A History of 9/11 Observances

The nation has marked the September 11 anniversary with varying intensity over the past six years.

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Compiled by the U.S. News library staff


The one-year anniversary was marked in public and private services and remembrances around the country:

  • Having proclaimed September 11 "Patriot Day," President George Bush attended services at the three crash sites and delivered a nationally televised address from New York's Ellis Island that evening. At services held at the Pentagon, in Shanksville, Pa., and at the World Trade Center, moments of silence were observed, and the names of the victims were read; in Shanksville, the thousands who gathered joined the president and the first lady in the singing of the "Battle Hymn of the Republic," and at the World Trade Center ceremony, the Declaration of Independence and the Gettysburg Address were recited.
    • At the Washington National Cathedral, Archbishop Desmond Tutu held an interfaith service; the cathedral's bells tolled four times, marking the moments when the four hijacked planes crashed.
      • Some ceremonies included artifacts from the crash sites. In Albuquerque, two steel beams from ground zero were donated to the city and were later incorporated into a new bell tower for Sacred Heart Church. And, returning to New York, New Orleans's Gumbo Krewe distributed free gumbo at a renovated warehouse that exhibited homemade missing-persons fliers from New York after 9/11.
        • "Rolling Requiem" was a choral commemoration at which Mozart's "Requiem" was performed at 8:46 a.m. local time across 20 time zones, in 24 countries and 43 U.S. states, over 125 events, including ceremonies in Pasadena, Calif.; Tulsa, Okla.; and Annapolis, Md.
          • Polling 7,000 companies nationwide, the Society for Human Resources Management said that 32 percent of the survey's respondents would observe a moment of silence, 25 percent planned to fly flags at half staff, and 15 percent said they would provide patriotic pins for employees to wear.
          • 2003

            The second anniversary was largely more subdued than the previous year:

            • President Bush attended a memorial service at St. John's Episcopal Church, a few blocks away from the White House, and later led a moment of silence on the White House's South Lawn at 8:46 a.m.; later that day, he stopped at Walter Reed Army Medical Center to visit troops recovering from wounds suffered in the war in Iraq. Vice President Dick Cheney, heeding New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's request that he not attend the ground zero ceremony, attended an interfaith service honoring the Port Authority; the mayor was concerned that the vice president's security needs would have inconvenienced the World Trade Center victims' families.
              • Flags at Yankee Stadium flew at half-mast, and color guards from the New York City police and fire departments took to the field during the singing of God Bless America. In Kansas City, Major League Baseball's Royals offered their best available seats at no charge to police, firefighters, and emergency workers. And at the Tournament Players' Club golf course in Silvis, Ill., each hole flew an American flag instead of the traditional yellow numbered flag.
                • The Dalai Lama delivered an address on peace and religious tolerance at the Washington National Cathedral.
                • 2004

                  With the November presidential election looming, the third anniversary was commemorated in a politically charged environment:

                  • Bells tolled at many ceremonies marking the third anniversary, including those in New York, Washington, Boston, Atlanta, and Oklahoma City; in many places, a simple moment of silence was observed.
                    • President Bush marked the anniversary with a live radio broadcast from the Oval Office; earlier that day, the president and first lady Laura Bush were joined by Vice President Cheney and his wife, Lynne, at a prayer service held at St. John's Church and a moment of silence on the South Lawn of the White House at 8:46 a.m.
                      • In a four-hour ceremony at the World Trade Center, victims' parents and grandparents and others read the victims' names; at the Arlington County Courthouse, the bell tolled 184 times to honor those who perished at the Pentagon; and in Shanksville, Pa., a subdued ceremony was marked by the ringing of bells for Flight 93's victims as their names were called.