(Daily Mail) – Her face creased with emotion as she remembers her fiancÃ© at the site where he perished, Carrie Bergonia shows just how enduring the grief of the 9/11 attacks remains for the families left behind.
Gathering with other relatives and friends whose loved ones were ripped from them on that dark day, Bergonia was overcome with tears as she touched the name of her fiancÃ©, firefighter Joseph J. Ogren, etched into the memorial pools at the World Trade Center site.
‘I love and miss you so very much,’ she wept as she read out his name at the service on Tuesday morning. ‘Until we meet again.’
Bergonia, now 37, and Ogren met in 1993 as they both vacationed in Cancun, Mexico, and were due to marry on August 10, 2002 in Pennsylvania.
He had followed in the footsteps of his father and, along with his twin brother Lance, graduated from Fire Academy in 1998. He was assigned to Ladder 3 near Union Square and, on September 11, 2001, responded with his team to the fifth alarm.
Bergonia and Ogren’s family, including his parents, three brothers and sister, frantically searched for any trace of him in the weeks following the attacks, but he is believed to have perished as the Twin Towers collapsed.
Missed: Joseph J. Ogren, 30, was stationed just by Union Square in New York City and perished in the towers
Missed: Joseph J. Ogren, 30, was stationed by Union Square in New York City
Eleven years after his death, Bergonia gathered with the grieving families and friends of the 3,000 victims as they paid tribute at Ground Zero, the Pentagon and in rural Pennsylvania on Tuesday.
At the World Trade Center site, relatives clasped pictures of loved ones, while others brandished signs reading names and messages of love. Bagpipers played as police watched guard over the memorial pools and as a giant flag was unfurled on Freedom Tower.
More than 1,000 relatives of those killed and others gathered for the annual reading of the list of 2,983 people killed at the three sites.
The reading began at 8:39 a.m., with pauses for moments of silence at 8:46 a.m., 9:03 a.m., 9:37 a.m. and 10:03 a.m., the time of impact for the four planes, and again at 9:59 a.m. and 10:28 a.m., the times that the north and then the south tower fell.
Alyson Low, 41, of Fayetteville, Arkansas, carried a picture of her sister, Sara Elizabeth Low, who was a flight attendant on American Airlines Flight 11, the first plane to crash, striking the trade center’s north tower. ‘I’m tired,’ Low said, tearfully. ‘I am just so tired.’
But many felt that last year’s 10th anniversary was an emotional turning point for public mourning of the attacks.
‘I feel much more relaxed’ this year, said Jane Pollicino, who came to ground zero Tuesday morning to remember her husband, who was killed at the trade center.
‘After the ninth anniversary, that next day, you started building up to the 10th year. This feels a lot different, in that regard. It’s another anniversary that we can commemorate in a calmer way, without that 10-year pressure.’
At the somber day’s biggest venue in lower Manhattan, the observance was missing a key feature from years past: politicians’ voices.
‘We’ve gone past that deep, collective public grief,’ Charles G. Wolf, whose wife Katherine, was killed at the trade center, told NBC. ‘And the fact that the politicians will not be involved, to me, makes it more intimate, for the families. … That’s the way that it can be now.’
But Joe Torres, who put in 16-hour days in the ‘pit’ in the days after the attacks, cleaning up tons of debris, said another year has changed nothing for him.
‘The 11th year, for me, it’s the same as if it happened yesterday,’ he said. ‘It could be 50 years from now, and to me, it’ll be just as important as year one, or year five or year ten.’
In previous years, politicians including U.S. presidents, state governors and New York City mayors have participated in the reading of the names, or have read from the Bible or recited passages from literature.
This year, only the families of the more than 2,750 who were killed when militant Islamist hijackers crashed two jetliners into the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers, causing their collapse, appeared on the podium to read their names.
Politicians still attended, but none spoke or participated in the reading of names. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano attended the New York ceremony this year.
At the Pentagon outside of Washington, where more than 180 were killed when a hijacked plane was flown into it, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and President Obama spoke in a ceremony that will be closed to the public, attended only by victims’ families.
In a moving speech, the president praised the strength of the families and reflected how the country’s ‘darkest day’ had given way ‘to a brighter dawn’.
