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N.C., nation remember Sept. 11 attacks

From military centers to small towns, North Carolina paid tribute to the lives lost on Sept. 11.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — While the nation holds a moment of silence, North Carolina will show that from military centers to small towns, it, too, remembers the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Gov. Mike Easley has ordered all government offices to lower their flags to half-staff to honor the 2,974 people who died in the attacks.

Bells rang from Pope Air Force Base and from a Fayetteville church six times, beginning at 8:46 a.m. – the exact time the first hijacked airliner hit the World Trade Center towers. Bells also tolled to mark when the three other airplanes crashed and when the towers fell.

In a hangar, by a tarmac where soldiers and airmen have left for war, and come home from war, the Star-Spangled Banner rang out and servicemen and women remembered where they were seven years ago.

Air Force Col. John McDonald was inside the Pentagon when it was attacked.

Sgt. Marcus Wilson was 13, in middle school. "I really thought that America was safe from everything," he recalled. Sept. 11 changed his thinking and helped determine his future.

The memory, he said, "It's a motivation ... to fight better each day."

Major Gen. William Ingram Jr. recalled the service of North Carolina soldiers during a ceremony at the North Carolina National Guard headquarters in Raleigh. The name of 10 guardsmen killed in the war on terror were read before a moment of silence at 9:03 a.m.

A candle-lit remembrance ceremony will be held at Fort Bragg, and Cary will host four musical performances around the town as part of a nationwide program, "September 11th Commemoration: A Time of Remembrance and Reflection."

A statewide campaign to help injured veterans kicked off with a balloon release from the Kerr Drugstore in North Hills mall. Wounded North Carolina troops will write their fears for the future on balloons and then let them go.

President George Bush led the moment of silence on the South Lawn of the White House. He then went to the Pentagon, where he dedicated a memorial that has 184 benches over small reflecting pools, representing each life lost when American Airlines Flight 77 flew into the symbol of U.S. military might.

The Pentagon Memorial was built at a cost of $22 million on a 1.9-acre parcel of land adjacent to the Pentagon and within view of the crash site.

"The president thinks about 9/11 every single day when he wakes up and before he goes to bed," White House press secretary Dana Perino said Wednesday. "This is what he's concerned about. He's always been concerned about another attack on our country. Thankfully, we haven't had one."

Politics came to a standstill when the Democratic and Republican rivals for president appeared at Ground Zero in New York. Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama laid wreaths in the pit that marks the largest loss of life in the attacks. On Thursday evening, they will appear together in a Columbia University forum to discuss their views on public service.

Obama and McCain agreed to suspend all TV ads critical of each other for the day, and neither candidate scheduled any political events Thursday.

The Obama and McCain campaigns issued a joint statement, saying they would make the Ground Zero visit in thanks for all emergency responders who served during and after the attacks as well as the military troops still defending the nation.

"We will put aside politics and come together to renew that unity, to honor the memory of each and every American who died, and to grieve with the families and friends who lost loved ones," the statement said.


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