired two rockets at the airport where of U.S. Special Forces are based, an official said. No injuries were reported.

But the Afghan capital, Kabul, witnessed a somber memorial at the U.S. Embassy, which reopened after the fall of the Taliban.

A bugler played "Taps." The American flag was lowered to half-staff. A chunk of heat-fused glass and concrete from the World Trade Center was buried under the flag pole.

"My fear is that people will start to take things for granted and forget about it," said Marine Capt. Farrel Sullivan, who collected the wreckage. "That some sort of amnesia will set in."

Officials insisted that will never happen.

"This date has been forever etched into our memories," said New Zealand's Prime Minister Helen Clark. "Those attacks were acts of utterly incomprehensible violence."

But in the Muslim world - and especially the Middle East - many see clear reasons for the attacks: perceived U.S. policies for unchallenged dominance and Washington's backing for Israel.

"I hope the White House will be hit," said Mohammad Ali Masa'id, a retired Jordanian army officer.

"We feel anger and hatred toward the American government and American companies that support it," said Abdel Aziz el-Husseini, an engineer from Cairo who has helped lead a boycott of U.S. products.

In London, a group of Islamic militants praised the "positive outcomes" of the violence they claim to reject, and offered support to the aims of Osama bin Laden.

The fundamentalists, in what appeared to be the most radical Muslim gathering on the anniversary of the terrorist atrocities, said al-Qaida had a "rational justification" for the attacks, but denied having ties to bin Laden's terror network.

In Iraq, the state-owned Al-Iktisadi newspaper covered its front page with a photograph of a burning World Trade Center tower with a headline in red: "God's punishment."

Unease about a possible U.S. military campaign to topple Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein runs deep across the region.

"The world is not a jungle where a powerful country decides for the rest of the world," said Iranian Morad Musseinpour, whose country was labeled part of an "axis of evil" by President Bush for alleged terrorist support.

In Nairobi, Kenya, a memorial carried special resonance. Bombings against the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 killed 231 people, including 12 Americans.

"Kenya was the victim of a terror attack," said Kenyan Health Minister Sam Ongeri. "Kenyans can sympathize with the victims of Sept. 11."

Amid the countless memorials and events, some of the most profound moments occurred in silence. Perhaps millions of people - workers, children, stock market traders, athletes - paused around the world for silent prayer or meditation.

After two minutes of silence in Copenhagen, Denmark, the city's Lord Mayor Jens Kramer Mikkelsen spoke out: "We will not allow fear to overtake us."

A banner by Italy's Leaning Tower of Pisa read: "From the tower to the towers. Sept. 11, 2002. Memory, solidarity, peace."

Flags flew at half-staff throughout the Caribbean region. About 500 people gathered at Haiti's Trinity Episcopal Church, where an organist struck up with Mozart's Requiem Mass, while church bells in Antigua tolled to mark the times at which hijacked planes crashed.

In Mexico, President Vicente Fox expressed sympathy for the attack victims, saying "the U.S. people are present in our thoughts."

And at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba, dozens of soldiers stood to attention as the strains of taps floated from a loudspeaker to mark the anniversary of the terror attacks.

In the evening, people crowded into a chapel, lighting candles in somber remembrance. Some broke down and cried.

"Every day, we remember why we're here. But today is a day of remembrance. It's a day of mourning," said Army Spc. Blair Winner, a 20-year-old guard from Mentor, Ohio.

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