‘Eleven times we have marked another September 11,’ he said. ‘Eleven times we have paused in remembrance in reflection in unity and in purpose. This is never an easy day but it is especially difficult for all of you – the families of nearly 3,000 innocents who lost their lives. The rest of us cannot begin to imagine the pain you have endured.
He continued: ‘But no matter how many years pass… you will never be alone. Your loved ones will never been forgotten. They will endure in the hearts of our nation – through their sacrifice they helped make the America we are today. The America that has emerged even stronger.’
He added that, since September 11, the country has ‘dealt a crippling blow’ to Al Qaeda and terrorism.
‘Tragedy has brought us together,’ he said. ‘This anniversary allows us to renew our faith that even the darkest day gives way to a brighter dawn… Even though we may never be able to fully lift the burden of those left behind, we know somewhere a son is growing up with his father’s eyes and a daughter with her mother’s smile.
‘No single event can destroy who we are. no act of terrorism can change what we stand for.’
Addressing the crowd before Obama, Penetta paid tribute to the strength of the victims’ families, who he branded heroes, and lauded the service workers who lost their lives while saving the lives of others.
‘Eleven years ago on a morning very much like this, terrorists attacked symbols of American strength – our economy and our commerce, our military might and our democracy and took the lives of citizens from more than 90 countries,’ he said. ‘It was the worst terrorist attack on America in our history.
‘Today people gather across the united states, around the world to remember the events of 9/11… Coming together as one family we pause to honour and pray those who died. Family members here today know that the entire nation joins you in mourning for the loss of your loved ones.’
He also recounted the ‘spirit of selflessness and spirit of determination’ of the passengers on Flight 93 who fought the terrorists – and reflected on how it showed ‘the will of Americans to fight for their country’.
Vice President Joe Biden also delivered remarks in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where 40 passengers aboard United Flight 93 were killed when that plane crashed as they revolted against their hijackers.
‘How we handle the legacy of these 40 people and what they did, what they kept from happening, is really more of a statement about ourselves, about what we value as a society,’ said Patrick White, current president of Families of Flight 93. White’s cousin, Joey Nacke II, was among the passengers who stormed the cockpit.
U.S. authorities say the Al Qaeda hijackers planned to crash that plane into the U.S. Capitol in Washington.
Like so many of the previous anniversary dates, this year’s ceremonies unfolded beneath blue skies and cool, early fall temperatures, conditions reminiscent of those on the morning of the 2001 attacks that claimed nearly 3,000 lives at the three sites.
The Obamas will later visit wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. The U.S. terror attacks were followed by wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, where the U.S. military death toll years ago surpassed the 9/11 victim count. At least 1,987 U.S. troops have died in Afghanistan and 4,475 in Iraq.
Allied military forces marked the anniversary at a short ceremony at NATO’s headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan with a tribute to more than 3,000 foreign troops killed in the decade-long war.
‘Eleven years on from that day there should be no doubt that our dedication to this commitment, that commitment that was seared into our souls that day so long ago, remains strong and unshaken,’ said Marine Gen. John Allen, the top commander of U.S. and coalition troops.
Other ceremonies were held across the country – from New York’s Long Island, where hundreds wrote messages to their loved ones on a memorial, to Boston, where more than 200 people with ties to Massachusetts were remembered.
But some cities scaled back – Middletown, New Jersey, which lost 37 residents, held a small, silent ceremony instead of previous events with speeches and music. The New York City suburb of Glen Rock, New Jersey, where 11 people were killed, did not hold a memorial this year for the first time.
‘It was appropriate for this year – not that the losses will ever be forgotten,’ said Brad Jordan, chairman of a Glen Rock community group that helps victims’ families. ‘But we felt it was right to shift the balance a bit from the observance of loss to a commemoration of how the community came together to heal.’
Last night, as the world prepared to mark the anniversary of the the 9/11 attacks, the New York skyline was lit up last night with twin lights, filling the hole left by the World Trade Center.
The bright beams shooting up into the sky are turned on every September 11, and today’s 11th anniversary is no different.
In another tribute to the victims, 2,741 American flags – one for each of the attacks’ victims – have been planted in a moving act of remembrance at Highland Memorial Park in Ocala, Florida.
On Monday, Leon Panetta attended a ceremony at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The Secretary of Defense called the site ‘the final resting place of American patriots’, and said he was there ‘to extend our nation’s deepest gratitude to the heroes of Flight 93′.